Machine learning will transform data science role, says Teradata CTO Stephen Brobst

Matthew Finnegan

One solution is improve training and education. Brobst explains: "You can't just make it a zero-sum game and just take [data science experts] from wherever else, you also have to build the expertise and invest in the education system," he says.

"In the US there is a tonne of money being invested in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - for kids at a young age, especially females, to get them to be excited about science and math and so on. As a society we do a particularly bad job with females, because females at a young age are often better than males at mathematics for example. But then we - through societal pressures and other bad influences - convince them that math is not a female thing to be doing; that is for boys. And this is, of course, complete horseshit.

"We need to change the way that society thinks about investing in skill sets, not only in females, but even where kids say 'oh maths, that's for the geeks, and that's no good'. There has been a backlash at least in Silicon Valley, now the geeks are cool, but we need to be investing in the education system to build up the science technology and engineering and mathematics."


Creativity is key

Brobst says that the focus on teaching STEM subjects has missed out on a crucial aspect of jobs such as data science roles, namely the ability to think creatively.

"I like STEAM better than STEM - science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics," he says.

"You have got to teach the creativity, because if it is a purely mechanical thing then you are not going to get really interesting breakthroughs. You will get continuous improvement kind of stuff, but you need that artistic, risk-taking, out of the box thinking as well as the math and science. People think that math and science is all about mechanical thinking and it's not.

"The best mathematicians and scientists were out of the box thinkers. Take Alan Turing - clearly an out of the box thinker, but he was doing math stuff. But if he had only been doing the mechanical part of math he wouldn't have the impact that he has on our lives today.

"You can teach people to think creatively. We beat it out of them in many cases, especially in engineering and mathematics - if it is not a completely rational, step by step process, then you are not following the rules. So math and science is not just about the rules - you get to create new rules if you are truly innovating."

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