Is Data Science Overhyped? A grounded perspective for job seekers looking to enter the tech industry

2021.03.31

Daniel Lee

PERSPECTIVES

Almost every day now, will we come across an article, post or conversation about how a new technology company is making an impact in society and following the news usually comes the announcement of massive hiring. This gets everyone excited. We search up the company’s careers page, start scrolling down, eyes scanning through the roles quickly to find what might suit us best. However, to our disappointment, we’re soon looking at the last role available and realise that most, if not all their available roles are for software engineers and those alike. All of these indicate ‘MSc/BSc in Computer Science, Engineering, or other related disciplines’ as a requirement. If you fall within that category, you’ll start browsing through every role. But hold on, I’d encourage you to read on, as having the qualifications alone may not be enough.

Well, if you’re a “non-techie” like me, but still looking to join a tech company, you might feel quite bummed and even start doubting your own qualifications after browsing several highly desirable company career pages. And now, you might be reading this article looking for that glimmer of hope to enter that dream tech company of yours.

Well, good news, you don’t have to feel that way!

Last Friday, SGInnovate organised a panel discussion titled – How to Futureproof Your Careers: Deep Tech Edition. Moderated by Aziza Sheerin, Regional Director, General Assembly, the panel fielded experienced professionals from varied parts of the tech industry ecosystem. Representing the consultancies and understanding of large global corporations was Nicole Scobble-Williams, Partner, ‎Deloitte, offering perspectives from his interactions with SMEs was Zhihan Yeo, Assistant Director, SGTech and representing the tech industry, Sinuhé Arroyo, Founder & CEO, TAIGER.

Here are 4 highlights from the discussion:

  1. Highlight your potential more than your past.

    With the pressures of advancement in tech coupled with the pandemic we have seen new jobs created and others inadvertently becoming obsolete. For example, the role of a data scientist was not even known by many just five years ago. As much as we are concerned about how to future-proof our careers, businesses too are concerned about how to future-proof their workforce. Nicole mentioned that employers are increasingly looking for the ability for their people to reskill, adapt and assume new roles.

    “52 percent (of our survey respondents are) saying their strategy is to hire great learners who can develop to meet multiple positions and future needs” – Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends Report

    Thus, employers are looking for that potential more than what past experiences. Sure, past experiences are great, but the mindset of continuous learning shows that you will be able to help the business in times of disruption.

  2. Cross at the narrowest point of the career river.

    While the tech roles are the high-paying ones now, there are still many other light- and non-tech roles that will need to be filled. What good is it if a company has a great product but does not know how to commercialise it or recruit the right talent to develop it? These are your marketing, sales, partnerships and HR roles. As Sinuhe mentioned, there is a real need for people with hybrid skills. He highlighted that technical skills can be developed when they join but what employers like TAIGER want are people who are able to connect the dots and not people who are good at doing what you tell them to do.

    Zhihan gave the analogy of the career river and that you would want to cross at the narrowest point of the river. Making that cross from where you are now, to where you want to be and this is related to the light-tech roles. For example, SGTech organised three Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) that trained people in skill sets that could help them transition into new occupations or sectors. These skills were Digital Sales, Salesforce Platform Professional and SAP Consultant. These types of skills where you learn about a technology without needing to be qualified with technical skills is a good entry point.

  3. The only constraint is ourselves.

    Today, and especially in Singapore, we have an abundance of resources to upskill ourselves. We are not just talking about the multitude of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) out there but even professional education. For example, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) computer science and information systems course is ranked 4th globally this year as highlighted by The Straits Times.

    Among the questions posed by the participants, many were around the idea of whether age matters. Zhihan highlighted that this is a normal concern as many employers naturally correlate age with traits, however, as Sinuhe commented, “totally irrelevant”. Nicole highlighted that the only constraint is ourselves and cited the multiple shifts in her career journey. She started out as a software engineer for six years then made a switch to genetics in the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) industry for another six years and again moved into talent & human capital management consulting at Deloitte and most recently even pursued her passion for law and was admitted as a lawyer in Australia.

  4. Technical skills alone won’t suffice.

I now speak to those who intend on taking up some technical skills or already are equipped with technical skills. While there usually is a technical assessment, that is but a gauge to understand your level of technical competency as well as thought process. But going past that, more often than not, the thing that is non-negotiable would be culture, motivation and people fit. Echoed by all three panelists is that technical skills can be taught and easily trained. As mentioned in the previous point, resources to get equipped with technical skills are abundant in this era and we are already starting to see people without a degree in computer science fill technical roles. If I still have your attention at this point, and if you are looking to enter the tech industry, TAIGER is hiring. Sinuhe has even shared the interview process and objectives of each stage in the video so that’s a major give away.

Zhihan gave a good summary and advice at the end to not chase trends, alluding to the current hype around Data Scientists. Data Scientists as a career is overhyped. That’s because of the talent crunch right now and thus companies are paying top dollars for it. While it may continue to be in demand in the future, technology is demonstrating the ability to do work often associated with technical skills, which could result in the rise in demand of other skills. As you might see by now and also mentioned by the panelists, it is important to know your strengths and passion and free yourself from any limiting beliefs.

We encourage you to check out our careers page if you share our dream of helping organisations unlock better through AI technology. We are growing rapidly and are in search of over 30 new TAIGERs to join our family. Whether or not you come from a tech background, we have opportunities for you.

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