What is the entry point? How should one start? Is there only one way? How can I guarantee “success”?
These are questions any person in the younger generation is likely to ask as they see “Data Analytics” becoming a booming business. But is there any “one” right way? I don’t think so.
Take myself as an example. I grew up in a small community that “excelled” in not too high a proportion of its high school graduates going on to college. I was one of the few who had decided “long before H.S. Graduation age” that I was going to go to college, then graduate school, and get a Ph.D. I knew that prior to age 10, as I recall.
Most people in my community thought I would become a “music teacher” or something like that, as I was very active in all sorts of musical activities. BUT, science and math were my primary subjects in high school; I always scheduled them in the morning when I was most alert (I left the Shakespeare and History to the afternoon, and probably “slept/daydreamed” through most of it, hardly reading a word in any of “those textbooks”).
And when I entered college, I “knew in myself” that if I did NOT go straight through, getting the Master’s and then the Ph.D. immediately following, I’d probably never go back…so that is what I did. And then spent 30 years in an “academic career,” using traditional p-value frequentists statistics to analyze the data in medical research, which became my primary interest. BUT, my wife kept telling me that “You should get out of academia… you would just LOVE the business world”…and lo and behold, I finally did that, and Yes, she was right. For the past 12 years I’ve been having the “most fun of my life” in a “semi-retirement career” working for a statistical company…not just any statistical company, but one that in the late 1990s, when I joined them, had decided to develop DATA MINING and TEXT MINING software in addition to its highly acclaimed traditional statistical packages. I’d never heard of “DATA MINING,” but when I did, decided that “this is what I’ll specialize in,” little knowing what it would bring.
I soon realized that there was a “niche” un-filled in the communication of statistics and the newly emerging “Predictive Analytics” field to those who needed to understand it – e.g., those in middle management who needed to add these tools to their organizations, sometimes just in order to survive in the evolving “Global community.” So, I started writing paragraphs/pages/chapters in the data analysis fields. And this ended up in the HANDBOOK OF STATISITCAL ANALYSIS & DATA MINING APPLICATIONS, published in 2009, which hit a “nerve” in the world, as it has become the best-selling book of Elsevier/Academic Press in the past 10 years, and continues to sell so well that it will go into a second edition.
At this point, I find myself “in demand” as a consultant and/or co-PI (principal investigator) for various endeavors, from efficient electronic medical records that fit the guidelines of “Meaningful Use Phase I” of our medical care revolution to other domains. Since my previous 40 years background is in medical research, I tend to take on the “medical areas”…but I have a choice.
How did this happen? Did I follow a “prescribed plan” to get here? No, not at all…BUT I did make use of any and all events that presented themselves to my life…I took advantage of the situations into which life put me!
So what is needed? More than anything else, passion, interest, work, and FOCUS. The co-authors on our DM Handbook all got there via different pathways, but I can tell you that EACH OF US had FOCUS!
Gary D. Miner, Ph.D.
Author of Handbook of Statistical Analysis & Data Mining Applications;
Practical Text Mining and Statistical Analysis for Non-structured Text Data Applications, 2012, and coming in late 2013: Practical Predictive Analytics for Medicine including Decisioning Systems: Healthcare Administration, Delivery, and Medical Research
Copyright Gary D. Miner, 2012