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How can a data scientist access training in 2021? 3 trends things to look out for…

I have been involved in the delivery and implementation of data science software applications, data science projects and solutions that have advanced and predictive analytics at their core, in one form or another, for almost 30 years. Of course, going back to the early 1990s when I started out in this sector, the term data science had not really been coined. We talked instead of statistics and multivariate models. Artificial intelligence was still very much in its infancy, with the first neural network analytical tools only just becoming commercially available.

In the years since I began my career a huge amount has changed. Analytical technology is now ubiquitous and cheap, computing resources for analysis and storage are widely available and, relative to other resources, lower in cost, cloud delivery is very much the default architecture and the language of data science is almost mainstream.

One of the other elements of this thriving market that has also altered is the way that practitioners acquire the skills they need to work effectively as data scientists, but what has not changed is the need for people to learn how to work with data, analyse it, build robust predictive models and deploy these processes operationally. I last wrote about this topic back in 2018 and since then there has been another huge disruptive event in the shape of the ongoing, global, public health emergency of Covid 19. I don’t need to re-iterate the distressing details of this ongoing event and its broader impact on the human race, but in terms of commercial training activities the pandemic has put the final nail in the coffin of public, face-to-face training programmes.

So in the face of relentless and disruptive technological and social change, how do we access good quality training in the broad and often complex discipline of data science? Here are three things to look out for.

  1. Getting your employer to invest properly in data science training may be a challenge – The last 15 years or so has seen the emergence and relentless expansion of open source and ‘free ware’ options for advanced analytical tools. Languages such as Python and R to name but two have had a radical and overall a democratising and positive effect on the analytical software market because everyone has access to them. They have also had a wider impact on provision of high quality, accredited training.

Open source programming languages designed for analytics are often used via a more complex interface and are broad in their capability. The downside of this is that when an aspiring user is able to download and attempt to use such tools with no immediate investment, it can be daunting to then have to ask their organisation (or even worse, put their hand in their own pocket) for funding of training. That is not to say good quality training is not available, it is simply that to access it a user has to pay. This situation has inadvertently created a counterintuitive investment context for corporate budget holder i.e. if the open source technology is free, why on earth should I pay a premium for training resources?

  1. The continued evolution of the self-taught data scientist – The emergence of open source analytical technology, effectively free at the point of download, has led to the development of a generation of self-taught and often self-reliant data scientists. Alongside this open source culture has emerged an approach to solving analytical skills challenges that leverages access to online communities, social media content and forums. Being able to legitimately re-use a snippet of code from here or there and then tweaking it to meet your specific requirements.

There is a lot to be said for this innovative and lateral thinking approach to learning and using new and powerful technologies. There are downsides though. It can lead to suboptimal productivity for a user and may result in analytical and modelling processes that are not the most efficient or scalable for a given problem or scenario. This self-taught approach is not new, it has been developing steadily over the last 10 plus years and the health pandemic of the last 12 months has acted as a significant catalyst to the adoption of this approach to learning. Moreover, it has pushed the market to rapidly embrace remote learning as a necessity, be that informal use of open resources or remote access to commercial resources.

  1. Specialist suppliers are collaborating and innovating their business models – Specialist data science services & technology providers, like Smart Vision Europe, have been investing in and re-thinking their approach to making training for data scientists accessible. For our own part we have been investing heavily in our online and self paced training offering since well before social distancing and Covid 19 had entered the common lexicon. The plan that we created and evolved has been to provide self-paced, online training not only focused on commercial data science software application such as SPSS, but also on more general analytical, modelling and methodology training. Today we offer a full online catalogue.

As the Covid19 health pandemic unfolded we took the decision to make our online self-paced training catalogue available to our clients free of charge. This was to support many of our public sector clients such as NHS Trusts that were busy crunching public health data, and we also felt it made good commercial sense generally. We were amazed at the uptake across the board. This led us to the conclusion that we should adopt this as part of our general approach.

I should add that IBM were supportive of this approach and supported us by acknowledging the value add of our online training availability as part of our agreement with them as a Gold Business Partner. In practice what this means is that all of Smart Vision Europe customers when they invest with us are automatically granted access to our online data science training catalogues providing hugely valuable skills development resources for no additional investment.

Today Smart Vision Europe Ltd offer a well stocked and highly relevant self-paced, online training data science catalogue that is now being heavily utilised by our clients. This is great for clients and it has a positive reinforcing effect on our own business, a well trained user will make better and more frequent use of data science which will likely lead to expansion of the data science function in their organisation and that is a mutual benefit.

Why buy from us?

When you buy SPSS Statistics from us you won’t just get the software but you’ll also get free access to all our self-paced online training courses. These courses cover everything you need to get up and running with SPSS Statistics as well as including deep dives into some of the most commonly used statistical procedures and techniques within SPSS. They have a combined value of over £750 if you were to buy access to them separately. Each course includes a set of video instructions made by our expert trainers as well as downloadable course notes and sample datasets that you can work through in your own time and at your own pace. Access to this training bundle is a unique benefit that you only get when you buy SPSS from Smart Vision Europe.

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