Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From Operations Research to Data Science

In the last post, I wrote about how good it is to see OR linked as a skillset to data science. However, do note that OR is only one part of the DS skillsets. OR ≠ Data Science. How does an Operations Researcher transition to a Data Scientist?

There are a few things the O'Reilly book I talked about in the last post briefly mentions as suggestions for an OR person to learn more about: some of the new Bayesian / Monte Carlo Statistics methods, broad programming skills, data warehouse architecture for big data technology, and business kills "to be able to intelligently collaborate with (or lead) others on a data science team".

For those looking to upgrade, here are my quick thoughts on where to start.

Bayesian Data Analysis: Andrew Gelman from Columbia is running a course on Bayesian Data Analysis *right now*, with Google+ Hangout sessions. Looks very interesting.

Programming skills: see my previous post on learning R and Python - the languages of data science.

Big data architecture: in my experience, first understand the layers of a normal data warehouse architecture, then broaden to the enterprise BI architecture stack, then learn about the new bits for addressing the "big" aspect. I was fortunate to have led a fairly big project in this area, and had the opportunity to work with some great data warehouse architects and enterprise BI architects to learn a ton from them. I'm not sure what the best self-learning material is other than the typical read-a-lot. Wikipedia doesn't seem to cut it, and the best material that helped me aren't publicly available. Hmm...I will have to think about this - topic for another post perhaps. In the meanwhile, Pivotal seems to do a fairly good job in their blog to dumb down the explanation of the bits for "big" data technology in some practical terms.

Business skills: I think this only applies to academics (sorry for the generalisation). For the practitioners, i.e. OR people working in and with businesses, that's a fundamental part of our jobs.