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We've found that there are really two different kinds of Data Scientists... the ones that are using machine learning algorithms and packages like Weka... often a Data Engineer with distributed computing, hadoop, strong scripting, as well as some stats background, and the other ones who are PhD level statisicians trying to achieve even greater lift by implementing better statistical formulas in highly competitive computational environments where you have miliseconds to react in real-time. http://recruitingscience.com
I knew that big data was here in a big way when I heard a two day piece on NPR about it. It is like scouting professional athletes to identify and recruit the creme of the data scientist crop. The best data scientists are not necessarily "just" a mathematician. To quote DJ Patil from Greylock Partners, you are looking for a reare breed, "someone with a brian for math, finesse with computers, the eyes of an artist and more." Companies are opening branches in the college towns of universities with outstanding math programs just to recruit the best candidates. Cataphora opened an office in Ann Arbor to recruit graduates from Michigan's math department, for example. There is a lot of competition out there for the most talented prospects, so there is one thing I think you can count on - you will have to offer a nice fat paycheck to your recruit, whether you find him yourself or hire a recruiting firm to do it.