Look, Ma, I’m a Data Scientist!

Posted by Robert Merrill on January 31, 2012 under Data Scientist | Be the First to Comment

Tom Groenfeldt just told me what to start calling myself.

What’s a data scientist?

In “Big Data Needs Data Scientists, Or Quants, Or Excel Jockeys,” he quotes Randy Lea at Teradata’s Aster Center of Innovation, who “defines a Data Scientist as a person with mathematical and statistical skills, an investigative mind, an understanding of computer languages like C++ and Java,” and ability to write code. Groenfeld’s own definition includes, “multi-skilled experts who understand programming, large-scale mathematics, statistics and business.” That’s me!

Why I claim to be enough of a data scientist to be useful (a.k.a. War Stories)

(Robert, I believe you—spare me!)

In graduate school, I crunched daily sounding-balloon observations around 10 years worth of typhoons and 27 years worth of hurricanes. I then built a bigger data set of winds from passenger jets and cloud motions in satellite loops and used that to study the exhaust plumes from hurricanes. Read more of this article »

Forced March, not Death March

Posted by Robert Merrill on January 17, 2012 under Software Development, Software teams | Be the First to Comment

For almost exactly two months, from mid-November 2011 through mid-January 2012, I was on a Forced March, meaning lots of overtime and weekend work to get a software system up and running. It’s still not live—the sponsor switched from Date-Driven to Done-Driven and slipped the launch date six weeks, but not after I’d worked pretty hard.

These are sometimes called Death Marches, after Edward Yourdon’s book, in turn named after (I guess) the Bataan Death March. This was nowhere close. First, comparing anything that’s ever happened on a software project to the likes of Bataan shows a terrible lack of perspective. Second, even as software projects go, this was short and not at all harmful for someone in my circumstances of life. Third, “death march” implies at best a selfish motive, at worst a truly sinister one, and most likely just macho stupidity (read about Electronic Arts and judge for yourself). Read more of this article »