If thought leaders believe the most basic, universal skill for data scientists is the ability to write code, data science is at risk of repeating the narrative already experienced in more conventional information management. We now know that in designing information systems, it is a fool’s errand to favor technical prowess over technology-neutral skills like requirements analysis and conceptual modeling. Yes, big data tools are young and a little rough around the edges, so folks who can master the technology will be needed. But the basic, universal skills for data scientists must be acknowledged: understanding how data (both structured and unstructured) work and how humans experience it.
Data scientists’ most basic, universal skill is the ability to write code. This may be less true in five years’ time, when many more people will have the title “data scientist” on their business cards. More enduring will be the need for data scientists to communicate in language that all their stakeholders understand—and to demonstrate the special skills involved in storytelling with data, whether verbally, visually, or—ideally—both.