Data Scientists as Leaders

Organizations too often fail to recognize the valuable leadership data scientists can and do provide

Adam Ross Nelson
9 min readJan 8, 2024

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Making informed decisions, based on an empirical analysis of quality data, is an essential component of modern organizational success. Data scientists can play a crucial role in this process. Despite the “hype” around it, data scientists are often not fully valued by their organization.

For better or worse, data scientists are the experts in collecting, analysing and interpreting data. The disconnect I see is when organizations fail to value the contributions they can make beyond these three functions.

An important nuance in this history is that in decades past, data scientists were not yet called ‘data scientists’. Instead, they were analysts. Perhaps you can identify with or recognize the dysfunction exemplified by organizational members who tell analysts to “stay in their lane”.

However, professionals in this field can also be organizational leaders. With the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI), we might also extend that statement to say data scientists should be organizational leaders. As businesses continue to pursue opportunities that leverage generative AI, it would be a mistake to not include data scientists among the cadre of an organization’s senior leadership. Leaving decisions related to AI entirely to those with very little, or maybe zero, experience in data science can risk entirely missing the technical perspective that only a data scientist can offer.

This article discusses how data science professionals can help themselves emerge as organizational leaders by building and promoting data culture. To show how they can advance their careers in this way, I will discuss the concept of data culture and provide actionable tactics that any professional at any level can use to promote it.

With this information, I hope you will be able to improve the success of your organization but also improve your own personal and professional career success in data science.

Culture + data culture

There are specific tactics data science professionals can use to promote data culture, but first, it is important to…

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Adam Ross Nelson

Ask about my free career course. I mentor new (💫) and aspiring data scientists enter (🚪) and level up (📈) in the field.