These are the skills you need to be a data scientist at Facebook

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Finally, a clear description of what it means to be a data scientist! Facebook is seeking a “data scientist” to join the team of a dozen researchers in the Menlo Park HQ tasked with uncovering insights from the most extensive data set on human relationships ever assembled. The job is lumped into the general category of “software engineering careers,” but is a far more product-driven role than you might expect.

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According to the job description, the ideal candidate is a strong communicator with an appreciation for products, someone with expertise in the full gamut of technical skills. To qualify, you’ll need:

  • Fluency with at least one scripting language (Python or PHP)
  • Experience working with large data sets. Bonus points if you can work with distributed computing tools, such as Map/Reduce, Hadoop, Hive, etc.
  • Familiarity with relational databases and SQL
  • A strong passion for empirical research and for answering hard questions with data
  • Ability to communicate findings to product managers and engineers
  • Ability to answer and identify product questions using appropriate statistical techniques on available data

Who is this wunderkind? This data hero — or data artist? It’s certainly not your typical low-level developer or analyst, many of whom have taken to passing themselves off as data scientists. You can’t blame them — it’s the tech industry’s sexy new profession. From LinkedIn to Netflix, every tech company worth its salt has developed a data-dedicated team. According to a rather brilliant feature in Technology Review, Facebook is set to double its data team in the next 12 months.

The right candidate for this job will be willing and able to find Facebook new ways to make money from personal information, whether it’s our family photos, conversations, life achievements, or other tidbits of data. Under the company’s top data scientist Cameron Marlow, the team’s goal is to find patterns among the data that the product team can make use of. For instance, data scientists helped Facebook identify users you may know but haven’t “friended.” The team is working with terabytes of potentially valuable data that is lodged in the company’s servers.

There still isn’t much consensus on what it actually means to be a data scientist, so I was relieved to stumble upon this opening, which sheds some light. Still, even Facebook’s HR department is going in a bit blind. Even Marlow prefers to go by the academic-sounding term of “chief sociologist.”

The job description says the ideal candidate will have a Ph.D or masters degree. Technology Review reported that several members of the team are trained in sociology or social psychology. In their free time, they can use Facebook’s raw data to uncover patterns in human behavior, and publish the results in academic journals.

The salary isn’t specified, but according to a recent study, it averages at $55,000 for a data analyst to $132,000 for a vice president of analytics. This is Facebook, so expect to earn significantly more than that.

Click here to read more about what it means to be a data scientist.

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