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Data Scientists: How to Succeed in America’s Top Job

December 12, 2017

This post is contributed by Tim Ressmeyer | Founding Partner of Ressmeyer Partners and Executive Leadership Coach | 20 years’ experience as an executive in analytics and marketing research rolesData-driven jobs continue to dominate the rankings, resulting in an exciting career landscape for quantitative professionals. In fact, for the second year in a row, data scientist has been named the top job in America, which presents its own set of opportunities and challenges.Whether or not your official title is ‘Data Scientist,’ as a quantitative professional you have a great skillset that’s in demand right now. So how do you stay on top of your game and ahead in your field? And what do you do if you don’t love your job?

Rising to the top in a booming field

The increasing importance of data means there’s an influx of new analytics and data science talent on the job market… and it is essential for you to stay relevant and develop yourself as a leader.By the way, everyone is a leader! Whether or not you manage others, have a big title, or are just starting out, you can proactively manage your career.Using a combination of coaching techniques and your analytical skills, you can make the most of this opportunity-rich time for quantitative professionals. Using the Four C’s of Leadership: Confidence, Connecting, Competence and Culture, here are my suggestions on how to set yourself up for even more success:


The way you “show up” in your professional life is a key to success, and confidence is essential. Be honest with yourself about your strengths, and don’t fret if your confidence wavers sometimes. Are you intimidated by new talent that have been programming since grade school? Are the “big data” sets you used to struggle with tiny by today’s standards? Digital data didn’t even exist when you were being trained?It’s ok! Learn (see Competence below), but also don’t be afraid to confidently share your expertise. What’s your specialty? Think about what you bring to the table, and how that helps your colleagues and the business.

TakeawayMake a list of your strengths and refer back to it when you need a boost. Don’t let it go to your head (aim for confidence, not arrogance), but remember that you have a lot to offer.


Whether it’s with colleagues, direct reports, clients, or vendors, the way in which we build trust with others either allows us to achieve success, or unnecessarily creates barriers. With analytics professionals and data scientists frequently changing roles every two or three years, connecting is a necessity.With the dynamic changes in the field, there’s always something to talk about: How will artificial intelligence reshape what we do? With ongoing corporate consolidations, will analytics be more dispersed or centralized within an organization?Everyone has an opinion and likes to share their thoughts, so ask curious questions and then “shut up and listen!” That’s how connections are made.

TakeawayIn addition to focusing on effective, meaningful connections in the workplace, I’d encourage you to work on your network – get out there and meet people. Nurture your existing relationships. Remember: don’t go into situations with a “what’s in it for me” attitude; look at each interaction as an opportunity to create something mutually beneficial together.


With more people than ever entering the quantitative professions, it’s essential that you stay current and keep learning, especially since analytics and data science tools are evolving so quickly. SAS and SPSS were the go-to tools for data analysts for years, but with big data and the exponential increase of computing power, new tools have become available at a rapid pace. Are you an expert in the traditional tools? Do you want to learn R? Python? What’s the next open source language or system?Making an investment in yourself keeps you relevant and helps you avoid the feeling of being obsolete or stuck.

TakeawaySubject matter expertise is an essential skill in a leader’s toolkit. No one is a master of everything, but make sure you’re excelling in your area of expertise. Read up on emerging trends, take a training or a class, and never stop growing. This will set you apart from the rest of the crowd.


In any job, you can contribute to corporate culture in a positive way, creating an environment in which you and the people around you can thrive. But it doesn’t just happen – it requires intentional effort to ensure the effect you have is positive, is of your choosing, and is in alignment with corporate culture.Data science and analytics are at the razor’s edge of change. The convergence of technology and business has created an atmosphere of both opportunity and fear. Analytics can do so much in virtually every field – that’s why it’s a top job! By the same token, there’s a lot to learn and people can be fearful of falling behind or becoming irrelevant.

Takeaway Your emotions contribute to company culture. Do you operate out of opportunity or fear? Decide what kind of environment you want to operate in and how you can help create it… and then make it happen.

What if you don’t like your job or aren’t happy?

First, know that no, there’s nothing wrong with you! Many factors contribute to job happiness, and it’s completely normal to be unsatisfied. The key is taking action to get to a better place.The first step is figuring out why you aren’t satisfied. Is it the work culture, the industry, or certain parts of the job? Are you lacking opportunities for upward mobility? I have my clients do two exercises to help get to the bottom of this.

1. Define your values.

What are the 3-5 most important parts of your life? It might be family, or a principle such as integrity; perhaps it’s achieving success. Looking at your values in this way transcends any given job, field or industry. These are your core values.Spend some time looking hard at this and ask: Am I living true to my values? What’s important to me and is my job delivering on that? Go back to these values constantly as you evaluate new opportunities.

2. Evaluate your work experiences

Write down every job you’ve ever had, and make columns for what you liked, disliked, and what you brought to the table. Think about every aspect of the job, from how you work (solo or as part of a team?), to what you work on, to the corporate culture, and your contributions.This exercise breaks down each job to shed light on what you do and don’t enjoy. Now, as an analyst, look for patterns in the data and use that to help identify your strengths, and more importantly, what you want out of your next career move.

Once you have a better understanding of why you’re unfulfilled and more clarity on your priorities, make a plan. Use the 4 C’s of Leadership as a framework, and remember that you have an amazing, in-demand skillset. Look at how you can apply those skills and your experience to move to a place where you can be more successful.As you know, being in the top job means you’re constantly approached with new opportunities. When you have these conversations, keep these coaching techniques in mind as you evaluate the best way to advance your career – and remember how valuable your analytical skills can be when applied to your own life.

For more information

Ressmeyer Partners, led by Founding Partner, Tim Ressmeyer, has teamed up with Burtch Works to provide executive and leadership coaching to our network of analytics and research professionals. For more information or to get in touch with Tim, please email us at!You can find more career insights from Tim in this YouTube playlist of webinars he has done for us!

Want to learn more about data science and analytics career planning? Watch the webinar recording below to hear our recruiters' best advice on interview preparation, tools and skills to learn, salaries, and more!