The term “big data” is everywhere these days, and with good reason. More products than ever before are connected to the Internet: phones, music players, DVRs, TVs, watches, video cameras…you name it. Almost every new electronic device created today is connected to the Internet in some way for some purpose.
The result of all those things connected to the Internet is data. Big, big data. What’s that mean for you? Simply put, it means if you can quickly, accurately, and intelligently sift through data and find trends, you are extremely valuable in today’s tech job market. More specifically, here are five job titles that require data analytics skills and expertise to get ahead.
Python is a popular programming language used by both developers and data scientists. But what makes it so popular and why are so many data scientists choosing Python over other programming languages? In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of Python programming and why it’s useful for data science.
What is Python?
No, we’re not talking about the giant, tropical snake. Python is a general-purpose, high-level programming language. It supports object oriented, structured, and functional programming paradigms.
Python was created in the late 1980s by the Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum who wanted a project to fill his time over the holiday break. His goal was to create a programming language that was a descendant of the ABC programming language but would appeal to Unix/C hackers. Van Rossum writes that he chose the name Python for this language, “being in a slightly irreverent mood (and a big fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus).”
Python went through many updates and iterations and by the year 2008, Python 3.0 was released. This was designed to fix many of the design flaws in the language, with an emphasis on removing redundant features. While this update had some growing pains as it was not backwards compatible, the new updates made way for Python as we know it today. It continues to be well-maintained and supported as a popular, open source programming language.
In “The Zen of Python,” developer Tim Peters summarizes van Rossum’s guiding principles for writing code in Python:
Beautiful is better than ugly. Explicit is better than implicit. Simple is better than complex. Complex is better than complicated. Flat is better than nested. Sparse is better than dense. Readability counts. Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules. Although practicality beats purity. Errors should never pass silently. Unless explicitly silenced. In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess. There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it. Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you’re Dutch. Now is better than never. Although never is often better than *right* now. If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea. If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea. Namespaces are one honking great idea — let’s do more of those!
These principles touch on some of the advantages of Python in data science. Python is designed to be readable, simple, explicit, and explainable. Even the first principle states that Python code should be beautiful. In general, Python is a great programming language for many tasks and is becoming increasingly popular for developers. But now you may be wondering, why learn Python for data science?
Why Python for Data Science?
The first of many benefits of Python in data science is its simplicity. While some data scientists come from a computer science background or know other programming languages, many come from backgrounds in statistics, mathematics, or other technical fields and may not have as much coding experience when they enter the field of data science. Python syntax is easy to follow and write, which makes it a simple programming language to get started with and learn quickly.
In addition, there are plenty of free resources available online to learn Python and get help if you get stuck. Python is an open source language, meaning the language is open to the public and freely available. This is beneficial for data scientists looking to learn a new language because there is no up-front cost to start learning Python. This also means that there are a lot of data scientists already using Python, so there is a strong community of both developers and data scientists who use and love Python.
The Python community is large, thriving, and welcoming. Python is the fourth most popular language among all developers based on a 2020 Stack Overflow survey of nearly 65,000 developers. Python is especially popular among data scientists. According to SlashData, there are 8.2 million active Python users with “a whopping 69% of machine learning developers and data scientists now us[ing] Python (compared to 24% of them using R).”4 A large community brings a wealth of available resources to Python users. Not only are there numerous books and tutorials available, there are also conferences such as PyCon where Python users across the world can come together to share knowledge and connect. Python has created a supportive and welcoming community of data scientists willing to share new ideas and help one another.
If the sheer number of people using Python doesn’t convince you of the importance of Python for data science, maybe the libraries available to make your data science coding easier will. A library in Python is a collection of modules with pre-built code to help with common tasks. They essentially allow us to benefit from and build on top of the work of others. In other languages, some data science tasks would be cumbersome and time consuming to code from scratch. There are countless libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and Matplotlib available in Python to make data cleaning, data analysis, data visualization, and machine learning tasks easier. Some of the most popular libraries include:
NumPy: NumPy is a Python library that provides support for many mathematical tasks on large, multidimensional arrays and matrices.
Pandas: The Pandas library is one of the most popular and easy-to-use libraries available. It allows for easy manipulation of tabular data for data cleaning and data analysis.
Matplotlib: This library provides simple ways to create static or interactive boxplots, scatterplots, line graphs, and bar charts. It’s useful for simplifying your data visualization tasks.
Seaborn: Seaborn is another data visualization library built on top of Matplotlib that allows for visually appealing statistical graphs. It allows you to easily visualize beautiful confidence intervals, distributions, and other graphs.
Statsmodels: This statistical modeling library builds all of your statistical models and statistical tests including linear regression, generalized linear models, and time series analysis models.
Scipy: Scipy is a library used for scientific computing that helps with linear algebra, optimization, and statistical tasks.
Requests: This is a useful library for scraping data from websites. It provides a user-friendly and responsive way to configure HTTP requests.
In addition to all of the general data manipulation libraries available in Python, a major advantage of Python in data science is the availability of powerful machine learning libraries. These machine learning libraries make data scientists’ lives easier by providing robust, open source libraries for any machine learning algorithm desired. These libraries offer simplicity without sacrificing performance. You can easily build a powerful and accurate neural network using these frameworks. Some of the most popular machine learning and deep learning libraries in Python include:
Scikit-learn: This popular machine learning library is a one-stop-shop for all of your machine learning needs with support for both supervised and unsupervised tasks. Some of the machine learning algorithms available are logistic regression, k-nearest neighbors, support vector machine, random forest, gradient boosting, k-means, DBSCAN, and principal component analysis.
Tensorflow: Tensorflow is a high-level library for building neural networks. Since it was mostly written in C++, this library provides us with the simplicity of Python without sacrificing power and performance. However, working with raw Tensorflow is not suited for beginners.
Keras: Keras is a popular high-level API that acts as an interface for the Tensorflow library. It’s a tool for building neural networks using a Tensorflow backend that’s extremely user friendly and easy to get started with.
Pytorch: Pytorch is another framework for deep learning created by Facebook’s AI research group. It provides more flexibility and speed than Keras, but since it has a low-level API, it is more complex and may be a little bit less beginner friendly than Keras.
What Other Programming Languages are Used for Data Science?
Python is the most popular programming language for data science. If you’re looking for a new job as a data scientist, you’ll find that Python is also required in most job postings for data science roles. Jeff Hale, a General Assembly data science instructor, scraped job postings from popular job posting sites to see what was required for jobs with the title of “Data Scientist.” Hale found that Python appears in nearly 75% of all job postings. Python libraries including Tensorflow, Scikit-learn, Pandas, Keras, Pytorch, and Numpy also appear in many data science job postings.
R, another popular programming language for data science, appeared in roughly 55% of the job postings. While R is a useful tool for data science and has many benefits including data cleaning, data visualization, and statistical analysis, Python continues to become more popular and preferred among data scientists for a majority of tasks. In fact, the average percentage of job postings requiring R dropped by about 7% between 2018 and 2019, while Python increased in the percentage of job postings requiring the language. This isn’t to say that learning R is a waste of time; data scientists that know both of these languages can benefit from the strengths of both languages for different purposes. However, since Python is becoming increasingly popular, there’s a high chance that your team uses Python, and it’s important to use the language that your team is comfortable with and prefers.
What is the Future of Python for Data Science?
As Python continues to grow in popularity and as the number of data scientists continues to increase, the use of Python for data science will inevitably continue to grow. As we advance machine learning, deep learning, and other data science tasks, we’ll likely see these advancements available for our use as libraries in Python. Python has been well-maintained and continuously growing in popularity for years, and many of the top companies use Python today. With its continued popularity and growing support, Python will be used in the industry for years to come.
Whether you’ve been a data scientist for years or you are just beginning your data science journey, you can benefit from learning Python for data science. The simplicity, readability, support, community, and popularity of the language — as well as the libraries available for data cleaning, visualization, and machine learning — all set Python apart from other programming languages. If you aren’t already using Python for your work, give it a try and see how it can simplify your data science workflow.
At first glance, data science seems to be just another business buzzword — something abstract and ill-defined. While data can, in fact, be both of these things, it’s anything but a buzzword. Data science and its applications have been steadily changing the way we do business and live our day-to-day lives — and considering that 90% of all of the world’s data has been created in the past few years, there’s a lot of growth ahead of this exciting field.
While traditional statistics and data analysis have always focused on using data to explain and predict, data science takes this further. It uses data to learn — constructing algorithms and programs that collect from various sources and apply hybrids of mathematical and computer science methods to derive deeper actionable insights. Whereas traditional analysis uses structured data sets, data science dares to ask further questions, looking at unstructured “big data” derived from millions of sources and nontraditional mediums such as text, video, and images. This allows companies to make better decisions based on its customer data.
So how is this all manifesting in the market? Here, we look at three real-world examples of how data science drives business innovation across various industries and solves complex problems.
In today’s digital age, we’re constantly bombarded with information about new apps, transformative technologies, and the latest and greatest artificial intelligence system. While these technologies may serve very different purposes in our life, all of them share one thing in common: They rely on data. More specifically, they all use databases to capture, store, retrieve, and aggregate data. This begs the question: How do we actually interact with databases to accomplish all of this? The answer: We use Structured Query Language, or SQL (pronounced “sequel” or “ess-que-el”).
Put simply, SQL is the language of data — it’s a programming language that enables us to efficiently create, alter, request, and aggregate data from those mysterious things called databases. It gives us the ability to make connections between different pieces of information, even when we’re dealing with huge data sets. Modern applications are able to use SQL to deliver really valuable pieces of information that would otherwise be difficult for humans to keep track of independently. In fact, pretty much every app that stores any sort of information uses a database. This ubiquity means that developers use SQL to log, record, alter, and present data within the application, while analysts use SQL to interrogate that same data set in order to find deeper insights.
Finding SQL in Everyday Life
Think about the last time you looked up the name of a movie on IMDB. I’ll bet you quickly noticed an actress on the cast list and thought something like, “I didn’t realize she was in that,” then clicked a link to read her bio. As you were navigating through that app, SQL was responsible for returning the information you “requested” each time you clicked a link. This sort of capability is something we’ve come to take for granted these days.
Let’s look at another example that truly is cutting-edge, this time at the intersection of local government and small business. Many metropolitan cities are supporting open data initiatives in which public data is made easily accessible through access to the databases that store this information. As an example, let’s look at Los Angeles building permit data, business listings, and census data.
Imagine you work at a real estate investment firm and are trying to find the next up-and-coming neighborhood. You could use SQL to combine the permit, business, and census data in order to identify areas that are undergoing a lot of construction, have high populations, and contain a relatively low number of businesses. This might be a great opportunity to purchase property in a soon-to-be thriving neighborhood! For the first time in history, it’s easy for a small business to leverage quantitative data from the government in order to make a highly informed business decision.
Leveraging SQL to Boost Your Business and Career
There are many ways to harness SQL’s power to supercharge your business and career, in marketing and sales roles, and beyond. Here are just a few:
Increase sales: A sales manager could use SQL to compare the performance of various lead-generation programs and double down on those that are working.
Track ads: A marketing manager responsible for understanding the efficacy of an ad campaign could use SQL to compare the increase in sales before and after running the ad.
Streamline processes: A business manager could use SQL to compare the resources used by various departments in order to determine which are operating efficiently.
SQL at General Assembly
At General Assembly, we know businesses are striving to transform their data from raw facts into actionable insights. The primary goal of our data analytics curriculum, from workshops to full-time courses, is to empower people to access this data in order to answer their own business questions in ways that were never possible before.
To accomplish this, we give students the opportunity to use SQL to explore real-world data such as Firefox usage statistics, Iowa liquor sales, or Zillow’s real estate prices. Our full-time Data Science Immersive and part-time Data Analytics courses help students build the analytical skills needed to turn the results of those queries into clear and effective business recommendations. On a more introductory level, after just a couple of hours of in one of our SQL workshops, students are able to query multiple data sets with millions of rows.
Michael Larner is a passionate leader in the analytics space who specializes in using techniques like predictive modeling and machine learning to deliver data-driven impact. A Los Angeles native, he has spent the last decade consulting with hundreds of clients, including 50-plus Fortune 500 companies, to answer some of their most challenging business questions. Additionally, Michael empowers others to become successful analysts by leading trainings and workshops for corporate clients and universities, including General Assembly’s part-time Data Analytics course and SQL/Excel workshops in Los Angeles.
“In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, data has never been more accessible. That makes it the perfect time — and incredibly important — to be a great data analyst.”
– Michael Larner, Data Analytics Instructor, General Assembly Los Angeles
It makes perfect sense that this job is both new and popular, since every move you make online is actively creating data somewhere for something. Someone has to make sense of that data and discover trends in the data to see if the data is useful. That is the job of the data scientist. But how does the data scientist go about the job? Here are the three skills and three tools that every data scientist should master.
Launching for the first time in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. on April 11, this full-time Immersive program will equip you with the tools and techniques you need to become a data pro in just 12 weeks.
The Data Journalists handbook defines data literacy as, “the ability to consume for knowledge, produce coherently and think critically about data.” It goes on to say that “data literacy includes statistical literacy but also understanding how to work with large data sets, how they were produced, how to connect various data sets and how to interpret them.”
At General Assembly, we’d like to imagine a world where you don’t need a Ph.D. in Statistics to have a data-informed conversation about your business, your health, or your life in general. Over the past year, we’ve embarked on the journey to build a more data literate world through education offerings that meet the diverse needs of our students.
In building these courses, we’ve sought advice from data scientists, analysts, and hiring managers to determine the critical skills you need to become data literate in today’s workforce. We discovered that it isn’t just a concrete list of skills, but a mindset geared towards data—a way of approaching problems beyond “gut instincts.”
Here, we’ve proposed a few simple questions that will help you start to view the world through the lens of data.
If you thought the introduction of the commercial Internet changed mass media, take a look at what’s in front of you today. Behind the sites of your favorite newspapers and blogs (yes, even this one), publishers are using data to create better audience experiences. For anyone who has ever considered working with data as part of their career, there are now more opportunities than ever to bring media and data together. Here are some of the most important technologies to have on your radar.
Big data is just what it sounds like; data so big that it’s not easily processed through conventional methods. However, once this large data set is eventually distilled down, user experience can play a huge role in making sense of the reports and leading the charge for user-centered solutions.
User experience (UX) is the bridge between big data analytics and the end user. The richness of big data being collected by all types of companies has unleashed a treasure trove of information for user experience designers. UX designers can create more robust solutions for users by analyzing these enormous data sets.
Can data improve the future of our humanity? You better believe it. “Big data” is more than just big businesses. Every day, social impact groups are finding new and creative ways to act upon the information that they’re generating. They’re using data to surface new information, uncover underserved communities, and track performance over time. Here are 5 very different organizations that are using data, in new and creative ways, to improve the lives of people around them: