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What Is a Data Specialist?

by Paul Culmer

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We spoke to Paul Culmer, Principal Consultant in Analytics at Xcede, to find out what a data specialist does and how the role has evolved in recent years.

Thanks for talking with us Paul. Can you give us an overview of what a data specialist does and what their skillset looks like?

A data specialist is someone who collects information, electronically collates it, converts it accurately into a useful format and shares these findings with stakeholders in the business. They need to combine a broad range of technical skills to effectively extract, process, and analyse data. They also need strong business acumen and communication skills.

What is the day-to-day role of a data specialist?

There are lots of titles within the data market – data engineer, data scientist, data analyst – they all do their thing. A data specialist is slightly different. They could work across multiple areas, but they are generally someone who has been tasked with working through a big chunk of data to provide a clear view of that information in a format that’s actionable within the business. A data specialist has to provide meaningful results – can this data help us to sell more products or improve our profit margins?

How do you think data specialists have been impacted by the global pandemic?

The last few months will have seen more data specialists working remotely (as many of us are). They may have experienced challenges in gathering the data they need and accessing key stakeholders. It’s tough when you remove that human element and they are having to find new ways of working. Depending on the industry they are in, they may be seeing a significant shift in their business, positive or negative. They may be responsible for tracking or analysing some of these changes. Being off-site will definitely hamper work if they are using archaic databases that are not directly linked to the internet.

How long have you worked in this market? And what’s changed when it comes to data specialists?

I’ve been working in the data market for about 18 years. I’ve seen lots of changes, both technical and in terms of the titles we see in the industry. Initially, a data specialist referred to someone who was relatively technical but predominantly a strong communicator. Over the years, software and technologies have changed and technical knowledge has become crucial. Now, when they label someone a data specialist, they want them to be able to work with all types of data – whether that’s transactional or online data. They want them to have worked across traditional and open-source software and also to have some knowledge of data insight, products, data science, and engineering. It’s a much broader requirement than years ago when there were fewer channels to work across.

Thank you for your insight and expertise, Paul!

Looking for a data specialist to join your team? Or for the next step in your data career? Explore our data specialism page or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more about what we offer.