What can state government do…to attract a data scientist like YOU?

March 29, 2022

What can state government do…to attract a data scientist like YOU?

By Kellie Hogue

What’s your next move? When I was in grad school, one of my professors told me that regardless of the job I am currently in, I should always be planning the next step in my career. 

At the time, it made sense–academic appointments in my discipline were few and far between, and I wouldn’t get one without some major strategic networking and planning. Simply a case of too much supply, not enough demand.

Not so with data science. Demand for data scientists far exceeds supply. Yes, some cursory planning might be called for, but significantly less than you might think! As one article puts it, by 2018 “the United States will face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 data scientists.” And as long as “the median base salary for a data scientist in San Francisco is $189,658,” data science will continue to be a popular university major. With firms like Macy’s, AirBnb, and Allbirds competing with Facebook and Google for academically trained data scientists, just about any emerging data scientist is faced with the proverbial embarrassment of riches.

With so many lucrative job opportunities and perks out there, data scientists definitely have lots of options. If you don’t make the cut at one of the FAANG companies, you might “find your Ohio” and decide not to stay in the Bay. You could work for an international firm. You might want to try to make a go of it in academia, but eventually come to realize that your data science activities aren’t as valued on the job market or on tenure track as other more traditional research activities. You might even flirt with becoming a data scientist at the federal level now that an awareness of institutional barriers is coming to light. 

One option, though, that you may not have even thought of, given the challenges of the “Truffle Pig Problem”: California state government. 

Recent appointments of key tech personnel at the state level suggest state jobs are now on the table for data scientists who seek to use their skills to contribute to making government information accessible and available to all Californians. 

Just as data science is becoming more popular with students, it’s also becoming more popular within state government. Consider the evidence:

These recent institutional moves, the restructuring of job classifications to better focus on data (e.g. Data Scientist 1, Research Data Analyst and Specialist Series) combined with pre-existing agency initiatives (see below!) that actively apply data science tools and methods, might actually make government a potentially attractive solution for the job-security-minded newly-minted data scientist or the seasoned data scientist looking to contribute to good governance. 

Here are just a few of the data-centric projects going on in state government that hopefully speak to you, a job-seeking data scientist, as you assess your next move:

  • California Waterboards College of Water Informatics - shares information for those new to data science via the People’s Data Science Handbook as part of a larger set of handbooks wrapped up in an extensive data tool kit focused around water data training and resources.

  • R Shiny Applications for the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta - features a Zooplankton synthesis app, maps of salmon releases and telemetry receiver locations, a continuous water temperature data app, a discrete water temperature data app, a climate change social vulnerability map, climate change flood scenarios in the Delta, and a Bay-Delta monitoring all. 

  • California Research Bureau Interactives - offers Tableau-based legislative district demographics and profiles, a dashboard about library facilities needs, maps that look at regional designations among California’s governments, statistics about grants and loan opportunities, and the economic impacts of national security spending. 

  • California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal - includes the latest COVID-19 dashboards, an extensive dataset catalog and a Tableau dashboard containing data for CalFresh, CalWorks, Medi-Cal and other health related programs. 

  • WellSTAR Data Dashboard - details information on wells and underground gas storage from the California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management.

When you combine the need to make sense of all the data the State has with continued efforts to reach the goal of up to 75% of state employees working remotely, there’s never been a better time to consider state government as the next step in your data science career! 

So…………what can state government do to attract a data scientist like YOU?