From Biomedical Science to Data Science: Why STEM Graduates Should Consider a Career in Marketing Analytics

The demand for data scientists with STEM backgrounds in marketing is increasing.

Growing up, I always dreamed of becoming a scientist. I pictured a world of white lab coats, test tubes, and scientific discoveries with the potential to change the world. But as I completed my undergraduate degree in biotechnology, bioinformatics, and biochemistry and entered my post-graduate studies in biomedical sciences, I realized there were other, lesser-known corners of the hard sciences I hadn’t yet considered — fields of study that were less white lab coat and more digitally driven.

After a brief tenure spent working as an associate scientist for a global genomics service, I decided to transition my skill set into a full-time position in data analytics at a health insurance agency before coming to Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. As a biochemist turned data scientist, I’m able to approach data analytics through the lens of my academic background — leveraging the concepts and thought processes I honed in the lab to draw meaningful, future-focused digital insights for clients in the healthcare industry. As big data continues to transform the way in which business is conducted across the board, I would encourage students pursuing STEM degrees to consider the strategic advantages of a career in the world of marketing analytics.

Is Data Science Really Science?

When we think of scientific fields of study, many people might not immediately define marketing analytics as a traditional “hard science.” But at its core, marketing analytics relies on mathematics — the purest scientific pursuit that guides each of the other disciplines. It’s that mathematical commonality that makes traditional STEM fields like biology, physics, or engineering an excellent foundation for those pursuing a career in marketing analytics. Each discipline forces your brain to tackle complex problems, synthesize external variables, and repurpose existing processes in unique ways — skills that are essential to the success of any marketing data scientist.

An Unlikely Pairing: Creativity and Data Analytics

In my current role, I use data analysis to inform marketing decisions, predict outcomes, and develop solutions for clients in the healthcare industry. For some, that sentence may have conjured visions of endless spreadsheets and late nights spent sifting through huge sets of numbers. And while I certainly encounter my fair share of Excel files, one aspect of my job that many find surprising is the consistent opportunity to be creative.

For example, my team has the chance to do things like train machine learning algorithms to accurately predict physician behavior. We’ll look at different data points from hundreds of thousands of healthcare practitioners to determine individual motivations and make informed projection about future behavior. If particular data sets aren’t painting the holistic picture our client is looking for, we’ll formulate new and unexpected questions, apply different conceptual filters, and reorganize existing insights to draw meaningful, accurate conclusions that fuel effective client outreach strategies. Data analysis, while seemingly cut and dry, is a constantly evolving conversation between client, consumer, and data scientist — one that requires agility, innovation, and originality.

Unprecedented Demand

The best news for STEM graduates? Data scientists are in huge  — and growing — demand. Humans produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and over 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. Thanks to the vast and unprecedented swaths of information now available, a McKinsey study predicts that by 2018 the number of data science jobs in the United States alone will exceed 490,000, and that global demand for data scientists will exceed supply by more than 50 percent.

As brands seek to mine the depths of newly available data, the urgent need for highly skilled data scientists in marketing will continue to skyrocket. No matter what your industry of interest, STEM graduates looking for a rewarding, future-proof professional path would do well to consider a career in marketing analytics.

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