Why a Good Data Scientist Is Like a Flight Attendant

The hardest part of being a data scientist is trying to control the mania at the beginning of a project. Many of these projects start when a higher-up announces that we have an important business question and we need data to arrive at an answer. That proclamation is like yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Anyone with data starts the frantic dash to collect, format, and distribute it.

I like what the flight attendants do. At the beginning of every flight, they take you through the plan. They point out the exits and describe an orderly evacuation. That’s what a good data scientist will do as well:

“Our initial analysis has produced four hypotheses — two in the front, two in the rear. If you have data, please follow the lights to the nearest hypothesis. We will come to a conclusion once all the evidence have safely exited their silos.”

overton-2015Jerry Overton is head of advanced analytics research in CSC’s ResearchNetwork and founder of CSC’s FutureTense competency, which includes the Predictive Modeling Research Group, Advanced Analytics Lab and Predictive Modeling School. Connect with him on Twitter.


  1. Or Data Scientist offers up data (meals) but is primarily there to guide utilization of your data (safety)


  2. Dan Parkins says:

    Data Scientist also enjoy working with the raw stuff. They know how to transform it and mash it up. A little turbulence in serving it, however may result in data vomit. Don’t impress them with volume, focus on the actionable.


  3. Diane Royer says:

    I like the analogy of relating this to a flight attendant’s informational guidance. The key of course is that people need to be listening and willing and able to follow the plan and process – like they say – don’t sit in an exit row if you can’t perform the required tasks..


  4. Dan Parkins says:

    I know, I know, but “vomit” is colorful and connotes voluminous content 🙂


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