SAS unveils the UK & Ireland’s Top Data Scientist for 2014

Dr Mohammad Abbas awarded title as part of the Big Data Skills Festival at Brunel University

The first ever winner of the SAS UK & Ireland Top Data Scientist Competition is Dr Mohammad Abbas, a data analyst based in Bracknell who has worked in public sector finance and marketing research. The inaugural competition was established this year by SAS, the global leader in business analytics software and services, to highlight the explosion in demand for data scientists which has been outstripping supply across all business sectors.

The competition attracted interest from more than 150 undergraduates, postgraduates and business professionals looking to demonstrate their talent for identifying insights from big data. The challenge was linked to the looming energy crisis as entrants were asked to explore open data from the UK Government and apply analytics tools to forecast electricity consumption by 2020. The runner-up was Dr Simon Kometa, a Research Computing Specialist at Newcastle University.

The competition entries were analysed by a select panel of judges with expertise in a range of different areas. The panel comprised Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor at The Economist; Dr Carsten Sørensen, Associate Professor at The London School of Economics; Stanza, an internationally recognised artist; Hannah Redler, Associate Curator for the Open Data Institute and Laurie Miles, Head of Analytics at SAS UK & Ireland.

The number of big data specialists employed in the UK has risen tenfold in the five years to 2013, yet 77 per cent of vacancies for these roles were described as difficult to fill.* Such pressures mean data scientists are taking on a wide range of responsibilities, some of which are unsuited to their skills and personality types. This has led to over half of data scientists reportedly suffering from some level of work-related stress, with one in four men and almost a third of women identified as being "heavily stressed".**

Laurie Miles, Head of Analytics at SAS UK & Ireland, said: "Our goal for the SAS UK & Ireland Top Data Scientist Competition was to raise awareness of the importance of the data science profession. If we can encourage more people with these skills to enter the marketplace we can reduce some of these stress levels by creating data science teams made up of people with complementary skills. And if we can get more people involved in using data analytics we can push forward discovery of new ideas and opportunities, for them and for their communities."

Dr Mohammad Abbas, who holds a Master's Degree in Organic-Geochemistry and Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry, said: "I'm thrilled to have been named as the competition winner. While working in the public sector as a chemistry analyst in an animal health laboratory, I developed a strong desire to understand more about how statistical applications and experimental design are used in animal health. I pursued this interest by gaining a Diploma in Statistics from the Open University and I've since devoted considerable time experimenting with data sets drawn from various disciplines and applying an array of analytics to derive data insights to make informed decisions. I'm now considering whether to start a small business focusing on training and consulting in SAS analytics."

The announcement of this year's winner was made at the SAS Big Data Skills Festival hosted by Brunel University. Dr Abbas won a trip to the annual SAS Global Forum Conference in the USA and an opportunity to present at the UK SAS Professionals Conference in 2015, which is attended by users of SAS technology.

The festival brought together 18 employers at the leading edge of analytics and 500 university students intrigued by opportunities in the big data profession. Students from 22 universities met with some of the UK's top employers including Accenture, Aviva Insurance, HSBC, nPower, Nationwide, PwC and HM Revenue & Customs to explore their big data analytics capabilities, as well as around 250 graduate big data vacancies on offer.


*According to a report "Big Data Analytics: Demand for labour and skills, 2013-2020" published by SAS, the leader in business analytics software and services and Tech Partnership (formerly e-skills UK), the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology

**According to research into 'What Makes a Great Data Scientist?' by SAS, the leader in business analytics software and services. The survey identified the following top six personality profiles:

  • The Geeks made up the largest group of respondents (41%). They have a technical bias, strong logic and analytical skills. They focus on detail. Roles include: defining system requirements, designing processes, and programming.
  • The Gurus (11%) are pre-disposed to scientific and technical subjects but are persuasive communicators with strong social skills. Roles include: promoting data science benefits to management.
  • The Drivers (11%) are highly pragmatic and determined to realise their goals. They are self-confident and results-oriented. Roles include: project management and team leadership.
  • The Crunchers (11%) like routine and display high technical competence. Roles include: technically oriented support roles such as data preparation and entry, statistical analysis and data quality control.
  • The Deliverers (7%) have technical skills but also bring focus and momentum to ensure project success. Roles include: project and man management with a high level of technical knowledge.
  • The Voices (6%) generate enthusiasm for data science at a conceptual level with their strong, inspiring communication skills. Roles include: presentation of results to senior business audiences.

Be part of defining the data science profiles
The SAS summary report is based on the initial 596 survey responses received from 405 men and 191 women ranging from those with less than a year's experience to those who had worked in data science for over 21 years. Those participating in the survey receive a tailored, confidential report describing their personality type. Visit to take part in the survey today. An Infographic and the SAS summary report are also available here.


About SAS

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