Interview with Dr. Shanji Xiong, Chief Scientist at Experian’s Global DataLabs

Guest blog with Dr. Shanji Xiong, Chief Scientist at Experian’s Global DataLabs


Q: What work does a data scientist do and what knowledge do they need?

A: 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last two years. Data Scientists retrieve, sift, analyze, process, and store all the data according to business or consumer needs. Simply put, Data Scientists convert the collected and analyzed data into business intelligence. Thus, there are multiple attributes a Data Scientist should have. Not only should they have technical expertise and coding capabilities, but they should also have good intuition and communication skills.


Q: How does the work data scientists do improve and protect the lives of people?

A: There are breakthrough experiments going on every day that are doing good things with data.  For consumers, it can help them with things such as secure an affordable loan and improve their credit score. It can even help protect identities by detecting and stopping suspicious activity. For businesses, the data can mitigate risk, help prevent fraudulent transactions, or even ensure marketing to proper audiences. Businesses need data scientists to stay competitive and up to date with products, processes, and business operations.


Q: What are some of the challenges that face Data Scientists today?

A: One of the biggest challenges for Data Scientists is the ability to access and use data.  Since the field is relatively new, many businesses’ security and compliance regulations have yet to catch up, blocking data scientists from the necessary data. Without access, Data Scientists cannot accurately analyze the data set and find helpful insights that can impact consumers, business and society.  As long as privacy rights are respected, adequate security measures are in place to protect personal information, compliance protocols are carefully maintained and there remains a total commitment to data accuracy, the opportunities brought by the use of data by Data Scientists should not be hindered.


Q: What does the future hold for Data Scientists?

A: Over the last several years, organizations have invested significantly in data collection, storage and analytical platforms.  In the future, their focus will be on developing impactful analytical intelligence and applying it to business processes.  Data scientists with business acumen and solid analytical capability will play an instrumental role in this process.  This presents tremendous opportunities for data scientists to have a positive impact on business and society.

Powered by big data analytics, business will happen more in real-time and be tailored for individuals. Examples include, consumers being able to design their own car online, having their medicine customized for their specific needs and delivered to them even before they know they need it. The productivity increase from big data analytics will help us use data for good by benefiting people, our society and our economy.


Q: What are some tips for those who would like to work in Data Science?

A: As the field grows, keep an open mind and evolve with it. Work hard, think outside the box, and learn as much as you can about the technical side of being a data scientist. Be responsible with the data and realize the potential the data can have to solving problems. Always ask yourself how the data can be used to positively impact the lives around you, and use that to guide your design and development.



Dr. Shanji Xiong is the Chief Scientist of Experian’s Global DataLabs. Prior to his current role, he held senior positions with Morgan Stanley, FICO, HNC, and ID Analytics.  For the past 20 years, he has been working in the “Big Data” area, developing analytical solutions for financial, telecommunication and insurance companies.  Dr. Xiong received his doctoral degree from Columbia University in Engineering Mechanics.


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