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Why does the right certification matter?

Screenshot 2024-06-29 at 10.06.42 AM

I have the honor and privilege to have just completed the second renewal of my Distinguished Data Scientist certification. I have held this certification since June 2018, and even though I am now the CEO of an AI company, I still know that it is my responsibility to give back to my community and keep my certifications current. It is worth doing because it is worth my time to learn from and teach our next generation of data scientists. I wanted to tell the story of how this certification came to be and why the right certification matters. Our journey, not our destination, contains the labor of understanding how we know what we know. 

I grew up in a company that understood its employees needed a career pathway to see how they belonged to that company, team, or group. Nothing is more motivating to employees than a "clear" pathway to follow and the wisdom to realize that progress is not linear. Below is a slide I must have presented 100s times to get our next generation of leaders to know that a career is something you look back on, not something you can easily plan out.

It is a long and winding road. 



As I grew in my career and had the opportunity to look back and understand the challenges, opportunities, and setbacks that drove me forward, I talked with one of my good friends, who gave me the magic fairy dust of self-awareness. She said, "Beth, do you realize how lucky you are to have a career path? Most of us can't understand how to get to the next level and must figure this out ourselves." She was correct; many companies had nothing for their employees regarding career pathways, and there were only a few older, more mature, technical companies with a path from the bottom that went all the way to the top. Before I left IBM, I had been in senior executive roles for seven years, and I started as a junior programmer who loved visualization and data. This was rare for the world outside the 350K humans that worked for IBM at that time, but it is even rarer now, as many people do not have what I had - the ability to match your life to your career - while constantly moving forward. 

Wanting to "go for what I can give," as my first mentor taught me, I wanted the rest of the world to have what I had. A pathway that laid out and progressed humans through the corporate structure in a way that made sense for where they were at in their lives.  It took many people, hours, and so much tenacity to establish a professional certification pathway - but it was worth it for me and many others who have taken up the quest. 

It all started in 2012 - back in the before times when the Harvard Business Review said that the "Data science profession" would be the sexiest job of the 21st century. I, a trained social scientist, a mathematician, and a statistician, decided that we needed to create a professional certification that could help people have a pathway. The result was the creation of a Data Scientist professional certification program that trained these individuals to have the mettle and grit to do the correct type of science to progress a business. It took the work of 100s of humans who organized, mentored, and intentionally designed the profession to crank out the type of leaders in data science that we knew the world needed. This certification was born many years ago to get the profession adopted by our corporation. Then, it was accredited through the Open Group as a CDS - Certified Data Science Profession. We did what we set out to do and created a professional certification that anyone can follow to achieve a credential and, more importantly, allow humans to know that they belong in the data science industry—giving humans a clear pathway to be confident in their abilities.


Below are a few things that matter when you are evaluating a certification:

  • The certification should be done as part of a community of certified professionals. The community's role is to help mentor the next generation of certified professionals. 
  • Certification in technology must require recertification - no resting on previous laurels when so many changes so quickly. 
  • The certification pathway should be achievable, with many people at each level who "share their expertise" and actively participate in the community. 
  • The certification should explain how and why it is connected to a methodology - like CRISP-DM - because data science should be done to solve business problems. 
  • The certification should "measure what matters"—like how much you have contributed to creating other certified professionals or giving back to the broader community and industry. 
  • The certification should be experience-based - showing your work on WHY you did what you did and HOW you were able to come to the conclusions that you came to. 

As we at Bast continue to grow and innovate, we are committed to seeking talented individuals from diverse and non-traditional career backgrounds who share our passion for progress and desire to contribute to our organization. By providing support for certification and prioritizing those already certified, we are building a team of skilled professionals who can confidently tackle the challenges of the ever-evolving data science industry. Together, we will continue to pave the way for a more inclusive and accessible career pathway for all.