Most of the problems you will face are, in fact, engineering problems. Even with all the resources of a great machine learning god, most of the impact will come from great features, not great machine learning algorithms. So, the basic approach is:
- Make sure your pipeline is solid end to end
- Start with a reasonable objective
- Understand your data intuitively
- Make sure that your pipeline stays solid
This approach will hopefully make lots of money and/or make lots of people happy for a long period of time.
So… the next time someone asks you what is data science. Tell them: