Big Data Scientists – An Alternate Career Path?
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I am a proud father of 5 kids. My 4 oldest are college graduates with meaningful careers in recreation, magazine editing, teaching/coaching and law practice. My youngest is a freshman in high school, and I am always looking to strike-up a discussion around IT (since none of my other kids chose the field) and options for a future career. I find that high school course selection can have an impact with college and eventual career choices.
Anyway, during a recent discussion I mentioned the idea of a data scientist, and how interesting that might be for work. I could sense his confusion on this as a career, and he asked if this work involved testing iPads on a Bunsen burner. I assured him it would not; like most 15-year-olds, he is fascinated with any and all things Apple.
What started this discussion was a recent article in ITworld on big data and the skills shortfall that the US is facing. Since my son graduates high school in 2015, this opportunity/shortage appears to be much more relevant in terms of supply and demand. Part of the article expressed these skills, and where we may be short:
[…] finding the right talent to analyze the data will be the biggest hurdle, according to Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus.
Organizations will “have to focus on data science,” Kobielus said. “They have to hire statistical modelers, text mining professionals, people who specialize in sentiment analysis.”
Big data relies on solid data modeling, Kobielus said. “Statistical predictive models and test analytic models will be the core applications you will need to do big data,” he said.
Many are predicting that big data will bring about an entirely new sort of professional, the data scientist. This would be someone with a deep understanding of mathematics and statistics who also knows how to work with big data technologies. [my emphasis]
These people may be in short supply. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions, McKinsey and Company estimated.
We are hiring a summer intern, and he was pleasantly surprised to discover employer interest in his big data references on his resume; it is no surprise that he had several job offers for this summer.
There is buzz in this technology and career area, not just around the scientists and the work they will do, but also the new breed of IT professionals to architect, manage, deploy and optimize big data IT environments (even if they are all in the cloud) that we will need. Sounds to me that IT is still a safe haven for meaningful employment in the years to come.
This report goes into some great detail on these areas, and the pending skill shortage. I found it to be a great read on the topic: http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/MGI/Research/Technology_and_Innovation/Big_data_The_next_frontier_for_innovation
The following is also a cool interactive/infographic tool on the talent gap of these people, by industry:
And if you want to turn data science into a competitive sport, check out this website that hosts analytic competitions: http://www.kaggle.com/
Finally, show your 15-yr old kid this YouTube video to get them excited about math again (I’ve learned that my communication with my 15-yr old is enhanced with YouTube videos): http://youtu.be/PoD84TVdD-4?hd=1
I sometimes think about retired life after Hitachi, and that sweet job waiting for me as a Walmart greeter. But perhaps I should take some night classes, brush up on statistics and catch this next big wave….