We Need More People With (Serious) Data Chops

Yesterday was our team’s annual user summit where we shared the future of Analytics and a glimpse of next generation measurement (read the full recap here). What struck me in the discussions about the industry (as opposed to technology) was the need for more skills.

This was commented on by Avinash Kaushik in his morning session, reiterated by Susan Etlinger and Justin Cutroni in a later panel and something I heard being discussed by several attendees.

I’ve also noted several recent key stories / stats that support this trend:

1. Gartner predicts by 2015, Big Data demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled:

The demand for Big Data is growing, and enterprises will need to reassess their competencies and skills to respond to this opportunity. Jobs that are filled will result in real financial and competitive benefits for organizations. An important aspect of the challenge in filling these jobs lies in the fact that enterprises need people with new skills — data management, analytics and business expertise and nontraditional skills necessary for extracting the value of Big Data, as well as artists and designers for data visualization.

2. NYT recently ran a story where the lead says it all: GOOD with numbers? Fascinated by data? The sound you hear is opportunity knocking:

Research by Professor Brynjolfsson and two other colleagues, published last year, suggests that data-guided management is spreading across corporate America and starting to pay off. They studied 179 large companies and found that those adopting “data-driven decision making” achieved productivity gains that were 5 percent to 6 percent higher than other factors could explain.

3. Harvard Business review declared Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century:

…a new key player in organizations: the “data scientist.” It’s a high-ranking professional with the training and curiosity to make discoveries in the world of big data. The title has been around for only a few years. (It was coined in 2008 by one of us, D.J. Patil, and Jeff Hammerbacher, then the respective leads of data and analytics efforts at LinkedIn and Facebook.) But thousands of data scientists are already working at both start-ups and well-established companies. Their sudden appearance on the business scene reflects the fact that companies are now wrestling with information that comes in varieties and volumes never encountered before. If your organization stores multiple petabytes of data, if the information most critical to your business resides in forms other than rows and columns of numbers, or if answering your biggest question would involve a “mashup” of several analytical efforts, you’ve got a big data opportunity.

If data fascinates you, the time to sharpen your skills and turn it into a career is now. It’s rewarding, challenging and surprisingly creative work (personally, I am more creative than analytical but still find working with data a lot of fun).

The technology is already here. We need more people highly skilled in putting it to use.

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