Big Data

Big Data recruitment: Making the move from information management to data science

A few questions with Mark Dexter of KDR Recruitment about Big Data and what it means to career.

If you haven't heard the furor circulating around the term Big Data, then you've been hiding in a time capsule under a rock in the remotest sections of Antarctica. The Harvard Business Review recently described the role as "the sexiest job of the 21st century."

Big Data will provide companies with unprecedented information. It will also provide lucrative careers for IT folks who are willing to take the plunge.

I spoke with Mark Dexter, managing director of KDR Recruitment, a UK company that helps people find information management jobs about Big Data and what it means to career.

Why is Big Data in such high demand and why is there a major talent shortage?

It's no secret that there is a global talent shortage, particularly in highly specialized roles like data management, and so despite the high unemployment rate data scientists are in huge demand.

While Big Data has already been around for a while it's still very much at the ‘prospecting' stage, with companies still working out the scope of what's possible by using it, but companies are recognizing the value and the business benefits are already being felt across the globe, particularly when it comes to efficiency.

A great example of a company identifying, analyzing, and effectively acting on Big Data was some work done by Porsche. They saw a drop in sales when they introduced an update of an existing model. An analysis of Porsche hash tags on Twitter revealed that it was felt that the new style spoiler was poorly designed. Porsche reacted to this, and sales levels grew.

While businesses are getting to grips with Big Data it quickly becomes apparent that for larger or more complex projects data scientists are absolutely essential to success. We have more recently been inundated with requests for this field. We have also received many calls from people working in other aspects of information management and who are trying to figure out how their skills may be transferable.

Why is it attractive to job seekers?

Roles in Big Data attract a high average salary, or contractor rate. Also despite the high unemployment rate, there is a notable shortage of talent in the sector and in a difficult jobs market roles such as these become much more appealing.

At the moment, the future in this area looks to be long-term - there has always been, and always will be a need for analysts to understand models, for data quality, for data governance. These bedrocks of data, these basic tenets, remain. And if you already use Hadoop all the better.

How do you get into it/make the move from information management?

I would say to any information management professional that your skills are going to become extremely useful in this world. While it's largely up to the data scientists to come up with ways to structure the data, the ‘traditional' skills transfer well.

I have been asked a lot recently about the possibility of making the move from other information management roles over to data science. My answer is yes, but it would be difficult particularly if your current role is more business facing and less technical.  In this case the only likely way you might get there is by transferring and training internally.

Is it a fad? What for the future? How will the situation manifest itself in better economic times - any trends we should expect to see?

From a recruitment perspective, Big Data-related roles continue to pour into KDR and Information Management professionals and IT generalists should at the very least familiarize themselves with the term, its meaning and its application to the real world.

I would say that it is much, much more than a fad. I think that Big Data is a slight misnomer, and in reality All Data is a better term. Essentially it's any data that is difficult to structure using traditional methods and, with this in mind, it's very much here to stay and we will always need people who are skilled in structuring and manipulating it. Just as when the companies that were pioneers in using and understanding traditional ‘structured' data lead the way in their markets now, there is little doubt that the organizations at the forefront of the use of Big Data will be the leaders into the next decade and beyond.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

4 comments
vgh
vgh

I enjoyed this article and interview (but UK based?) and am wondering how one would market themselves for a position like this that may still be very ambiguous. It may only exist (still) in enterprise level environments and you're not likely to get hired off the street to manage something like that. But if you were, what kind of training or certifcations would that entail? Interesting to think about since I would classify myself as more of an IT generalist so far in my 10 year IT career and it may be time to specialize or go a different direction.

nov8247
nov8247

Great article Toni, as always. Aristotle’s Alexander we’re seeing tremendous growth in the area of Big Data analytics and the value it brings to organizations wanting to better understand their customers and business. We see this as the logical evolution of seamless business and here to stay. CSH

Josh Xplenty
Josh Xplenty

good piece. i'm wondering that as technology progresses, if the lines between roles of all kinds will blur. meaning, as more companies come out with products that automate more processees, will people like data analysts/business intelligence/data scientists will morph into one superdatahero.

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