Many thanks to Susan Bird, Careers Consultant for the School of Biological Sciences and School of Geosciences for this really interesting post on big data and opportunities for graduates – Rebecca
We are living in a world of data and that data is getting bigger every second as the capacity modern technology now has to generate data is immense. One of the most valuable assets a business has is its data and businesses will need data analysts, data scientists and data controllers to address increased governance needs within organisations to ensure that data is used to its full potential, managed effectively, quickly and safely and to prevent risk of data misuse.
In response to the need to ensure the UK is at the forefront of big data research, the University of Edinburgh is one of the five universities recently selected to lead the Alan Turing Institute to help position the country as a world leader in the analysis and application of big data and algorithm research.
The coming together of open source technology, (developed for anyone to use) with big data and cloud computing/hosting infrastructure means that there are not only increased opportunities for budding technology entrepreneurs but a growth in disciplines and roles needed in order to handle all this information. According to Scott Krueger of Skyscanner, there is a global shortage of data engineers, not just with IT tech skills but also with the capacity for analysis and problem-solving and an understanding of how data is used within a sector. Developing programming skills through study and experience seems to be just part of it – developing strong business awareness of how data is used appears just as important.
A recent FT report highlighted that Britain is expected to create an average of 56,000 big data jobs a year until 2020, according to a report by the Tech Partnership employers’ network and SAS, a business analytics company. Sectors as diverse as retail, banking, weather forecasting and fraud investigation have realised the business benefits of using consumer data to predict future trends. Roles are on a spectrum requiring varying levels of technical programming backgrounds, some more analysis than coding. However, there are no standard titles and some big data jobs contain neither the word big nor the word data!
Identifying the skills set is important: Greta Roberts, CEO of Talent Analytics says “the skills most often mentioned in connection with big data jobs include maths, statistics, data analysis, business analytics and even natural language processing”. A great big data article on Computerworld highlights that the most important qualifications for these positions seem to be soft skills: a curious mind, the ability to communicate with nontechnical people, persistence and a strong creative side. D.J. Patil, data scientist in residence at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm says “These are people who have to take ideas from one field and apply them to another field, and they have to be comfortable with ambiguity.”
There are many opportunities to develop business and sector awareness both through careers-based research and by gaining experience through internships, attending events & workshops and active involvement in student business and entrepreneurial societies. Understanding how and where you have developed the relevant skills and attitudes can be a challenge so if you need to discuss that, talk to your Personal Tutor or book an appointment with the Careers Service to talk to a Careers Consultant.