Thomas Davenport set off an explosion of interest in big data when he described "data scientist" as "the sexiest job of the 21st century" in his now-infamous 2012 Harvard Business Review article. In the excitement that followed, colleges and universities scurried to establish big data programs and companies struggled to understand exactly what a data scientist does.
The concern, then as now, is that the supply of big data professionals won't be adequate to support a market that by IDC's reckoning will reach $16.1 billion this year, growing six times faster than the overall IT market.
Although companies are still fine-tuning their ideas on what type of skill sets will be needed to form the big data teams to incorporate analytics into business processes, sort and analyze structured and unstructured data, and monetize existing data, those with graduate degrees or doctorates in statistics--the bonafide data scientists--will certainly be an important part of the team.
Gartner reports that the rise of big data has spawned a new job title--Chief Data Officer--and that by next year, one-quarter of large global organizations will have appointed CDOs.
New big data training and education programs are popping up almost daily. Most are graduate programs. But amid the concern about the big data skills shortage, there are also undergraduate and online courses, and even calls that we begin teaching big data skills back in high school.
The need for solid, actionable knowledge and insights that can be immediately applied are among the reasons that IEEE Computer Society is hosting Rock Stars of Big Data Analytics on October 21 in San Jose, Calif., featuring high-level executives from companies and government agencies who are leaders in the field.
Resources are also emerging to help sort through all the programs. Big Data University maintains a map of universities that offer big data programs, and KD Nuggets, a media sponsor of Rock Stars of Big Data Analytics, provides a list of in-person and online big data courses and training.
But amid the perceived shortage, some are beginning to suggest that useful skills might instead be found or cultivated into existing technology professionals with experience in computer science, software development, or business intelligence.
According to Big-Data Startups, another Rock Stars of Big Data Analytics media sponsor, the right Big Data scientist is "a multi-skilled person who understands the world of IT and business and has the right creativity to develop difficult, technical, solutions that really help a data-driven, information-centric organization."
Those with this mix of talent and skills can be hard to find, however, so Big-Data Startups suggests that companies start paying attention to the available talent in house and retrain them to match the requirements of today’s fact-changing environment. The above video from PriceWaterhouseCooper offers some advice on retraining, and also on how companies can organize teams consisting of different skills.