Careers in Big Data: Advice from an Expert
By Lori Cameron

Big DataFor this career article, we interviewed Jens Jelitto, who co-authored the article “Cognitive Storage for Big Data,” which appears in the April 2016 issue of Computer. Jelitto is a research staff member at IBM Research—Zurich. His research interests include digital signal processing for wireless LANs and magnetic recording, as well as novel techniques for big data storage systems. We asked Jelitto about careers in big data.

ComputingEdge: What types of tech advances in the field of big data will see the most growth in the next several years?

Jelitto: Advances in artificial intelligence towards self-learning systems and enabling technologies such as neuromorphic computing, new forms of big data analytics and machine learning, data analytics on encrypted data, etc. will see a big growth in the coming years. There are many areas where data analytics can create new insights and dramatic improvements over the current state of the art, but at the same time data privacy becomes more relevant than ever before. A good example is data analytics for healthcare from much improved clinical trials all the way to data driven diagnosis and personalized treatment, which at the same time is an area of very high privacy requirements.

ComputingEdge: What advice would you give college students to give them an advantage over the competition?

Jelitto: Besides acquiring excellence in a core area (that you are burning for) you should develop the capability to apply your skills in interdisciplinary ways and dare exploring adjacent and complementary fields. Innovation happens at the intersections.

ComputingEdge: If a graduate must begin work as an intern, freelancer, or independent contractor in the field of big data what are some tips for building a strong portfolio for presentation in possible future interviews?

Jelitto: A big data scientist has to do several things:

  • have deep algorithmic knowledge and expertise in one or multiple areas of AI/ML
  • master the tools (programming languages, agile software development and associated tools, data analytics libraries and tools)
  • show intellectual curiosity and ability to work in cross-disciplinary teams and projects
  • build and show good communication skills, be a team player and at the same time be able to work independently

ComputingEdge: Name one critical mistake for young graduates to avoid when starting their careers?

Jelitto: To focus too narrowly on one field and to work on something you are not passionate about.

ComputingEdge: Do you have any learning experiences you could share that could benefit those just starting out in their careers?

Jelitto: I find it most important to work in an inspiring and ambitious team, to dare to step out of your comfort zone and to accept failure as part of the path to success.



About Lori Cameron

ComputingEdge’s Lori Cameron interviewed Jelitto for this article. Contact her at if you would like to contribute to a future computing careers article. Contact Jelitto at