How the skills shortage is transforming big data

"The profession is subdividing," this Silicon Valley dean says

In the early days of computing, developers were often jacks of all trades, handling virtually any task needed for software to get made. As the field matured, jobs grew more specialized. Now we're seeing a similar pattern in a brand-new domain: big data.

That's according to P.K. Agarwal, regional dean and CEO of Northeastern University's recently formed Silicon Valley campus, who says big-data professionals so far have commonly handled everything from data cleaning to analytics, and from Hadoop to Apache Spark.

"It's like medicine," said Agarwal, who at one time was California's CTO under former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "You start to get specialties."

That brings us to today's data-scientist shortage. Highly trained data scientists are now in acute demand as organizations awash in data look for meaning in all those petabytes. In part as a response to this, other professionals are learning the skills to answer at least some of those questions for themselves, earning the informal title of citizen data scientist.

"The profession is subdividing," Agarwal said.

The result is that there's now a multipronged approach to both tools and education.

"It used to be that anybody who was in the business world needed to learn PowerPoint and Excel," Agarwal said. "Probably five years from now, Microsoft Office will have something combining Excel, R and Tableau. It's just natural. If there's this new class of citizen data analysts, they're going to need new tools."

They can learn these skills in a variety of formats and places, and with varying areas of focus. Even as hard-core "quants" are acquiring ever more sophisticated skills to help meet the demand at one end of the spectrum, traditional business people are getting more savvy about data analysis and presentation.

Northeastern offers eight-week "bootcamps" in data analytics aimed at a broad spectrum of business people, as well as more intensive certificate programs for professional data scientists. Specialized master's degree programs are also in the works.

"My sense is that it will take two to three years to even out the shortage, and tools will become much more sophisticated," Agarwal said. "We're still not automating things as much as we could."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?