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From the Desk of Cassandra Sanford

Transitioning Your Skills for a Big Data Career You’ll Love

Between the exploding popularity of data-focused personalities like Nate Silver, to the declaration that data scientist is the “sexiest job of the 21st Century” (yes, you read that right!), we’re not going to stop hearing about Big Data any time soon.

Many companies have never really known why they collect all the data they do, and now they have an answer that they can profit from. All they need is a few experts to show them how to leverage this data to information they can use to build their business better, gain more customers, keep old ones coming back, and everything in between.

This is why Big Data is a buzzword in staffing right now; it frequently comes up in conversations we have with companies seeking technology talent. Depending on the type of business, some have a need for data projects that require entire teams to come in and tackle, while others may need a single data scientist or engineer to get a new project off the ground. Regardless, rarely a day goes by when we don’t talk to a client who needs to hire candidates with experience in big data.

In addition to media coverage and anecdotes, the stats are there to back up big data’s role in the spotlight. Check out just a few astounding statistics from this recent infographic that illustrates how much of a phenomenon big data has become:

  • By 2018, the United States will be short about 200,000 people with deep analytical skills and in need of more than a million managers to support big data projects.

  • In 2014, a study by Wanted Analytics found that demand for computer programmers with a background in data grew 337 percent, but that out of the 332,000 computer programmers in America, only 4 percent had the necessary skillsets.

Now Serving: Career Opportunities

If you’re a job seeker in technology, these numbers are especially profound. The opportunities to take your career to the next level with big data are on a silver platter, and there are simply not enough people who are well-versed in it.

You may be asking yourself, “But I don’t have experience with projects that involve big data, so why does all of this matter?” The good news is, if you have a background in IT and a degree in Computer Science, transitioning your skills to fit a role in big data is not all that difficult. You’re halfway there.

So, how do you know if you are ready to ride the big data wave? It’s fairly simple. If you have a solid understanding of big data concepts and are savvy enough to understand the immense career prospects associated with it, you’ll be able to see where your skills and passion, mixed with a little additional training, would plug in perfectly to a big data role.

So what, who cares? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A career in the big data space means many things, including a lot of growth potential but you’re probably also wondering about the day-in and day-out. The responsibilities vary not only from company to company but also in job applications. This is important to keep in mind as you weigh the possibility of transitioning into a big data-oriented role. For example, a data scientist would likely be responsible for leveraging a company’s existing data infrastructure while a developer would be building a new one.

If you have a technology and database background, you may have the right skills already in place to make the leap to a specific big data specialty. For example, from what we’ve experienced working with candidates making this transition, someone with a background in economics, statistics, accounting, and finance is well-prepared to go into a career in big data analysis. On the other hand, someone with strong IT development experience is more well-suited to be a big data engineer and a candidate who has worked as a systems analyst or database administrator is more poised to tackle big data engineering. Also, if you have a strong background in the following technologies, you’re well-positioned to transition to big data:

  • Ecommerce

  • App development

  • Database expertise – in the form of Oracle, SQL, Unix, Microsoft, etc…

  • Mathematics

  • Engineering

  • Coding

  • Systems Administration

You don’t have to quit your job, spend 24/7 in a library and learn all there is to know about a role that leverages data. It’s about identifying what skills you already have and how they can be transferred to a big data role. Then you can identify what gaps exist and fill those in as necessary.

Connecting the Big Data Dots

How do you know if you have the right background or experience in all of these areas? Some good ole’ fashioned homework can help. Spend some time looking at big data job postings, chatting in online communities, and networking in person with others in the field to get a lay of the land.

Next up, depending on what holes you have in your experience, you may need to bulk up in a few specific areas. Luckily, there are tons of resources available that don’t necessarily require a formal degree, including MOOCs, certification programs, online training modules, and boot camps that can get you whipped into big data shape.

We recently worked with a candidate on this type of skill transfer. He was previously a controls engineer but is now a data scientist with one of the Big 4 accounting firms. By getting more education both formally, with a master’s degree in physics, and informally, through a wide range of course certifications, he was able to successfully transition into the big data role he was after.

How KellyMitchell Can Help

KellyMitchell’s clients are constantly seeking top big data talent, and we’re super focused on filling this need for them. Signing up for our big data talent network is one way to get in on the latest resources for those seeking roles in big data, even if it’s not your specialty (yet). Our team goes the extra mile and pulls in relevant training courses, breaking industry news, and leading research to help you grow your skill set, and assemble the arsenal of big data skills companies need.

Cassandra Sanford is a co-founder and CEO, responsible for the operation and management of KellyMitchell. With over two decades of experience in the professional services industry for Fortune 500 corporations, her experience reaches into business strategy, business development, and human resources. Her experience in recruitment, sales, and account management is accompanied by a specialized focus on technology consulting. Her full bio is here.


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