Growing need for data heads

The New York Times, citing a number of bits from a recent McKinsey report on big data, reports:

One hurdle is a talent and skills gap. The United States alone, McKinsey projects, will need 140,000 to 190,000 more people with “deep analytical” skills, typically experts in statistical methods and data-analysis technologies.


McKinsey says the nation will also need 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired. The report points to the need for a sweeping change in business to adapt a new way of managing and making decisions that relies more on data analysis. Managers, according to the McKinsey researchers, must grasp the principles of data analytics and be able to ask the right questions.

I’ve said it before, but if digging into data is your idea of fun, there’s a whole mess of excitement and adventure headed your way. There are lots of opportunities already out there in marketing, journalism, tech, the Web, government, and pretty much everywhere you look. And more importantly, there are lots of opportunities that you can make for yourself. This is a great time for data heads.

[The New York Times]


  • What are Flowing Data’s recommendations for breaking into this industry? MSc Statistics? Get some SQL job titles on your CV? I think the opportunities will be there, but not convinced it will be simple to capitalise on them, as many will be in BigCorp with traditional hiring processes.

    Any thoughts on how to overcome the catch 22?

    • Tell me about it! Even with a PhD in network science, it’s really difficult. The biggest hurdle is to get through the HR screening, and then it seems to become easier. I think that the big companies must have specialized screening people for these jobs.

  • Open data is great in theory, liberating journalists and all that… but in practice…

    Who has time to go rummaging around someone elses house looking for dodgy wiring connections and then provide honest advice, for free?

    If the gov can’t be bothered doing analysis themselves, they will be forever dependent on consultants who will prevent a mostly biased and self-interested opinion.


    • Hmmm I’m not sure I understand your point.

      So in the first part you’re saying that one negative of open data is that it takes an understanding of the organization and an understanding of the data in order to find great insight.

      In your second point, if we’re paying people to give us good news, they will give us good news?

      Why can’t we do both. A company or Government can hire a consultant, get their findings, then release it to the public to analyze and see if the public agrees?

  • any ideas/suggestions where to start? i just finished the stat undergrad program at cal. love to work with data, but still learning the tools of the trade (proficient with R, learning SQL).

    • Start by linking an email address to your comment so potential employers can contact you! They could be looking for talent in the strangest of places…

    • Ack, I mean a URL (to a personal website, online resume, etc.)

  • Same here. @Nathan, I agree that the writing on the wall is clear – the world is heading towards data-driven analysis, but I am not seeing a clear entry into the field.

    I am in finance and I’m looking to make the jump, but most of the ads out there seem to be looking for an employee with a jumble of ‘marketing, statistics, journalism, graphic design’ experience. Maybe the problem is, there isn’t a standardized credential or test you can take to prove that you have the skills? And I say this with complete understanding that a test doesn’t *actually* prove that you know something, but it’s an easy metric for employers/clients to understand and use.


    • Or, to continue that train of thought.. companies don’t know what to call it. Or they aren’t sure if they will have enough data analysis work to sustain a full-time hire, so they fold it into some other job that the traditional HR process understands. That’s what I’m doing now – officially, I’m supposed to be doing some kind of paper pushing, but in reality, I’ve been doing data munching from day one.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head Arti, my feeling is that not only do they not know what to call it, but they don’t have a clear idea of what they want, which would explain the jack of all trades job postings.

      • This can also be a huge plus. Data is getting a lot of press and businesses are seeing it as something important, but because not everyone knows what they are looking for, those who get the jobs can define their own positions in these early times and influence their employers in a big way.