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Still Time to Become a Data Scientist?

A podcast posted yesterday on the IEEE Spectrum site asked "Is Data Science Your Next Career?" That's a question I've been exploring recently in research for an article on the Big Data skills shortage.

"Opportunities abound, and universities are meeting them with new programs," the podcast states. But I was wondering--in view of the transient nature of IT industry fads or hype cycles or whatever you want to call them--would a data developer "going back to school" or getting training and experience to capitalize on the Big Data craze run out of time? That is: What's the likelihood of a developer getting Big Data training, certification and so on only to find out the need for these skills has greatly diminished? That's a question I put to several experts in the Big Data field.

"Very low likelihood," said Jon Rooney, director of developer marketing at Big Data vendor Splunk Inc. "There appears to be ongoing demand in the space as companies scratch the surface with Big Data. As Big Data technologies evolve to incorporate more established standards, developers skilled in these languages and frameworks can leverage those skills broadly, thus keeping them in demand."

"I see this as exceedingly unlikely," said Will Cole, product manager at the developer resource site, Stack Overflow. "Possibly if someone decides to go back to school. However, the Web and mobile are growing and APIs are getting more open. As long as the flow of data and the increase of scale continues, we're all going to need [machine learning] specialists and data scientists."

"No, we don't think so," said Joe Nicholson, vice president of marketing at Big Data vendor Datameer Inc. "But it's a matter of focusing on skills that will add value as the technology and market matures. Again, it's really about better understanding the use cases in marketing, customer service, security and risk, operations, etc., and how best to apply the technology and functionality to those use cases that will add value over time. Big Data analytics is in its early stages, but the problems it is addressing are problems that have been around a long time. How do we get a true, 360-degree view of customers and prospects, how do we identify and prevent fraud, how do we protect our IT infrastructure from intrusion or how do we correlate patient data to better understand clinical trial data."

Bill Yetman, senior director of engineering at, was much more succinct and definitive in his answer: "No".

So let's go with that. There's still time, so get on board!

Here are some resources to get you started:

What are you doing to capitalize on the Big Data trend? Share your experiences here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 05/29/2013 at 1:15 PM

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