Filling the Data Science Talent Pipeline

Phone with iconsThe explosion of unstructured data from mobile sensors, social networking, video surveillance and the like has created a need for talent in the organization that specializes in data analysis unlike ever before. This new breed of Data Scientist is an integral player in the new world of Big Data, as they have the knowledge and skills to employ new methodologies, technologies, and tools that go beyond traditional data analytics.

This new and exciting field requires a combination of quantitative and technical skills that have traditionally been independent of one another. Business Intelligence professionals who specialize in managing and reporting on existing data are high in technical ability such as coding and database querying to effectively manage the data. Other roles responsible for data analysis include quantitative and business analysts who are generally strong in skills such as mathematics and statistics to draw insights out of the data. Data Scientists excel when they leverage both bodies of knowledge to look at data through a historical, present and future lens.

CollaborationI recently gave a keynote address at the Talent Management Alliance’s first STEM conference that had attendees representing all industries and sectors including academia, government, non-profit and of course, technology. We all understand that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are critically important to both business and the economy, but we seem to be spinning our wheels when it comes to finding a way to encourage today’s students to consider STEM majors when they go off to college.

One of the points I stressed most in my presentation is that collaboration is vital, between educational institutions, government at all levels, business and community organizations.

EMC offers a Data Science and Big Data analytics course to current industry professionals that takes a hands-on practitioner‘s approach to the techniques and tools required to thrive in the field of Data Science.  The common thread among students of this course has been their foundation in STEM education – from computer science and IT to engineering and statistical modeling to econometrics and physics. It’s clear that students with STEM backgrounds feed into the Data Science pipeline quite naturally.

Tomorrow’s problem solvers are in today’s schools but they need role models, including teachers, parents, communities and professionals who recognize and support STEM opportunities. The way in which we live and interact with technology today increases our digital footprint which as a result, creates more and more data. The need for skilled data professionals far exceeds the available supply since these are new roles that didn’t exist just a few years ago. As companies begin to use Big Data to uncover insights about their products and services, it will become very clear that innovation is not possible without this group of individuals. STEM education is at the core of what it will take to thrive in our digital economy.

We’re facing a serious problem by not having enough people with the right skills to take advantage of the Big Data opportunity. To move the conversation forward, evangelize a STEM strategy within your organization to make it a priority. Leverage opportunities to expand on existing programs. You don’t need to start from scratch; learn about what your local government is doing and find ways to get involved. Lastly, partner to inspire and drive change. We can’t go it alone if we want to change the perception of careers rooted in STEM. We all have to invest our time and resources to increase the number of STEM graduates and have them become active and productive employees and members of our community.

About the Author: ML Krakauer