Why Big Data Means Big Salaries

Those with coveted data and technology skills will flourish in this new era.

For a while now, I have been dispensing career advice on this blog and as a coach. Sometimes, my recommendations come in unexpected situations. For instance, after keynoting in San Diego last year, I had the pleasure of signing copies of The Visual Organization for more than 200 conference attendees. One of them told me that he worked as an adjunct professor. He then asked me the following query as I signed a copy of my book:

How do I get my students interested in statistics and analytics?

By way of background, post-keynote book signings tend to be rapid-fire events. Everything is a blur, and I said the first thing that popped into my otherwise-engaged mind: Show them data on starting salaries for people with those skills.

I could see the light bulb illuminate over his head. He smiled, thanked me, and walked away very pleased.

Supply and Demand Are Out of Whack

I won’t take credit for any great insight here. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon, soothsayer, or labor economist to understand the growing importance of data science, analytics, statistical analysis, data visualization, and their ilk. Big Data is crossing the chasm. Industries now using it include healthcare, oil and gas, banking and securities, telematics, and many more.

Want more proof on the arrival of Big Data? A simple of search of LinkedIn’s hottest skills confirms what many recruiters already know, but why is this happening now.

Why Now?

As with any hot labor market, there’s a fundamental imbalance between supply and demand. Wages are on the rise because there are too few people for too many jobs. For instance, data scientist is one of the hottest job titles in the country right now. In a recent report, McKinsey estimated that the U.S. will soon face a shortage of approximately 175,000 of them. Generally speaking, people who know how to make sense out of Big Data will be able to make nice livings for the foreseeable future. Tools include Hadoop, HBase, Hive, and many more. (For more on this, see Too Big to Ignore.)

This trend may seem sudden and begs a natural question: Haven’t organizations always demanded employees with strong quantitative skills?

Certainly not across the board and not nearly to the extent demanded today. To state the obvious, intuition and gut feel dominated many if not most business decisions during the Mad Men era.

To quote Melvin Kranzberg, “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”

That’s no longer the case. In many organizations, numeracy is becoming a sine qua non. The geeks have inherited the earth and, as Mark Andreessen famously said, software is eating the world. Case in point: Take a quick look at the eye-popping valuations of AirBNB, Uber, and Lyft reveals that most traditional industries are being disrupted.

This was a white-hot topic at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. I’ve said this many times: Every company is becoming a tech company. Some just haven’t realized it yet. Perhaps the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here after all.

Simon Says

To quote Melvin Kranzberg, “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”

What does this well-worn maxim mean for you? It depends. Those with coveted data and technology skills will flourish in this new era. Hidebound organizations and individuals will find themselves holding the short straw.

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This post was brought to you by Geotab Fleet Management Solutions. The opinions expressed here are my own. To learn more about best practices for improving business productivity, safety, and compliance, visit Geotab’s blog.

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