Weekly Word on the Street: The Emerging Data Scientist Role

by Jim Staats | Jun 08, 2012
Takeaway of the week is a reminder to constantly maintain and expand your personal skill set. Otherwise, you might just take a long fall down that ever-growing "tech skills gap" separating you from that next great job.

Widening Tech Skills Gap Signals Changing Jobs Market

The growing space separating those IT job openings and the candidates with the necessary expertise is the clearest sign yet that this segment of the job market is in the midst of a veritable revolution, experts say.

As tales of this skills gap have become more commonplace in the past year, hiring experts, IT managers and executives in charge of headcount agree job seekers must prepare for significant changes in the years to come, according to a recent article in Computerworld.

Companies today are already shifting to outsource IT operations to service providers and other traditional IT roles to other business units.

Recruiters suggest the IT workers who wish to stay relevant and in demand must constantly focus on training and key industry trends.

"Everybody is a free agent, navigating the corporate chaos," said one head of an executive search firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. "People who are faring a little bit better are constantly cultivating their careers on a variety of fronts."

Certain skills in demand include security on mobile devices, infrastructure, network security and mainframe skills.

Others in the recruiting world suggest the issue isn't so much a lack of deep technical skills, but rather strategic, business analysis and other soft skills.

Wanted: Data Scientists

That in-demand data professional imbued with business, analytical and computer skills is wanted more and more by various market segments even as the role itself continues to be defined.

The critical and general nature of the data scientist role allows it to be a slot of need in multiple industries and, in return, well compensated, notes a Network World article.

"There are data scientist jobs available today - you just have to have the right combination of skills," said consulting executive Laura Kelley.

With so many firms becoming data-centric these days, these individuals are tasked with forming logic out of that data that leads to valuable business decisions. Experts say it's not as simple as plugging in this role with a computer scientist, statistician or MBA, professionals who lack either the business or technological side of the ledger.

Instead, people today are suggesting a shakeup in the thinking for filling this role to include the incorporation of fields such as physics and psychology. "What companies called a data scientist a year ago is different than their requirements today," Kelley said.

Your Country Needs You

The federal Homeland Security agency hopes a new cybersecurity task force will help beef up the cyber workforce in public, private and education sectors, the latest sign of the government's growing focus on security issues in the tech world.

The idea behind the task force, announced this week by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, is to develop strong cybersecurity career paths both within the agency as well as in organizations in charge of critical civilian government networks, an article in Network World notes.

Computer engineers, scientists, analysts and IT specialists will be sought to become part of what Napolitano recently described as a "world-class cybersecurity team."

To accomplish this task, the new group is expected to create numerous scholarship, fellowship and internship programs among universities and other institutions. In the past four years, the National Cyber Security Division of the U.S. government has grown by more than 600 percent. President Obama recently asked Congress for a 74 percent increase in the cyber budget in Homeland Security as part of fiscal year 2013.

Career in IT? Don't Make These Mistakes

Everything is done for a reason, unless you don’t have to do them.

One enterprising IT professional who recently made a go of it with his own business offers his tips for any would-be peers on what not to do on the way to a successful career.

In a recent item in InformationWeek, Mike Townsend, a veteran IT pro who started Zing Checkout, a Los Angeles-based provider of online point-of-sale systems, highlighted the following list of four career mistakes:
  • Undervaluing your skills: Engineering and development talent is in high demand these days, so make sure to know just how valuable your skills are and how much you can charge for putting them to use.
  • Lousy networking: Regardless of how much of an introvert you are, keep up good relationships with a select group of people.
  • Putting too much stock in school: People hire you more for your skills than for what school you attended.
  • Wearing blinders: Long hours and devotion to the work at hand can prevent one from seeing what all is out there.

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