Demand for data scientists and analysts on the rise

28 Jan 2014

As organisations place big data at the forefront of their business plans, the demand for talented data analysts and data scientists continues to rise, says recruitment specialist Jasaon Kelly.

At the start of 2011, having already spent 10 years within the Irish recruitment industry, I jumped at an opportunity to work in Australia. What interested me was working within a relatively new but burgeoning sector – data analytics. Its relevance within the Australian marketplace had been made very clear to me prior to my relocation, and how the vast amount of new data readily available from technological advances had brought about a huge surge in its importance.

Immediately upon arriving “down under”, it was clear that Australia was looking to position itself as a world leader in data analytics and was well set up to do so. Working with an Australian (and now global) organisation which sponsored IAPA (Institute of Analytics Professionals in Australia), I learned first-hand from leading Australian and US speakers how the demand for analytics professionals was rapidly growing.

Need for big data jobs

And its global growth looks set to continue apace. McKinsey estimates that by 2018 in the United States alone, there will be a shortfall of more than 190,000 professionals within analytics. Gartner suggests that by 2015, more than 4m positions will be required to support big data worldwide.

In my time in Australia, storing this incredible amount of data was seen as important; successfully analysing it quickly was seen as paramount. Advances in the technology available meant that incredible volumes of data (“big data”) were being analysed rapidly; allowing companies to react at a much quicker rate. ‘High performance analytics’ is seen as the cornerstone of a company’s success; those who took advantage to enable customers’ satisfaction would beat all competition.

With the unprecedented volume of data coming into each and every business, the market had changed. Companies with a “client friendly” product to take to market would always possess a great starting point; however, proper collection and analysis of their customer data coupled with a willingness to act quickly would be the major differentiator. Anyone who embraced this data revolution would thrive, those who adhered to their old-school policies would not.

Real-time reaction

As a consumer myself, what immediately made an impact was how Australian companies, through the consistent in-depth analysis of campaign data, were reacting to campaigns in real-time, allowing quicker action to new information and trends in the marketplace and thus improving such key areas as service delivery, campaign effectiveness and productivity. Having personally spent years receiving random promotional flyers through the post and other avenues, I was now receiving bespoke promotional opportunities, specifically tailored to my own personal spending habits (past, existing and new). Organisations were now using this information, paying attention and listening to each individual consumer. “We know what you like/want” as opposed to “Do you like this?” – it felt like Australia was miles ahead. Data analysis was central, customer engagement was key.

I quickly discovered how the emergence of data analytics had brought with it a number of changes to the Australian recruitment industry. In general, I noticed how:

  • The demand for traditional marketing staff had fallen significantly and this trend continued throughout my stay. (Having spent three years in Australia and worked with many multinationals and SMEs, I had not come across a traditional “marketing manager” requirement once!)
  • Roles which would fall under the marketing vertical had greatly expanded. For example, a marketing manager position has now expanded to various specialist roles such as insights manager, product manager, pricing manager, and promotions manager, with each role heavily leaning on data specialities.
  • All of the previously mentioned roles now required experience with certain IT platforms and programming languages (SQL, SAS, SPSS, Business Objects, and UNICA, for example). It was now not enough to be able to present the data in a marketing sense, candidates needed to be involved in and understand all things related to the data itself – data collation, data analysis, data cleansing, data manipulation and data extraction. Alongside statistics and mathematics skills, being able to use the above mentioned platforms, programmes and languages had become essential for data hires.
  • Marketing as a recruitment specialism was not needed in most cases; it had evolved and sat firmly within data analytics. Anything data or analytics-related within IT also sat firmly in this area.

On taking the decision to return, I found myself wondering had Ireland moved to embrace this “big data” revolution to the same extent. Some would argue data has always been an important element in any Irish organisation’s successful decision-making process and they would be right. The difference being, that in 2014, the data being analysed is on a vastly increased scale. Has Ireland adapted?

My observation is that yes, the right changes are occurring in Ireland, both in hiring plans/structure and campaign execution and delivery. I have seen companies do the following:

  • Improve their technology to deal with this vastly increased level of information being created.
  • Pay closer attention to how their competitors are analysing this in real-time, consistently and quickly.
  • Take note of changes of organisational structure needed to place big data at the forefront of their business plans.

With this in mind, there is an increased demand for talented data analysts and data scientists. Mirroring activity in Australia, it is the utilities, telco, financial and insurance industries that are fuelling much of this activity, but they are not alone. When it comes to the skills that are being sought, these range from a strong grasp of Excel and Access to Microsoft BI stack and Oracle OBIEE.

While not yet at the level of Australia or the US, Irish organisations are catching on fast. With Ireland’s economy on an upturn, this change is vital for every organisation, due to the increased levels of data available.

As I initially observed in Australia three years ago; no matter the geographical location or product type, those who properly harness their data will thrive. Those who are qualified to work in this key growth area look set to thrive, too.

Jasaon Kelly is a senior business manager for Hays IT, focusing on the new business contracts marketplace. With more than 12 years in the industry, Jasaon has recruited across Ireland, Europe and Australia, where he specialised predominantly within IT and data analytics/business intelligence.

Data mining image via Shutterstock

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