很明显，对大数据人才的需求将继续迅猛增长。据一家名叫New Vantage Partners的咨询公司最近对“财富美国500强”企业的调查显示，85%的500强企业要么已经推出了大数据项目，要么正打算这么做，而且在未来几年里，他们花在数据分析上的投资将平均上涨36%。无怪乎《哈佛商业评论》（Harvard Business Review）在去年十月的一篇文章中，将数据分析称做“21世纪最热门的职业。”
Dear Annie: I am expecting to be laid off by a major investment bank (as part of a restructuring the company recently announced) and, instead of trying to find another Wall Street job, I'd like to go into some other business. The conventional wisdom about changing careers is, go where there is lots of growth, and I keep reading about the explosion in companies' use of Big Data, so I'm wondering: What would it take to get a foot in the door in that field?
I have some on-the-job experience with econometric modeling, and I've picked up some basic programming skills along the way, but I'm neither a statistician, a mathematician, nor a software expert. Do I have a shot anyway? What skills are Big Data employers looking for? -- No Einstein
Dear N.E.: You're certainly right that Big Data -- also called data analytics or predictive analytics -- is growing fast and generating loads of new jobs. Online help-wanted ads for data analysis mavens have shot up 46% since April 2011, and 246% since April 2009, to over 31,000 openings now, according to job-market trackers Wanted Analytics. Salaries mentioned in those job ads range from $73,450 to $89,750. (That's probably a lot less than you've been making on Wall Street -- but then, you already know that almost anywhere you go from there is likely to involve a pay cut, right?)
The phenomenal growth in demand for Big Data talent is apparently set to continue. A recent survey of Fortune 500 companies, by consultants New Vantage Partners, found that 85% have either launched Big Data projects or are planning to do so, and that their spending on data analysis will jump by an average of 36% over the next several years. No wonder, then, thatHarvard Business Review, in an article last October, called data analytics "the sexiest job of the 21st century."
"Demand for data scientists is definitely outstripping supply," notes Andrew Jennings. "It has been for a few years now." Jennings is chief analytics officer at FICO, one of the giants in the industry. Based in San Jose, FICO tackles Big Data projects for clients in banking, insurance, health care, retail, and government agencies worldwide. The firm now employs about 250 data scientists and, says Jennings, "we're looking for more all the time."
So what does it take to get one of those jobs? That's a more complicated question than it might seem. The field has grown so quickly and seems to call for such unusual combinations of skills, that specific hiring criteria are all over the map. For instance, some employers require you to know a particular set of programming languages, while others couldn't care less.
FICO (FICO) is a case in point. On the one hand, if you apply there, your experience with econometric modeling and basic programming could come in handy. "We usually hire people with some quant background, from pure math and engineering to statistics to econometric models," says Jennings, whose own background is in econometrics. "It also helps to be able to write enough code to link data sets together."