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2/24/2014
09:06 AM
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Big Data Hiring: 5 Facts From The Field

Consider this creative advice for big data job hunters and hiring managers from EMC and Pivotal execs.

IT recruiting always has to have a bright, young, new thing. The data science role has been hogging the spotlight for months now, with recruiters citing strong demand and CIOs griping about where to find big data pros. One key question: Should you be hiring from the small pool of outside experts, or training up existing staff from the inside? Also, how can you break into big data from another IT path?

Many IT pros say this is just another example of a supposed IT talent shortage. While there's little dispute that PhD-level data science experts are a small pool, that isn't the only hiring need. Are companies unwilling to invest in training workers to acquire new skills such as Hadoop? While visiting EMC this month, I heard some interesting perspectives from David Menninger, head of business development and strategy for Pivotal, a subsidiary of EMC.

[Choosing a big-data platform? Read Big Data Platform Comparisons: 3 Key Points. ]

Part of his job now is sending in data science teams to do early work with companies that are simply trying to understand the value of data science projects. They might have data analysis experts but not data science or big data experts and they are just starting down the big data path. In other words, these EMC teams do early engagements with companies that EMC and Pivotal will pitch for future data analysis business.

Our conversation pointed out some interesting facts for those of you trying to break into big data as a career. For starters, how does EMC staff this effort when data science experts are in such demand?

1. "Data science is a team sport," Menninger says. EMC has recruited experts from the outside and trained up internal resources to become this big data team's members. He estimates 20% of the team was hired from outside and 80% were trained from the inside. EMC did it using bootcamps in several locations across the country. The data science experts hired from the outside created the curriculum that was later taught at the bootcamps. (Is that a model you could apply to other in-demand skill sets in your organization, CIOs?) EMC rolled out the bootcamp program in the second half of 2013.

'Presentation skills matter.' David Menninger of EMC subsidiary Pivotal
"Presentation skills matter." David Menninger of EMC subsidiary Pivotal

Menninger's advice echoes what we heard recently from Dr. Michael Wu, chief scientist of Lithium Technologies: Hiring managers should stop trying to find mythical people who have three important kinds of big data skills and focus on building a team.

2. Hiring for the data science skills is harder than hiring for the Hadoop skills right now, Menninger says. Hadoop skills are just table stakes if you want in to a big data career path, he says. If you haven't got them, you're going to hit a wall trying to get into the EMC program. This is one example where an online course or evening program isn't just a nice-to-have but a necessary first step.

3. Presentation skills matter. This is not a back-room art, for EMC or its customers. "They [big data team members] have to be able to communicate well," Menninger says.

Big data efforts bring together people from parts of the business who might not have worked together before. They involve political struggles between the CIO and the CMO, for control over the power that will accompany running data analysis efforts moving forward. Are you the type of person that can build consensus amid discord? Demonstrate that.

4. Diverse teams matter. Some experts advocate hiring musicians and biologists for big data teams -- people trained outside IT and skilled at identifying and dissecting patterns in varying disciplines.

Pivotal's Menninger agrees. "We don't have musicians but we do have some biologists," he says. "We believe in interdisciplinary skills." In other words, if you staff your team only with people who came up through IT or traditional analytics educations, you're missing out on important skills and perspectives.

5. If you have marketing-side experience and acquire Hadoop skills, you just might be a star player.  An important question for IT organizations is unanswered still: Who does the data science team report up to: the CIO or CMO?

Jeremy Burton, executive VP, product operations and marketing at EMC, says he thinks it has to be the CMO. "It's a partnership with IT though," he adds. IT will bring the experience in areas like moving data, and marketing will bring the understanding of the data sets themselves and the closeness to the customer, he says.

If you as a job applicant could walk in with both experience sets of Hadoop and marketing, you have an interesting story to tell right now. Even if you have a marketing project story to tell, emphasize it.

You can use distributed databases without putting your company's crown jewels at risk. Here's how. Also in the Data Scatter issue of InformationWeek: A wild-card team member with a different skill set can help provide an outside perspective that might turn big data into business innovation. (Free registration required.)

Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio

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BRIAN_CIAMPA
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BRIAN_CIAMPA,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2014 | 9:51:43 AM
Data Scientist
This is a great profile of a data scientist. We often think of them as needing to be highly technical but in reality they need to be very well-rounded. Very insightful.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/24/2014 | 11:23:40 AM
Re: Data Scientist
Perhaps others have seen the Twitter meme making the rounds: A data scientist is a statistician who lives in San Francisco. This makes people in the big data commmunity smile and groan at the same time. How you define data scientist or big data expert depends on your company.

I liked the bootcamp program example as a creative way into a big data career path. I will continue to share as I come across similar avenues -- and hope you will share examples as well.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2014 | 7:40:12 PM
Re: Data Scientist
I think its important to bring in some big data talent. But its probably wrong to import a bunch of new talent not ingrained within a culture. That's not going to be successful. This is akin to bringing in consultants that might not be a cultural fit. 

I think that what is important is to grow talent from within. This is still a new field in technology. Bring in some outside experts, but make sure they have some mentoring roles as well. 
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/24/2014 | 8:03:26 PM
Re: Data Scientist
It's interesting to that he doesn't make much of industry knowledge. I would have thought that plays a bigger part in the what-we-need-to-know side of the job. 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 9:05:21 AM
Re: Data Scientist
You mean vertical industry knowledge? I don't get the sense most companies can be that picky among this still developing talent pool. Sort of like the early days of cloud -- of course some verticals are always picky. Anyone want to speak to using big data skills to cross industry verticals?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 9:40:55 AM
Re: Data Scientist
I would think that's one of the critical questions companies need to ask -- are the vertical industry and company specific understanding essential? If so, then the big data effort has to focus on internal training. I've spoken with an insurance company that is very focused on growing rather than hiring these experts. I don't have a sense of which approach is more common. Which is easier to gain in, say, 6 months -- adequate vertical industry understanding or sufficient big data skills to be effective?
tnguyengp
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tnguyengp,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 1:32:23 PM
Re: Data Scientist
There's a growing demand for hybrid candidates in IT recruiting -- employees who have both IT and business skills. Employees that have skills in both IT and business have long been the most desirable to businesses. It is clear that as IT has become not just an enabling technology but part of the business strategy. Therefore, hybrid candidates are not just a nice to have but a requirement -- especially for professionals who want to increase their value and their salaries. I think this demand for IT and business skills will dramatically increase so that it is a prerequisite for success.

Than Nguyen

IT Recruitment Company 

HM
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HM,
User Rank: Strategist
2/25/2014 | 3:54:51 PM
HPCC Systems
Lauriane, very informative article. We are seeing an increase in businesses seeking specialized skills to help address challenges that arose with the era of big data. The HPCC Systems platform from LexisNexis helps to fill this gap by allowing data analysts themselves to own the complete data lifecycle. Designed by data scientists, ECL is a declarative programming language used to express data algorithms across the entire HPCC platform. Their built-in analytics libraries for Machine Learning and BI integration provide a complete integrated solution from data ingestion and data processing to data delivery. HPCC Systems provides proven solutions to handle what are now called Big Data problems, and have been doing so for more than a decade. More at http://hpccsystems.com

 
Madhava verma dantuluri
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Madhava verma dantuluri,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/11/2014 | 9:25:09 AM
Information
This is an excellent knowledge and thank you for the share.
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