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Big Data Talent War: 7 Ways To Win

53% of big data-focused companies say analytics experts will be tough to find for the next two years. Here's how IT leaders plan to train, borrow, or steal talent--and what job seekers should know.
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7 Tips On Closing The Big Data Talent Gap
The just-released InformationWeek 2012 State of IT Staffing Survey reveals that 40% of those who cite big data and analytics as a top hiring priority say they'll increase staffing in these areas by 11% or more during the next two years. At the same time, 53% of these companies say it will be hard to find big-data-savvy analytics experts. Respondents expect to try a mix of retraining of existing people, hiring of new employees and contracting of consultants and temporary employees to fill the gap.

Practitioners, vendors, and educators we spoke to for our Big Data IT Staffing report offer seven tips for finding the right talent.

First, have existing employees attend conferences, webinars and vendor-sponsored training classes that offer low-cost educational opportunities either locally or online. It's a great way to find out who's prepared to lead your big-data initiatives and what holes you need to fill.

Second, institute a liberal tuition-reimbursement program to cover a range of educational opportunities. That's what 65% of our respondents say they've done as an incentive for employees to retrain.

Our third tip is to rethink how you're taking advantage of existing talent. Many large and sophisticated companies have analytics experts on staff, but their work is often confined to areas such as research and development. Dow Chemical, for one, has successfully reassigned many of its PhD-caliber employees from R&D to work with business units on operational challenges such as optimizing supply chains, logistics, purchasing, and pricing.

Our fourth tip isn't for every company, but even comparatively small outfits such as go to where the talent is available. The genealogy website has its headquarters in Provo, Utah, and a satellite office in San Francisco. General Electric opened an office in San Ramon, Calif., specifically to draw on tech talent in the San Francisco Bay area.

Analytics has been a hot topic for at least five years, so many colleges and universities are now turning out graduates from newly established degree programs. Our fifth tip is to tap into standout analytics programs including those at North Carolina State University, the University of Ottawa, Northwestern University, DePaul University, the University of Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, California State University at Long Beach and the University of Alabama. Schools offering degree programs in the big-data-oriented discipline of machine learning include Carnegie Mellon, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and the University of California at Berkeley.

Our sixth and seventh tips relate to the skills you should look for and the corporate culture you should cultivate as a would-be employer. The advice cuts both ways if you're a would-be big data analytics employee; read on to consider our detailed advice on what skills to build and the type of environment where you might feel at home.

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Tony Kontzer
Tony Kontzer,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 8:26:14 PM
re: Big Data Talent War: 7 Ways To Win
I'm shocked to come to this story more than 2 months after it posted and see no comments here. This seems to me a valuable and insightful set of tips that can serve as a launch point for a discussion on how to best fill the data science talent gap. And I'm sure readers would be able to add more tips of their own--and maybe even offer counter-evidence questioning the effectiveness of one of the tips listed here. What say you, readers?

Tony Kontzer
InformationWeek Contributor
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