Data and Analytics Pros Navigate Job Market Changes

Data scientists, machine learning specialists and other data and analytics pros are seeing a changes to the job market in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. What will the lasting impacts be?

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

June 1, 2020

4 Min Read
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Data scientists, machine learning specialists and other data and advanced analytics professionals have been in huge demand over the past several years, commanding good salaries, benefits, and great work/life balance. But the one nut these technology professionals have not been able to crack is remote work.

If you've sought a career in these analytics fields, you more than likely have needed to be located at the company's headquarters or another major office, perhaps. Forget about working from home in some small town and Zooming into a meeting at your company's headquarters in Silicon Valley. It just wasn't done.

Just ask Linda Burtch, managing director at quantitative recruitment firm Burtch Works. As she told InformationWeek a few years ago: "Every client I talk to, I ask them about that. It would open up their options on candidates they can talk to if they can offer the opportunity to work remotely from whatever location."

But these clients -- companies that are in the market to hire quantitative professionals -- have resisted such measures. Companies hiring analytics pros aren't alone in this. Most companies have wanted their tech professionals to work in the office. For instance, although Progressive Insurance has been working hard to recruit developers and cloud pros to its Cleveland headquarters and another office in Colorado, earlier this year the company told InformationWeek that it didn't want remote employees in other cities. Organizations often cite corporate culture as a big reason for this.

Yet here we are in June 2020 and so many technology employees have been working from home for months now out of necessity as many local and state governments have issued stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Could this be the pivot point for remote work? Maybe.

"This whole situation has been spurring a lot of conversation about what work will look like in the long term," Burtch told InformationWeek. "People are actively discussing how we do things in the future." Still, Burtch thinks it's still too early to make predictions about the long-term impact. As for the quantitative pros that her firm tracks, Burtch said she surveyed the firm's database and out of nearly 350 people only one person said they were still required to be in the office, and another said they were going in a few times a week.

"Nearly all the data scientists and analytics professionals we heard from have been working from home," Burtch said.

In the expensive technology center of the San Francisco Bay area, the requirement to work in an office may be what's keeping them in that location.

An anonymous survey conducted by Blind showed that two out of three tech workers said they would consider leaving San Francisco if they had that remote option. That news comes as a number of tech giants in the San Francisco area said that workers would be allowed to work at home for a long time if not forever. Twitter said most workers will be able to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Google and Facebook said they expect work-from-home to be normal at least until 2021.

But if you aren't already working in your dream data and analytics position, you might have a harder than expected time landing that job. Many companies across all industries have instituted hiring freezes. While technology has been mostly insulated from the massive layoffs related to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the economic shock waves have hit everyone.

Some recent research from Burtch Works shows that new graduates of analytics degree programs have not been spared. Some schools told Burtch Works that job interviews had been canceled. In some cases, job offers had been rescinded. In other cases, job offers were put on hold.  

Burtch told InformationWeek, that recruiting and hiring is still happening, however, with activity in pharmaceutical companies, entertainment and gaming companies, and some consumer product companies.

So the news is really mixed for data and analytics professionals during this crisis. Yes, these pros remain in demand in certain industries, even during the COVID-19 crisis. Once it's over, they may even have the option to work from a remote location. Maybe.

For more coverage of data and analytics issues, read these stories:

Why AI Ethics Is Even More Important Now

Automating and Educating Business Processes with RPA, AI and ML

COVID-19 IT Layoffs and the Future of Work

Why Everyone's Data and Analytics Strategy Just Blew Up

About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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