More Big Data Jobs from the Government

I know it’s a very unusual day when I get over two dozen unsolicited inquiries for new employment opportunities before noon. That’s how my day started on Thursday and it had to do with employment opportunities in big data analytics, a hot job at the moment.

Does a job working with big data appeal to you? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below. 

Part of what I do during my day job is use my skills and experience as a data scientist and analyst. Aided by some very smart and powerful computer-based tools, I’m able to cull through terabytes of data in minutes to find information and answers to business questions that decision makers face.

I do this just part of the time to help understand and expand these same tools needed for my customers. Some call this big data analytics, data mining, or business intelligence. Whatever you call it, it’s about providing answers to questions in a timely manner using tremendous amounts of data from potentially hundreds of data sources, and using the right algorithms and computer tools to process and visualize this information.

A lot of this work deals with the data, algorithms, and tools, but much more has to do with what is called “trade craft.” Trade craft is education, skills, experience and insight into what the problem is.

My colleagues Susan Hall and Don Willmott posted two excellent articles entitled More on Big Data: Analytic Skills Are the Key and Big Data’s Good News for BI, Data Mining Experts. In these articles they discussed the skills necessary to do big data analytics and the increase in demand for individuals with these skills. As I was reading these articles, little did I know that the demand would be more immediate!

I found out late Thursday morning that what prompted all the unsolicited inquires for employment opportunities in big data analytics was an impending announcement by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy on a new $200M Big Data Research and Development Initiative to create tools to improve scientific research by making sense of the huge amounts of government data. An article from PCWorld Business outlines the results of the afternoon White House announcement and that six U.S. government agencies are pushing this research and an outline for what their needs are.

In a timely move and within minutes of the announcement of the White House’s Big Data R&D Initiative, the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a new research effort called XDATA through the Broad Area Announcement (BAA) process for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from industry. The XDATA BAA is part of the broader Big Data R&D initiative and valued at about $25 million per year.

This means that job opportunities in big data are available now and into the future with those with the right skill sets. This also means that the demand for jobs are not just in the defense industry but in other industries, from banking, finance, pharmaceutical, healthcare and retail operations. All these industries will be competing for the same big data analytic personnel.

The bottom line is that businesses need to be able to get answers to strategic and tactical questions in order to make more informed decisions, and they use huge amounts of data to do this. It’s all about making sense of the data and getting timely answers to questions.  And that’s where the big data analytics professional comes in.

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