Wednesday 3 April 2013

Career Thoughts - The Rise and Rise of the Statistician

As my kids have got older and have had to make decisions about which subjects to continue, and which to drop, I've paid closer attention to the general trends in some specific areas. Whilst I'm not sure that either of my kids will follow in my footsteps, I've paid attention to career changes in and around the SAS world. One of the very clear and visible trends is the increase in data-related, analytical roles.

In March this year, icrunchdata reported an increase in statistics-related jobs from 16,500 three years ago to 28,305 this year. As more and more data becomes more and more readily available for analysis, demand for the business benefits that skilled analysis of that data can offer continues to accelerate.

When it comes to analytics careers, analytic department bosses and businesses are interested in one particular, ephemeral skill: curiosity. As Greta Roberts (faculty member for the International Institute for Analytics and VP at vendor Talent Analytics) put it, finding curious and cutting-edge analytic team members means it's "important for business to move beyond being dazzled by software skills." Technical skills such as Hadoop, Hive or SQL are valuable, but it's the ability to derive information and knowledge from the data that really counts.

Analytic tools such as SAS Visual Analytics allow the analyst to increasingly focus on the analytics without the friction of dealing with the data. Jeff Hammerbacher (Founder and Chief Scientist of Cloudera, and one of the first 100 employees at Facebook) has been quoted as saying "data is the IT of our generation". In other words, in Jeff's view computing is no longer an issue or a barrier, the analyst is only limited by their own skills, knowledge and curiosity.

So, I'm encouraging my kids to follow their interests and strongest subjects, but I'm also encouraging them to make their best efforts in maths. If they subsequently read statistics at university and go on to become data analysts then maybe I could say they had followed my footsteps.