The shortage of big data experts, particularly data scientists, is a recurring topic in IT pro circles. While some roles can only be filled by people with serious scientific training, you might find some candidates in a less obvious area: graduates with arts degree.
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Speaking at the Gartner Business Intelligence and Information Management Summit in Sydney, Gartner research director Gavin Tay pointed out that the nature of many big data projects — where working out the right questions to ask was often a key factor — meant that skills developed in seemingly unrelated disciplines could often be useful. "You have a huge pool of individuals that may not be trained in that discipline but who have skills that could be valuable," he said.
"One of the core skills was the ability to discover patterns out of unstructured data." That skill set is more often associated with artists than with engineers, Tay said. Other disciplines such as social anthropology could also prove fruitful, he suggested.
Acknowledging that businesses might be reluctant to deliberately court staff from these disciplines, Tay recommended developing career paths in analytics for existing staff with limited career paths, such as webmasters.
If demand for analytics skills continues to grow, it seems likely that we'll see more tertiary courses in these areas. "To make any meaningful sense of all the information being gleaned from these multiple sources will require that universities develop new courses and modules, but that won't be immediate," Tay said. In the meantime, hiring a jazz musician for their ability to discern new patterns and co-operate with others could be an interesting move.