Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big data, little talent

That's the abridged headline this online WSJ piece.  Big data seems to be on its way to becoming the next big thing in management.  Companies are swimming in data and do not have the expertise to either manage the data sets themselves or to draw logical inferences from it.
What the industry needs is a new type of person: the data scientist.  According to Pat Gelsinger, president and chief operating officer of EMC Corp., the giant U.S. data company, this isn't an unprecedented problem. "IBM started a generation of Cobol programmers," he said, referring to one of the first dominant programming languages. "Thirty years ago we didn't have computer-science departments; now every quality school on the planet has a CS department. Now nobody has a data-science department; in 30 years every school on the planet will have one."

Hilary Mason, chief scientist for the URL shortening service, says a data scientist must have three key skills. "They can take a data set and model it mathematically and understand the math required to build those models; they can actually do that, which means they have the engineering skills…and finally they are someone who can find insights and tell stories from their data. That means asking the right questions, and that is usually the hardest piece."
NC State is already staking out a leadership position in big data.  The MS in Analytics has been a huge success.  The Center for Innovation Management Studies in the Poole College of Management is doing big data research in conjunction with NC State's computer science department.  Stay tuned.

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