How to get a hot job in big data

The big data revolution is creating a new breed of business-IT jobs -- and threatening to destabilize dyed-in-the-wool IT careers

Big data is reshaping business IT. Thanks to cheap storage, massive processing power, and tools like Hadoop, organizations are now able to mine terabytes of information and derive useful business intelligence from it. But the data revolution is also creating a new breed of hybrid business-IT jobs, ones that blend business knowledge and powerful IT tools to the benefit of tech-savvy line-of-business professionals -- and the possible detriment of IT pros oblivious to the big data trend.

"Business analysts are becoming UI and UX experrts by using Wireframe and Visio," says Michael Dsupin, CEO of tech staffing firm Talener. "Marketing and research people are becoming adept at pulling data from one system, translating it, and loading it into another system. My friends in advertising are turning into HTML, CSS, and JavaScript developers. Sales and marketing pros are learning how to customize Salesforce. Everything these days is about harvesting the data out there."

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The data deluge is affecting more than just America's cubicle farms. Industries as diverse as toolmaking, auto repair, and health care are being transformed by technology, adds Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, managing director of the Apollo Research Institute and author of "Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work, and Society."

"Precision toolmakers need people with computer backgrounds to run their assembly lines," she says. "As cars get smarter, we need tech people who understand how to build and repair them. Hospitals need patient advocates who understand health care, the law, and database technology so they can help people maneuver through the system. Every industry will require smart technology people with subject-matter expertise who can create new devices and think through all ways they might be used. "

Here are five hybrid data-driven jobs born of the big data revolution -- and one in danger of being sidelined by the deluge, as yesterday's "superusers" transform into tomorrow's business-IT professionals.

Data mining: The physicist who became a data scientist

Jonathan Goldman's job is a textbook example of the changes big data has brought. The director of analytics and applications for Aster Data, a division of data warehousing giant Teradata Systems, Goldman holds a doctorate in physics. But after he joined LinkedIn in 2006, he became a data scientist.

At LinkedIn, Goldman was asked to take massive amounts of data collected by the business social network and turn it into products. The result: features such as People You Might Know, an algorithm that looks for non-obvious links between people and offers recommendations for making new connections.

At Aster, Goldman brings his data-crunching skills to a wider set of problems, such as isolating factors that can reduce customer churn for telecoms or optimizing the flow of information on a website.

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