New job opportunities are emerging for IT professionals in the field of "big data," the term used to describe how corporations gather vast amounts of real-time data about their customers and analyze that data to drive decision making and increase profitability.
A new job title -- data scientist -- is all the rage. A data scientist typically has a background in computer science or mathematics as well as the analytical skills necessary to find the proverbial needle in a haystack of data gathered by the corporation.
"A data scientist is somebody who is inquisitive, who can stare at data and spot trends," says Anjul Bhambhri, vice president of Big Data Products at IBM. "It's almost like a Renaissance individual who really wants to learn and bring change to an organization."
Unheard of 18 months ago, "data scientist" has exploded in popularity as a Google search term. The number of Google searches of "data scientist" hit peaks 20 times higher than normal in the last quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. It's a popular search term in high-tech hotspots such as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Among the U.S. companies looking to hire data scientists are PayPal, Amazon, and HP. Indeed, the term "data scientist" is mentioned in 195 job listings on the Dice.com website for IT professionals.
IT departments also are adding data-centric developers and system administrators who specialize in tools such as the open source Apache Hadoop software. Hadoop is designed for data-intensive, distributed applications and used by such popular websites as Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and eBay.
Hadoop is mentioned in 612 of 83,122 job listings on Dice.com. Among the companies looking to hire Hadoop software engineers and developers are AT&T Interactive, Sears, PayPal, AOL and Deloitte.
Hadoop "is an emerging skill," says Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com. "Companies need to manage large-scale data operations, and the whole idea of Hadoop is that you can do it inexpensively. That works really well with what we're seeing in terms of the movement to the cloud."
Hill sees opportunities related to Hadoop for both entry-level and experienced IT staff, as well as for hardware and software specialists.
"Traditional hardware people need to figure out how to cluster in different environments. It's not just about buying a database and hooking it up to a hard drive. Now you have distributed databases that are hooked up to multiple servers and multiple hard drives," Hill says. Hadoop "is inexpensive, but it require somebody who really knows how to scale hardware."
Hill says Hadoop is also a good skill for IT professionals with relational database management experience to pursue. "If you really understand data structure and queries, there's going to be a lot of job opportunities," she adds.