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

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"To do this job, you have to be analytic," she adds. "You need to understand the baseline use of technology, including how databases are set up, how cross-relations work, and the difference between relational databases and flat databases. You have to understand how Web analytics work and how you can track behaviors to predict and influence the desired outcome."

Chase, who has a master's degree in higher education and is currently working on her doctorate in educational leadership, has become a data wonk by necessity.

"It is no longer acceptable in my profession to make decisions that are not data-driven," she says. "If you rely on your gut instinct, you will make errors. If the data is available and you choose not to use it, you are making a mistake."

Data analysis: The marketer who hacks code

There aren't many professional marketers whose résumés include the ability to program in Python, but Cody Boyte is one of them. He employs his coding skills in the service of analyzing and presenting data.

As marketing manager for AxialMarket, a business network that allows midmarket M&A (mergers and acquisitions) professionals to connect and make deals, Boyte spends roughly 25 percent of his time hacking code. That includes writing scripts that pull data from different service providers to analyze the effectiveness of AxialMarket's front end and building "engineered marketing elements" that present data in innovative ways to its customers.

One such element pulls data on the number and location of each midmarket M&A deal for the past 30 days and displays the deals on a geographical map. Boyte's job is to build the front end where the data is delivered, but his knowledge of programming allows him to communicate much more easily with full-time coders working on the back end.

"Even if you can't build it yourself, once you understand how API calls work and what happens to the layers of data they're interacting with, you can get together with the developers involved and enable them to execute it in a matter of hours," he says. "Otherwise they could spend weeks going back and forth with me trying to figure out what it is I need them to do."

The former journalism major started out by building websites in WordPress and Drupal, learned CSS and PHP scripting, then taught himself the basics of JavaScript and Python. Boyte says that gives him a huge advantage over other marketers who know what they want their online presence to look like but don't understand what it takes to get there.

Knowing whether a development project will take three hours or three weeks to deliver the same results is invaluable, he adds, as is the ability to speak geek.

"I may never know enough to be the tech lead in a startup, but I know that having an understanding of programming gives you a massive advantage in recruiting," he says. "The last thing your CTO wants to do is spend three hours explaining something to a tech novice that should really only take three minutes."

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