The Rolling Stones are just now embarking on their new “50 & Counting” tour, named for the number of years they’ve been a band. That’s newsworthy in its own right, but they’re also making headlines for the record-setting price of tickets to their shows. The specific prices vary by city, but range between $150 for the cheap seats to $600 for the good ones. That may seem outrageous to anyone who paid $10 to see them 30 years ago, but that’s supply and demand for you — there are only four Rolling Stones, they come as a package deal, and they can pretty much set their own price.
Just a few minutes after reading about that example of capitalism at work, I read a Yahoo! Finance article titled Hottest Job of the 21st Century? Bet on This. It makes the case that data scientists are the new rock stars of the corporate world, and cites a May 2013 McKinsey study that estimates that by 2018 the U.S. alone will need 140, 000 to 190, 000 more qualified people with “deep analytical skills” than will be available. I can tell you from personal experience this isn’t just media hype either. Even with the bleak job market for new grads grabbing headlines, I know a very bright new grad who just completed a combinatorics and optimization math degree at a top university and was recruited by an online retail analytics startup while still a sophomore. She doesn’t have any groupies yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
Ultra-famous musicians have always created a wide economic wake for others to make their own high value place in the world. Examples include big-name producers like Brian Eno and Rick Rubin, famous critics such as Cameron Crowe and Lester Bangs, and celebrated artists like Annie Liebovitz and Andy Warhol. The same holds true with data scientists, as many related and supporting roles will see spikes in demand as the art and science of distilling insights from data takes hold across the business.
Within IT we’re already seeing huge demand for the big data architects who are pushing the envelope on next-generation scale architectures. It’s no trivial task to assemble continuously updating, up-to-the-minute, high-quality data sets as the starting point for analysis. The market is also craving innovative technologies that enable IT architects to collect, distribute and store massive amounts of data, and help data scientists mine it for invaluable insights. At the other end of the equation, business managers will need to upgrade their skills so they can understand the causes, effects and implications of the findings their data scientists dig up, and turn them into effective decisions.
The Rolling Stones, the Who and Neil Young (who by the way, I think we’re still waiting to burn out instead of fade away) may not last forever, but U2, Coldplay and Beyonce will be there to carry the mega-money tour torch. Are you and your career ready to embark on the “Big Data World Tour” that will clearly be commanding top dollar for the next several decades?