Big Data Opportunities for Individuals

We've been talking about big data quite a bit here on the site. For further reading, please see the bottom of this post for links to past articles on the subject. Big data provides opportunities for those who can shift into this relatively new field. Of course, companies who have large amounts of data to be analyzed stand to profit from licensing fees and the like, but we'll assume for now that you're not running Google or Amazon.

What opportunities do individuals who are not running Fortune 500 companies have?

data graph
data graph

Image by juhansonin

For starters, data scientists are the ones who currently investigate the code, looking for nuggets of information or creative ways of combining the data to construct a new resource. Currently, data scientists must have enough understanding of both statistics and programming, as well as possess the eye for value in the midst of all that information. It's a challenging job, but the pay is good. And, these individuals are likely to become only more important as data drives more decisions in business, government, and non-profit sectors.

Articles like "Big Data Needs Creative Types, Too" point to even further specification of data scientists into the three separate skill sets. This would allow programmers to have more flexibility and participate in big data systems, which, I suspect, is already happening quite frequently. The statisticians and data analysts, the quants, could focus more on devising new algorithms to test the data. Finally, employees with more of a business background could move in to a creative role in helping to devise newer and more profitable ways to use data.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of the book Big Data, also point out that those who have the "big data mindset" also stand to gain from this new data emphasis. Plenty of new startups are gathering intel through open sources, like some information provided by the government or from nonprofit groups, and through licensing data from companies not interested in sifting through the data themselves.

New companies are already predicting flight delays due to weather with uncanny accuracy, and they are helping online shoppers find bargains by analyzing pricing trends from a larger set of sources than was possible only a few years ago. Of course, not every big data startup will succeed, but the opportunities are still available for now.

What About You?

Do you see yourself in any of these current or future roles? I know that my reading on the subject over the past few weeks has definitely put me into more of a big data mindset, and I'm ready to see what's possible with the limited amount of information I can access.

Previous Posts in the Big Data series:

TechMichael Roberts