Want a Job? Analytics is the Thing, Says IBM

Posted by: Douglas Macmillan on December 9, 2009

By Spencer E. Ante

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?

When Mr. McGuire famously whispered the word plastics to a young and confused child of the suburbs played by Dustin Hoffman in the classic movie The Graduate, the idea was that plastic was the future and young Benjamin should get with the program.

Well, if The Graduate were remade today, the new buzzword for the young could be “analytics.” Thanks to the Internet, the world has become a swelling ocean full of data. One grand challenge of our age is to find a way to harness that data. And that’s where the burgeoning field of analytics comes in. Companies as large as IBM and as small as Twitter are looking to hiring people who can boil down this ocean of data into knowledge and insights that can help improve the performance of their businesses.

But the field is so new and growing so fast that there just aren’t enough qualified workers who can do these jobs. IBM currently has over 2,500 job postings for analytics-related jobs, and 60% of its new hires come from universities.

So IBM is taking the matter into its own hands. On Dec. 9, Big Blue announced that it was working with Fordham University’s School of Business to create a new business analytics curriculum to help prepare students for jobs in the field. IBM is currently working with several other schools on similar initiatives, but this is the first program that IBM has announced.

Starting in the spring of 2010, students will be able to take courses and get hands-on training in business intelligence, data analytics, data mining and other related areas. Companies that applied analytics-derived insights performed better than their peers, according to a new study of 400 executives that IBM released on Dec. 9.

“In this world, intelligence is replacing intuition,” said Ambuj Goyal, a former IBM researcher who is now General Manager of IBM’s Business Analytics and Process Optimization Group. 35,000 people now report to Goyal, according to IBM.

Fast-growing tech startups also have a lot of analytics jobs that are hard to fill. Envangelos Simoudis, managing director of the venture capital firm Trident Capital, said that 12 of the 50 companies in his firm’s portfolio are focused on the analytics market. And many are learning it’s not easy to find data miners and number crunchers to do the job. “In the last year, it was those companies that did better and continued to hire,” he says. “But it’s still difficult to find people with the right background.”

Simoudis believes the demand for these jobs will only grow thanks to several big trends. One is the sheer data explosion. When Simoudis was working in the software business in the 1980s, he said data warehouses use to handle two terabytes of data. Today, just one small online ad network is generating 100 terabytes of data, while social network Facebook is spewing out 1.5 petabytes of data a year, or 1,500 terabytes. All those status updates and party photos consume massive amounts of data.

The second trend is that decision making has become much more performance based. Intuition is out. Metrics are in, especially in a tough economy where every dollar counts. Lastly, there has been a democratization of data. The rise of the Web and dashboard technologies is giving more and more people the ability to access data. And they want it.

Big Blue has gone mad for analytics this year. In April, it launched a new services unit with 4,000 consultants devoted to the field. Subsequently, it opened seven analytics centers around the world in New York, London and Beijing, to name a few places. And the company recently acquired data analytics company SPSS for $1.2 billion and business analytics firm RedPill.

So for all you unemployed youngsters out there who are looking for jobs, I have one word of advice: “analytics.”

- Spencer Ante also publishes the Creative Capital blog. Click here to see more.

Reader Comments

Strategery

December 9, 2009 10:29 PM

Don't do it! By the time you have the credentials to get one of these jobs, they will be filled with HB-1 visa holders. Shortly afterwards, they will outsource the entire industry to India and/or China.

Raj

December 9, 2009 10:55 PM

What they don't tell you that most of those 35,000 jobs are fresh college students in India earning less than $1000 a month. So yes Analytics is big but only for IBM to exploit their clients and the young manpower in corrupt India with little choice.

These jobs are not for Americans even though the clients are American companies selling in America. IBM and these mega corporation are just corporate cousins of giant vampire squids like Goldman Sachs.

Nanda Deba

December 9, 2009 11:47 PM

IBM has spotted it right.In the 2010-2020 decade analytics could be the main job creator.
Surely Indian and Chinese knowledge-workers will gain the most and MNCs will no doubt outsource the job to India and China.
The quant approach of Indian B-schools should be made more rigorous so that they can call the shots.

Out of work research professional

December 9, 2009 11:48 PM

There are a lot of skilled research professionals from the newspaper industry available. The collection methods are different however, analytical and data mining principles are the same. Additionally, someone straight out of college can "crunch" the numbers but it takes a seasoned research professional to turn data into insight.

Think

December 9, 2009 11:59 PM

If any US company do business in India and capture take out the local competition from the market, then you would say it is a good strategy. Why?

Understand.. world has become flat and if anyone is more capable of getting job or doing better business, then it does not matter where one is from and in which country.

I agree that there are some bad consequences that come along but overall result is much better.

And you guys always talk about American economy but always buy the cheaper (not saying bad) stuff from China rather than any American brand just to save couple of dollars. So who are you to blame these big companies, which are saving tons of money by outsourcing the work. You want to pay these companies the lowest amount possible for the product else you opt for other cheaper alternatives or open source. Then how would you expect these companies to maintain the competitive pricing in this era??

Get realistic and think about before you post any comments like that. This issue seems to be big these days just because of the bad economy only but people who are smart enough here still have jobs and do not worry about these issues.

John

December 10, 2009 1:37 AM

I wonder how shamelessly IBM talks about setting up job trends! Who wants to crunch all the spam in Twitter or how to squeeze more money out of poor unsuspecting common people?! This is a disastrous trend these mega corporations are setting up.. They should put all these money to better use.. like serving humankind and at not making more money... !!!

John

December 10, 2009 2:20 AM

IBM sucks as they were a leader at shipping jobs overseas. Yet more of the same as they seek another vein of blood to duck from their corporate clients.

Richard Altman

December 10, 2009 3:31 AM

Ha! Now, now, ten years later, everyone wants to be Google. Keywords, data management and here's one you morons can have for f'ing free, you wanna know the real industry thats growing, course you won't get it at first because it's the truth and i'm sure there's a merciful aversion to comprehending it. The real industry...cultural accounting.

now you can have that term, don't credit me, keyword spiders with dates have already credited me, whether i pass your stupid moderation or not.

btw, keep up the great work, i'm actually redesigning the wall st cover from a couple weeks back for my typography class. i'll post link when i'm done later today.

Rer

December 10, 2009 4:51 AM

Didn't Slate Magazine use almost exactly the same opening a couple of years ago in an article about Logistics?

David

December 10, 2009 5:07 AM

Strategery, Raj, your sentiment is better communicated by the url of this article.

Analytics Professional

December 10, 2009 5:18 AM

@ Strategery:
Whats your problem, you can't create enough jobs, or even if you create you can't sustain it in your country?

We thank you for creating jobs.
We thank you for making the communication technology.
Now we again thank you for being too costly for your own employers.

Demand - supply my friend!!! Nothing's personal. Its business.

But thats not the point of discussion here. I'm pretty delighted to read an article like this. I'm one in this industry and working from India. Training for IT and Research, I came to this industry 3 years ago with 3 things.

1. S-curve comparing the lifecycle of IT industry and analytics industry (only 2 options for major in math and CS)

2. Love for data, and chaos associated with it.

3. Analytics cant be as scalable as IT, but analytics just cant pull any graduate from any stream, train for 6 months and make a professional. So my chances to "distinguish amongst crowd" increases.

And after 3 years, what's the benefits.

1. Compensation - something that matters most for young - My salary increased 2.5 folds and I'm NOT YET SATURATED.

2. I manage a team of few, something that distinguishes an Indian in his social community.

3. I love my job because it interesting.

4. I understand business much more than my peers in IT. IT understand cost and process better, and I understand revenue.

So, its a definite go ahead, but not for all. Understand the skills required to succeed, before you plunge.

Kayla Nimis

December 10, 2009 7:06 AM

While there is out-sourcing in the analytics field, this is rare. Analytics, if you're good, requires up to the second information, which is rarely possible with ousourced labor. As for H-1B visas, those are being limited more everyday. The problem isn't pouring over our borders, it's a lack of home-grown talent that might force companies to look abroad despite the challenges invoked by outsourcing.

Stephen Baker

December 10, 2009 8:52 AM

It's true that every job at IBM and other tech companies, goes through a fundamental analysis: Could this work be done just as well and cheaper offshore or by a machine? That means great risk for people doing what's known as commodity work. This is true in every field, including analytics. So it doesn't make sense for someone who might be an excellent anthropologist or occupational therapist to suddenly swerve into analytics. That said, as I wrote in the Numerati, there's tremendous opportunity in the field. And since analytics is spreading into virtually every domain, even people studying other disciplines should learn about it, because analytics is going to be important everywhere.

Lullo Gates

December 10, 2009 9:16 AM

Isn't that a mighty unlucky URL that the cms has created?

MSA

December 10, 2009 10:58 AM

Since 2007 North Carolina State University has offered a 10-month Master of Science in Analytics (MSA), the nation's first such degree. The job placement track record for MSA graduates is 98%. See http://analytics.ncsu.edu

Srini V

December 10, 2009 3:47 PM

Nice Article and great comments as well ...

Ben

December 11, 2009 4:04 AM

@Raj, did you just say that most of the 35,000 jobs are $1000 a month jobs? And that's exploiting? Where I'm from that would qualify you into the middle-class. So please come exploit us here with $1000 dollars a month jobs. It would pay for a good education for our kids and enable us live in big enough houses.

Anonymous

December 11, 2009 2:05 PM

IBM, here are 500+ resumes of candidates with exceptional analytics skills....many with significant experience and superior knowledge. Hire some and avoid being labeled 'Information Bullshit Machine'

http://www.datashaping.com/resumes.shtml

Tom Anger

December 17, 2009 3:04 PM

I agree that some of the backroom number-crunching will go wherever it can be done cheaply by sufficiently skilled analysts.
However, the real challenge in analytics is the interface with decisions and decision-makers. This requires experience and an understanding of business and cultural issues as well as quantitative methods. It cannot be done effectively from thousands of miles away. It also requires managers who understand something about the potential and the pitfalls of analytics. Queen's School of Business in Kingston, Canada, now offers executive education in analytics for exactly that reason: http://business.queensu.ca/execdev/programs/strategic_analytics.php. There will likely be a great market for people who can bridge mathematics and management in the coming years.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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