The hugeness of big data

BIG data seems to be in full throttle, developing exponential growth, looking at the amount of data being generated today. But what is big data? In a nutshell, the word literally means massive amounts of information that cannot be properly processed on a worksheet, database management system or across traditional software that people are accustomed to.

What organisations need to understand is data is no longer the sort of information that is used in the past, such as sales and financial related data, instead, real time information that needs to be constantly captured and analysed. Big data also encompasses analysing massive amounts of information an making good business out of it.

That said, the industry is reported to be lacking in data professionals as big data is a new and complex field. And due to its complexity, big data is not something existing institutions can develop overnight. That is basically why a specialised company like The Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) is needed. It is the kind of firm that understands the nature of big data, realises the need for a holistic approach towards developing data professionals and is able to see the big picture, including the business that can be churned out of it.

Statistics show that by the year 2020, there will be about two million job openings for data professionals and that the demand for people with this knowledge and skill will outstrip supply by a ratio of two to one. It’s a global phenomena which is already in motion and Malaysia has set its sights on developing 20,000 data professionals and 2,000 data scientists by 2020.

“With a little bit of exposure and information to what big data has to offer and opportunities that lie ahead, this is really going to be one of the most exciting careers in the future, apart from artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. I think a career in big data will easily be among the top 10 in the near future,” said CADS managing director Cheam Tat Inn.

CADS is Asean’s first and only one-stop platform and centre of excellence to empower the next generation of data professionals. Committed to delivering the highest standard in data science education, the centre aims to cultivate and mentor future data professionals to contribute effectively towards organisations in Malaysia and the Asean region, through accelerated and rigorous programmes and mentorship stints, unlike any other presently available in Southeast Asia.

The centre delivers programmes, many of which are through collaborations with a number of world-leading organisations such as the Harvard Business School, which targets top level executives who wish to understand big data analytics and its relevance to their business.

There is also a programme which is delivered in partnership with a company based in New York, called the Data Incubator programme. This programme is locally endorsed by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) andHuman Resources Development Fund (HRDF).

There are three main streams data professionals can branch out into – data scientists, data analysts and data engineers. While a career in data engineering would revolve around a job that is quite technical (imagine a mechanic working on a car), he or she is said to look at data a little differently compared to a data analyst, who is trained in programming skills, with a little aptitude in statistics and comes from a mathematical background.

Data scientists also are put on a higher pedestal, as this person is required to deal with higher levels of big data technicality and complexity.

“Soft skills are also very important and is also key in this profession because you need to translate complex situations into simple business language.

“A data professional must be able to take all the information, develop a mathematical formula, come up with a conclusion and present it to the top management – that is the skill required,” Cheam stressed.

To date, CADS has developed more than 750 data professionals and is looking at establishing more partnerships. Their latest is with Coursera, the largest, massive open online courses platform in the world, which offers a host of data science programmes from reputable universities around the globe, allowing one to attain professionally recognised and accredited qualifications.

For organisations to remain competitive and relevant, big data is no longer an option as it will become mainstream in the very near future. If organisations are not sensitive to big data, it will face huge impact. All it takes is one bad user experience and an organisation will be set back for days.

“The power of big data analytics can not only help in terms of competitiveness, but relevancy in the future. With all this information, you will then know how you can evolve and proactively change the company.”