Big Data, Big Opportunity
With the ongoing financial crisis, your career may be at a standstill. If you’re wondering how to kick your stalled career into high gear, Big Data may be just the opportunity you are seeking. In this age of information overload, Big Data represents a growing field with many well paid positions. Possessing the ability to synthesize, categorize and massive amounts of data can help you leapfrog over the competition in this exciting field.
Big Data Defined
You may be wondering, just what is Big Data? An example from social media may help you understand the concept. Imagine gathering all the tweets that are generated by every Twitter worldwide user over the course of a single day. The total number of tweets easily reaches the millions. Now imagine sorting through those millions of tweets for relevant information, including music trends, indications of trouble in a particular region of the world or simply the number of women between the ages of forty and fifty-five using Twitter at a particular time of day. Each of these indicators represents a potentially valuable piece of data in addressing questions concerning how people use Twitter. Addressing such questions would also fall under the category of Big Data.
Getting the Numbers Right
As a new field, data science has not developed a fixed curriculum of studies. However, if you are interested in a career working with Big Data, pursuing coursework in statistics, mathematics, engineering, physics and computer science will provide an excellent basic foundation. More advanced training in artificial intelligence, machine learning and similar fields is readily available online at no charge through programs like Udacity and Coursera, which allow you to learn at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home or on the go with a laptop, Smartphone or tablet. If you are interested in pursuing a formal data science program, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley and Stanford offer excellent degree programs.
You may also obtain vendor specific training from organizations like Cloudera, which offers training in Hadoop, a popular program for working with Big Data. The limitation with vendor provided training is that much of the training applies only to a particular vendor, with a heavy dose of sales training integrated into the mix. Nonetheless, you can obtain valuable real world skills through such training.
The overriding requirement for pursuing a career related to Big Data is to develop a comfort for working with numbers. Potential employers will want you to be able to demonstrate proficiency not just in computation, but in complex analysis. The ability to apply creativity to ferret out possible meanings behind those numbers is also valuable. You will need to demonstrate that you possess the ability to tease out concepts and trends and explain those trends in plain English to the general public.
Win, Place, Show
Entering contests through the Kaggle platform represents another opportunity to obtain real world training in working with Big Data, with the additional opportunity to win prizes. Such contests offer you the opportunity to learn how to shepherd Big Data projects from concept to completion. You also learn valuable team player skills while exercising your individual creativity and honing your analysis skills.
Darryl Adkins is a former network administrator for a large corporation. He enjoys sharing his experiences by blogging on the Web.