Do you find yourself thinking so hard about what you want to do next in your career that you just get frustrated? You’re not alone. With so much constantly going on in the IT world sometimes its too much to think about, and at other times you just see nothing.
One alternative route you might want to take in your thinking is along the journey that data takes. Yes, data.
Most technologists will likely agree that “it’s all about the data.” Everything everyone does in IT is ultimately about the data being managed. Where it’s collected. How is it stored? What is done with it? How are the results delivered? What are the business outcomes that come from it? So much more.
An examination of that journey demonstrates that no one person really manages that entire journey. Rather, there are many people, and many processes along the way.
Many articles have reported on the explosion of big data, how we’re producing more data in each year than we have in all of history. That may be histrionic, but it’s important to stop and realize that we are not creating any data at all. We are collecting more data.
The fact is that the explosion of big data has been created by our increased ability to collect data points in many ways at many places.
A great example is the national chain retail store. Long ago when you entered a store there was an “electric eye” that “saw” you and recorded that someone had entered the store. One data point. In the end, all data points collected there were summarized into how many people entered the store that day. Over time, those summarized day totals could be charted to learn which days of the week were busiest, even which hours of the day. That was it.
Today when you enter that store you soon come upon a digital display that’s showing you the latest fashions or other products. While you’re gazing at it, it’s looking right back at you estimating your height, weight, gender, and other observations. Dozens of data points. For the rest of your time in the store all of the digital displays and other cameras and sensors are tracking your progress to determine your path through the store. Hundreds of data points. Your purchases are captured and collated with your digital profile. The system is doing this for every one of the hundreds of customers who enter the store each day. Tens of thousands of data points. This happens every day. Millions, perhaps billions of data points. At a thousand stores across the nation. Big Data!
Now extend that to the data collected from everyone’s mobile devices, at toll booths, from street cameras, and much more. Suddenly big data makes sense. How could it NOT be big?
So, here’s your first potential stop along the data journey. You could specialize in deploying and managing all those sensors that collect all that data.
Data is Useless
Having all this data is about as useful as having a sealed jar of peanut butter. There’s no value until you do something with it, like make a sandwich.
With data there is a much longer journey to usefulness.
As data is collected it naturally has to be stored somewhere. While that’s obvious, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Think about billions of bytes of data constantly being collected. Amplify that by thinking about data types like video. What kind of network will you need to keep that data moving fast enough so it doesn’t get all clogged up? And when it gets to the storage device, what kind of storage with what kind of I/O rate will be required to take in all that data?
So, here’s your second opportunity along the data journey. You could specialize in high velocity storage solutions. Think about managing just the required scalability, not to mention maintaining data fidelity by managing the movement of data to archive even as it is being moved for processing. These are very exacting tolerances that must be obtained and constantly managed. Interesting tech and great work.
Data Starts to Create Value
Now data reaches the point along the path where it can create some value, as it is processed. It must be collated, categorized, indexed, and made ready for evaluation. Products like Hadoop, PowerBI, SAP HANA, and others have been designed specifically to process large volumes of data quickly enough to be useful. Using them requires a deeper understanding of how they work intrinsically. Data base administrators (DBA) have enjoyed constant expansion of their learning as data entities become larger and larger. There’s your third potential point of employment!
As if springing from its cocoon, your data emerges from processing as beautiful information spreading its wings, and still fairly useless…
It’s Not Alchemy…It’s Data Science
Someone must interpret the information and convert it into knowledge before it becomes truly useful. This has become the province of the data scientist, who combines data acumen with statistical acumen, mathematic acumen, and eclectic insight to see patterns in the information that answer questions, creating knowledge. Qualified data scientists, as you can see, require a wide variety of educational experiences to enable them. Compensation in this role is extremely high and quality data scientists are in tremendous demand.
Data’s Destination – Decisions
The ultimate role of data is to be transformed into information which is converted into knowledge that begets wisdom which an executive manager uses to inform their decisions.
After a long journey like this, it’s time for a snack. Perhaps that peanut butter sandwich. Then call your New Horizons Career Counselor who will help YOU make good decisions about where along the path of data’s journey you want to find yourself next.