Top 5 cities for big data jobs

Corporate data stores are growing exponentially, nearly every tech vendor is positioning their products to help handle the influx of data, and IT departments are scrambling to find the right people to collect, analyze and interpret data in a way that's meaningful to the business. On the employment front, the big data deluge is creating a hiring boom across North America. Modis, an IT staffing firm, identified five cities in particular where big data is driving job growth.

San Francisco tops the Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto. The roles that companies in these cities are fighting to fill include data scientist, data analyst, business intelligence professional and data modeling/data modeler.

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Business intelligence and data analysis have been core enterprise disciplines for a long time, but they're becoming more important to businesses as data volumes rise, says Laura Kelley, a Modis vice president in Houston. "We're in a new era in terms of how large the databases are, the amount of data we're collecting, and how we're using it. It's much more strategic than it's ever been."

Big data professionals can be particularly difficult to find since many roles require a complicated blend of business, analytic, statistical and computer skills -- which is not something a candidate acquires overnight. In addition, "clients are looking for people with a certain level of experience, who have worked in a big data environment. There aren't a lot of them in the market," Kelley says.

Looking at recruiting trends across its offices, Modis finds there's not one industry that's doing the most big-data hiring. Rather, the cities have in common a concentration of large enterprises across myriad industries.

San Francisco, for instance, is home to large companies in the retail, insurance, healthcare, and e-commerce sectors.

McLean, Va., has both a strong commercial sector and government presence. "There are many data center operations in this area, both commercial and government related, that require talent to support the high volume of that data," Modis explains in its report. "In addition, there is no larger consumer of IT products and services in the world than the US federal government."

Banking and bio/pharmaceutical industries helped put Boston on the big data hiring map. "Both industries deal with large amounts of data that are detailed and complex in nature. That data then needs to be analyzed and placed in reports, dashboards and spreadsheets by data scientist and analysts," Modis writes.

In St. Louis, universities and healthcare companies lead the big data hiring boom, followed by pharmaceutical and bioresearch firms that need to fill data analyst and scientist roles.

Lastly, in Toronto, financial institutions are fueling a need for business intelligence pros who can help organizations get a more precise and complete picture of the business and customers, Modis finds.

In the big picture, companies often have to compromise and prioritize their wish list -- technical expertise, industry experience or quantitative statistical analysis skills, for experience -- to find available big-data candidates.

"What is this person going to be doing? Do you need the technical skills? Or is the quantitative/statistical expertise more important? Is this person going to be doing data modeling or making business decisions?" Kelley says. "In an ideal world, companies want all of it. But it's not an ideal world."

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is abednarz@nww.com.

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