27 Jun 2015 17:27 IST

How to make a career in data analytics

Looking to grow professionally and financially? Consider pursuing data analytics

Five billion cell-phone users around the globe call, text and tweet; around 1.44 billion Facebook users upload more than 250 million posts a day; over $300,000 is spent on online purchases per minute — to call this a vast amount of data would be an understatement. If you are looking for a specific piece of information, no traditional software tool can process and analyse all this data in a reasonable time frame. It is simply too immense and unstructured.

So what do you do if you want to understand and analyse such a colossal amount of information? It is here that big data analytics comes into play. This holistic information management strategy, that integrates a variety of new kinds of data alongside traditional numbers, is used to derive actionable intelligence that helps deliver business results. Companies have realised the importance of data analytics in fuelling their growth. According to a Nasscom report, the Indian analytics market is expected to touch $2.3 billion by the end of 2018.

Must for the new manager

“Analytics is the first step towards making tailor-made solutions for people, which is the key to success of any business today,” says S Ganesh, Managing Director of Dun & Bradstreet Inc.

So what does this growing role of data analytics imply for the management professional? In April 2014, The Wall Street Journal put it succinctly, when it said: ‘Get familiar with big data now, or face a permanent pink slip’. This might turn out to be true in India as well.

The co-founders of Jigsaw Academy, a leading online analytics training school, explained that you need data analytics skills to be competitive in the market, whether you’re an MBA graduate or an aspirant. It is no longer enough for a manager to make decisions based on history or gut-feelings. The need of the hour is to possess proactive insight, wherein you make decisions based on data from both internal and external sources.

Prof PK Viswanathan of the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, says that corporates look to recruit technologically savvy professionals, who are adept at the new analytics language R, alongside Hadoop, and are experts in text mining and analytical modelling.

Boost your career and salary

The aforementioned benefits stem directly from the huge demand for data scientists today. There is a stark supply-demand mismatch in the analytics field, and reports show that many positions are going unfilled, while others are being filled with difficulty.

This is reflected in the fact that the average entry-level annual salary for a data scientist went up by 27 per cent from ₹5.2 lakh in 2013 to ₹6.6 lakh in 2014, according to Jigsaw Academy’s Annual Salary Report 2014.

A progress in one’s career from entry-level analyst to manager typically leads to a 250 per cent hike in salary. It is also predicted that entry-level salaries will grow by five to 10 per cent, and salaries for those with over five years of experience will grow by 10 to 15 per cent in the next year. Managers in analytics command above ₹15 lakh, which increases by more than 60 per cent at the senior manager level.

Do you have what it takes?

So what are the pre-requisites for learning data science? Quantitative ability is a given; while you need not be a math whiz, a solid background in mathematics and statistics is essential, with a genuine interest in quantitative subjects. After all, data is all about numbers.

Perhaps, even more important is a knack for logical thinking, in order to arrive at intelligent conclusions. It is essential for every student of data science to have a deep thirst for knowledge that ‘will help you to keep questioning the status quo and deliver insights that will deliver business results that are not immediately visible to others’, as Jigsaw puts it.

But these skills are not all that matter. According to D&B’s Ganesh, the data analytics field is open to anybody who has a passion for predicting human behaviour. This means that the field is open for people from all backgrounds, including social sciences and arts, and not just mathematics and statistics, as specialised knowledge in various disciplines can be very useful in making predictions in different areas. For instance, a good architect can analyse geospatial data more efficiently than a mathematician.

Math houses

Data analytics and the usage of algorithms to analyse data will be widespread soon. World renowned management guru Ram Charan, in an interview to Business Line, said that companies that have deep algorithmic capabilities will possess a huge advantage over those that don’t, even over those that have been highly successful in the past.

Charan calls these companies Math houses, and says they are creating structural uncertainty for all industries. “Google, FB and Amazon were created as mathematical corporations; they were born digital. Apple became a Math corporation after Steve Jobs returned as CEO. This trend will accelerate. Legacy companies that can’t make the shift will be vulnerable to digital competitors,” he explains. The global guru, who advises top corporate entities around the world, says the algorithmic revolution is sweeping across all industries from pharma to manufacturing. He says this algorithmic revolution will create greater uncertainty for established companies with competitors that appear in an instant and scale up quickly.

Where to learn

Given the acute demand for analysts and the significance of analytic skills in decision-making, several prominent institutes in India recently launched specialised programmes in business analytics. For example, Great Lakes offers a Post Graduate Programme in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence , which is designed to provide a comprehensive knowledge of analytic techniques with an orientation to their application in business problems, using state-of-the-art technology, software, and a virtual lab, so students learn more effectively.

You could also choose to do a certification course in data analytics, like the ones offered by Jigsaw Academy. They range from three to four months programmes, to specialisations of 12-18 months, and have been developed by professionals, for professionals who understand industry needs. Jigsaw offers an Executive MBA programme as well, in association with SDA Bocconi School of Management, which is ranked 31{+s}{+t} in the world by Financial Times for its MBA.

Companies like Dun & Bradstreet even offer recruits training in data analytics, collaborating with institutes such as the Indian School of Business. Whether you go for a short-term certification, or an MBA in business analytics, it would be wise not to miss the data analytics bus, for this will pave the way, not just for growth in your career but also for your survival in a competitive marketplace.

Recommended for you
/* article author desc short */