Why big data skills are a big deal in Scot­land

The Myanmar Times - - Business -

WHAT’S be­ing called the “sex­i­est ca­reer of the 21st cen­tury”? Data sci­en­tist. Sur­prised? You shouldn’t be.

There’s noth­ing more pow­er­ful than the in­sight that prop­erly an­a­lysed data de­liv­ers, and it has the po­ten­tial to trans­form vir­tu­ally ev­ery busi­ness.

Many of the things that we do ev­ery day, from send­ing a text to us­ing con­tact­less pay­ments, are gen­er­at­ing data. And as tech­nolo­gies like smart home ap­pli­ances and elec­tric ve­hi­cles be­come more com­mon, the amount of avail­able data will grow.

The peo­ple who know how to gather that data, an­a­lyse it and show ex­ec­u­tives how it can shape their growth plans are the ones who will be in the great­est de­mand.

Driv­ing Scot­land’s fin­tech fu­ture Big data has an es­pe­cially big role to play the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor. Fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies that man­age to crack big data will be bet­ter placed to un­der­stand and pre­dict cus­tomers and mar­kets. This will give them a com­pet­i­tive edge over their ri­vals.

“If you want to keep a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in fi­nan­cial ser­vices and to move ahead, you have to have these data skills,” says Josh Ryan-Saha, pro­gramme man­ager and in­no­va­tion con­sul­tant at The Data Lab.

The Data Lab helps com­pa­nies, the pub­lic sec­tor and uni­ver­si­ties work to­gether to de­velop new data sci­ence projects.

“The best com­pa­nies will be us­ing data now to de­velop new prod­ucts and ser­vices. They can choose any­where in the world, so Scot­land needs to have peo­ple here with the skills they need now and in the fu­ture.

“Scot­land is in a good place,” he says. “There is lo­cal tal­ent here. We can do really well.”

Uni­ver­si­ties rise to the chal­lenge Of course, it’s not just the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor that can ben­e­fit from data. All com­pa­nies, from small start-ups to global tech gi­ants, can im­prove their prod­ucts and ser­vices by get­ting bet­ter in­sight into their cus­tomers and their be­hav­iour.

Scot­land’s uni­ver­si­ties are play­ing a big role in sup­ply­ing the data tal­ent that com­pa­nies need. Ed­in­burgh’s School of In­for­mat­ics at­tracts some of the best tal­ent in the world – around 150 masters stu­dents alone – as well as skilled num­ber crunch­ers from the School of Sta­tis­tics.

The Univer­sity’s EPSRC Cen­tre for Doc­toral Train­ing (CDT) in Data Sci­ence is in help­ing train up a new gen­er­a­tion of highly skilled data sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing 50 PhDs over five years. The first group of stu­dents started in Septem­ber 2014.

The Data Lab is also sup­port­ing fu­ture data sci­en­tists through the Data Lab Msc, which is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween the or­gan­i­sa­tion and 11 Scot­tish uni­ver­si­ties.

One of these col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­grammes is the MSc level Data Sci­ence for Busi­ness at Univer­sity of Stir­ling, run in part­ner­ship with SAS and de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with HSBC.

Dr Kevin Swingler, course di­rec­tor of MSc in Big Data at Stir­ling, says, “Data and the new things that data al­low com­put­ers to do is dis­rupt­ing al­most ev­ery as­pect of mod­ern life. It is rare for a sin­gle tech­nol­ogy to have such a wide im­pact and it is ex­cit­ing to be part of that.”

Big op­por­tu­ni­ties for big data tal­ent Robin Hug­gins, head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at re­cruit­ment spe­cial­ists MBN So­lu­tions, says Scot­land is ide­ally placed to take on the chal­lenges of big data. MBN So­lu­tions has worked with The Data Lab to find work place­ments for 50 of the stu­dents it helps fund. “We sit in an op­ti­mal po­si­tion with re­gards to the de­liv­ery of the next breed of data spe­cial­ists,” he says. “Data spe­cial­ists come from a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent routes and this va­ri­ety is a strength. We have the school leavers - tech­nol­ogy na­tive young adults, to whom ‘all things data’ come very nat­u­rally.

“Then, we have older, more ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple who have touched upon data in a pre­vi­ous role and de­cided to fo­cus on this space as it holds a larger ap­peal to them than other tech­nol­ogy sec­tors.

“Fi­nally, we have peo­ple from other pro­fes­sional walks of life who have de­cided to re­train. The skills they have de­vel­oped in other roles of­ten make them ex­tremely well rounded data spe­cial­ists.”

When it comes to data, Scot­land is al­ready ahead of the game – now we just need to keep go­ing.

“We have a sim­ple choice to make. The sta­ble door is al­ready open. We’re either on the horse or we’re not.”

‘The best com­pa­nies will be us­ing data now to de­velop new prod­ucts and ser­vices. They can choose any­where in the world...’

Josh Ryan-Saha The Data Lab

Photo: Face­book/ Scot­tish En­ter­prise

Big data has an es­pe­cially big role to play the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor.

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