Big data, big jobs?

A slew of new jobs is expected to open up in big data, but not everyone in IT will qualify. Here's what employers will be looking for.

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"Everybody's asking, how do you identify these people? What skills do you look for? What is their degree?" echoes Greta Roberts, CEO of Talent Analytics Corp., which makes software designed to help employers correlate employees' skills and innate characteristics to business performance.

The skills most often mentioned in connection with big data jobs, say Roberts, Phillips and others, include math, statistics, data analysis, business analytics and even natural language processing. And although not consistent, some titles, such as data scientist and data architect, are becoming more common.

Must have: Intense curiosity

As companies search for talent, they are looking more towards application developers and software engineers than to IT operations, says Josh Wills, senior director of data science at Cloudera, which sells and supports a commercial version of the open-source Hadoop framework for managing big data.

That's not to say IT operations are not needed in big data. After all, they build the infrastructure and enable the big data systems. "This is where the Hadoop guys come in," says D.J. Patil, data scientist in residence at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm.

"Without these guys, you can't do anything. They are building incredible infrastructure, but they are not necessarily doing the analysis." IT staff can quickly and easily learn Hadoop through traditional classes or by teaching themselves, he notes. Burgeoning training programs at the major Hadoop vendors testify to the fact that many IT folks are doing so.

That said, most of the jobs emerging in big data require knowledge of programming and the ability to develop applications, as well as knowing how to meet business needs.

The most important qualifications for these positions are not academic degrees, certifications, job experience or titles. Rather, they seem to be the soft skills: a curious mind, the ability to communicate with non-technical people, a persistent -- even stubborn -- character and a strong creative bent.

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