Today, most of the jobs available in data analytics (DA) are for computer science graduates, but there are some companies that particularly look for electronics engineers. An engineering degree with a knack for programming, statistics and mathematics is the latest choice for employers hiring in the DA domain. Anand Sankaran, senior principal architect, Verizon Data Services, India informs that many universities in the US, Europe and India have started specialised courses both at graduate and undergraduate levels to cater to the increasing demand for DA professionals. The exponential growth in DA is catalysed by an unprecedented availability of data, thanks to a steep fall of storage cost and the ubiquitous need to extract valuable insights from a volume of data to solve business problems. He says, “A recent article in the Harvard Business Review predicts that DA will be one of the coolest and the fastest growing career paths in the coming decade, and we have seen studies that highlight a shortfall of qualified candidates to meet the job requirements in this space.”
Basically, engineers have a good blend of learning in technology, mathematics and data science. Sudeshna Datta, EVP and co-founder, Absolutdata says, “Engineers have been critical to the growth of the analytics market in India and are very apt to make a career in DA. To add, now there are institutions who help engineers learn the basics of machine learning and big data in the curriculum.” However, Ashish Soni, chief analytics officer, Costarch believes that engineering graduates fit into the area of DA only if they have an inclination towards number crunching. Their quantitative and computer skills give them the competitive edge that graduates from other streams do not have. In short, he says, “If an engineering graduate is looking for a career in data analytics, he/ she should focus on improving his/ her numerical computation skills, learn some numerical programming language and explore the area of statistics.” Engineering graduates with a good knowledge of programming and business can have a well-defined career path in this sector. Harvard Business School predicts that there is a serious dearth of data scientists in the US alone. “With open data movements gathering steam across the world, scope for engineering graduates to make a career in data analytics is huge,” says Kaushank Nalin Khandwala, manager, Data Centre and Analytics Lab, IIM Bangalore.
Current opportunities for engineers
In the coming decade, social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) are the strategic focus areas for many technology companies. The entry-level roles in analytics are in the areas of data modelling, data visualisation, business analysis and reporting. Apart from their core field, engineers are now hired by IT companies, KPOs, captive analytics units and niche analytics organisations across various entry-level roles, such as management trainees, analysts and assistant managers in the risk, marketing and analytics consulting roles. Over the last 14 months, the spike in big data roles has also added to the mix. There are a lot of opportunities for fresh engineering graduates who have the right kind of skill set. The entrylevel roles generally involve a profile where the graduates are required to aggregate, compile and screen the data and also prepare a datasheet for further analysis. In addition, they may also be asked to explore the data to find some insights before applying any data analysis technique. For engineers, roles will also be of programmers, specifically for Java, Python and R. Freshers with good knowledge of Hadoop and cloud computing will have a distinct advantage. For experienced graduates, roles range from business intelligence specialists, programmers, open source experts to Hadoop engineers, cloud computing experts, Java, Python, text mining specialists and domain specialists.
At PayScale.com, the average salary indicated for an entry-level data analyst is Rs 257,383 per year. The skills that increase pay for this job the most are SAS, SPSS and quality improvement/QA. A mid-career data analyst earns an average salary of Rs 400,236 per year. The highest paying skills associated with this job are database, SAS, Microsoft SQL server and SQL (refer charts). Some industry experts preferred to keep the pay packages confidential and the others gave us a basic idea. At Costarch, Soni informs, “We do recruit engineers to work in this domain with our company but we do not have any fixed pay package for our recruits and it depends very much on their skill sets. But to give you an idea, the entry-level package varies between Rs 240,000 and Rs450,000 and for experienced professionals, it varies between Rs500,000 to Rs1,000,000.”
Vivek Madhukar, COO, TimesJobs.com explained, “DA is a high-demand profession that is going to continue to attract the best and brightest technological minds for a long time to come many CIOs today started out as DA specialists. DA is the job of finding business insights in figures and facts—at a junior-to-mid-level career this comprises extracting information from raw data. At a mid-to-senior-level position, this information is processed into knowledge that is leveraged for business growth.” He further adds, “If you are someone who is good at discovering and communicating meaningful patterns in data and are looking for a career in DA, target IT software companies and be prepared to relocate to the south as Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad account for almost half of the jobs available in this sector.” According to the data provided by TimesJobs.com, the top industries hiring DA professionals is the IT industry with about 42 per cent share of jobs followed by the manufacturing and engineering industry with a share of 10 per cent. Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) and ITES-BPO (information technology-enabled service-business process outsourcing) have 9 per cent and 4 per cent of the jobs, respectively (refer pie charts). Apart from Bangalore and Mumbai that feature in the list of top locations for jobs in the DA field with 25 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, Delhi shares 19 per cent of the jobs and, Chennai and Hyderabad with 10 per cent of the jobs each. Remaining jobs are scattered in other locations (refer pie charts).
Both freshers and experienced graduates should have a balanced mix of left brain and right brain skills, informs Anand. They need to be able to both count and connect the dots, be curious enough to question everything they see and sceptical enough not to accept every answer they hear, be both an analyst and an artist. Key skills include logical thinking, analytical bent of mind, strong grip on mathematics, statistics and concepts of probability. Madhukar says, “Those who are comfortable playing with numbers complemented with data visualisation, good business understanding and communication skills will do very well.” Talking about AbsolutData, Datta says, “The major areas that we expect people to be strong are quantitative ability, problem-solving skills, good aptitude and lateral thinking.” On the other hand, Soni notes, “The skill sets required to excel in this area include, interest in number crunching, good logic reasoning, knowledge and experience with some statistical package, programming knowledge and should be able to think out of the box.”
DA is a 23 billion dollar industry, informs Datta. She says, “Over the last decade, India has witnessed a change in even top tier strategy consulting companies using data-based decision making, surely the trend is changing. Eventually data-based analytics is going to be the space to watch out for!” With encouraging career prospects and amongst the most well-paid careers, DA jobs surely seem to be the next big thing for engineers to consider. It is already beginning to revamp businesses and their ability to compete by helping them make smarter decisions. Analytics is the new career choice for those who want to stay ahead. Analytics is not too much into tools or technologies, it is a method of thinking that permits the use of knowledge, tools and technologies to extract valuable insights from data. Analytics jobs and careers exist in most large companies in almost every industry vertical.