Guest blog by Nigel West, Principal Consultant – Data Visualisation and Analytics at Synechron:

The subject of the article covers an enormously wide subject area that could easily take a few days to write about, so in fact what I’m going to do is to write about working with data and by doing so will cover on the areas of information and technology by association.

My background

I have worked with data for the last 32 years and have in that time covered many different aspects of working with data from modelling Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems through to standard MI (Management Information) provision and more recently in the areas of data visualisation, data discovery, data mining and aspects of artificial intelligence (among others).

Current state of play

Throughout my 30+ year career I have been employing people in IT and data related roles and I cannot remember a time when this was not an incredibly exciting area to work in. The speed with which technology changes take place has never slowed and the appetite for change never diminishes, an illustration of this is the exponential growth of data.

A relatively short time ago we were storing and transporting data on a 5 ¼” floppy disk. This was followed by a 3 ½” disk which held a massive 1.44MB. These were followed by CDs and DVDs and lately by USB thumb drives which reduce in size whilst increasing in capacity. A thumb drive can now hold as much as 256GB. This represents a more than 74 million % increase in capacity, and that is just portable storage.

  • In terms of permanent storage in a single repository we have gone from IBM’s first 5MB hard disk to be able to store multiple Petabytes of data in a storage array.
  • Google and Amazon and others have data warehouses (physical buildings) the size of multiple football fields that are built just to hold your data.

Organisations everywhere are now waking up to the idea that they have vast amounts of intelligence available to them inside their data, and that many of them are not making anywhere near enough use of that data. The opportunities available to help these organisations better understand their clients, their markets, their products are huge.

Data is central to the subjects of Artificial Intelligence and to Machine Learning and of course by implication is the foundation for self-driving cars and all forms of robotics. Anybody wishing to create a career in those areas needs to have a solid understanding of data in all its forms. In my, admittedly very humble opinion, a career in either of those disciplines is simply an extension or a specialism of a career in data.

What does the future look like

Who knows?

And isn’t that another great reason to be involved, because to be involved means you have the opportunity to shape things.

Several things are certain:

  • Data will continue to grow, and will grow faster than it has done in the past.
  • Our appetite to understand and utilise that data will grow.
  • The technologies available to analyse and utilise that data will improve.

How to get into a career in data

Like many careers, there are numerous ways to get into a career in data, I am working at a consultancy organisation that has a specialist division dealing with data in the financial services industry and we have a graduate scheme to help bring new graduates into the workplace. When choosing an appropriate company to work with you should choose carefully.

You should look for an organisation that values you enough to help you through the first years of your career, at the same time you should recognise that you are a significant investment on behalf of the company, and they need to get a return on that investment. Work is the same as any relationship, it only works if both parties are properly invested in it.