Challenges spell out opportunities in big data arena

No matter what arena you’re in, challenges and opportunities are two sides of the same coin, and especially when it comes to big data.

Whether it is with a challenge or an opportunity, collaboration between industry and education is key, and a number of well-known people from both industry and academia came together to discuss these issues at the Northern Virginia’s Big Data Symposium event on Friday.

One big challenge with big data is that there is an increasing gap in the big data workforce that is being felt by all companies engaged in the market. Companies are trying to hire skilled students out of college and sometimes even younger, but these students are being recruited at the same time by the likes of Google, Facebook and other data giants, said Gary Shiffman, president and CEO of Giant Oak LLC.

Keith Crandall, director at George Washington Computational Biology Institute stressed the importance of sitting down as educators and as business leaders to collaborate on programs and internships that show young, skilled individuals how fulfilling a corporate career can be. Plus, Crandall said, it gives these students the experience they need to succeed.

The questioned was asked about whether degrees should be offered in big data, which highlights another challenge of figuring out the longevity of the big data career. Other careers in the past have seemed promising, but as time played out and those areas continued to advance, those technologies became the status quo, and the demand for technicians in those fields diminished.

A degree in analytics, however, could work, said Frank Stein, director at Analytics Solution Center, IBM Federal. Analytics is general enough that it can be applied to a number of fields, and not just big data, he said.

As for your business, the number of business opportunities in big data are many. Growing areas in big data today are health, energy and education, said Mike Bradshaw, director of Google Federal.

But contractors should perhaps reconsider their approach.

The goal is not to wait around on FedBizOpps for a contract to come out, said Aneesh Chopra, co-founder and executive vice president, Hunch Analytics, but to analyze the problems, come up with a solution, and then market that solution to your customers.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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