Big Data on key in keyholeBig Data is all the buzz right now; so much so that even the Obama administration is investing $200 million in big data research projects.

In the Harvard Magazine article, “Why ‘Big Data’ Is a Big Deal,” the author notes that Weatherhead University Professor Gary King believes there is currently a Big Data revolution.

“But it is not the quantity of data that is revolutionary,” King explains. “The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.”

When you hear the term “Big Data” you often think of very technical positions “doing something” with the tool. But, can job seekers, career changers, or anyone looking to get ahead put this to use for themselves and their future career goals?

Technology Consultant and Big Data Expert, Phil Simon, certainly thinks so. Simon is the award-winning author of “THE VISUAL ORGANIZATION: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions.”

“I write about how progressive organizations are using contemporary data visualization tools to find the needle in the haystack that is Big Data,” Simon explains. He adds that organizations, of course, don’t read books; people do. And the tips and advice from his book are sure to help anyone interested in leveraging the power of Big Data for their career success.

Below are five of Simon’s tips to consider as a means to make yourself more of a hybrid-employee, and therefore, as employable as possible:

1. Brush off that dusty statistics book - These days, data is becoming the lingua franca of business. You might not have to create chi-square distributions as part of your job as a marketing analyst, but understanding probability and statics certainly won’t hurt you. For instance, know what a normal distribution is and the difference between Type I and Type II errors.

2. Hone your data and tech chops - In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common for employees in marketing, HR, and finance to request data from the IT department. Now, that process seems antiquated. More and more data is available to laypeople. Play with data. Show that you can do more than just sort a spreadsheet. Be prepared to talk about ways you’ve analyzed data on different projects.

3. Learn a bit about design - In the book, I stress the importance of hybrid employees, and it’s silly to ignore a sexy topic these days: design. It doesn’t take much to influence others via colors, scales, shapes, and layouts of dataviz. Being able to speak intelligently about the subject–and demonstrate some examples–puts you at an advantage over “pure quants.”

4. Teach yourself a new tool or two - Many powerful dataviz tools are free (read: open source). One particularly robust and popular tool is D3.js. While different organizations use different tools, it’s folly to think that Excel is the sole means of representing and analyzing information.

5. Visualize your resume - Text-heavy resumes seem so 1998. Why not create a visually compelling CV like Philippe Dubost did? His remarkable Amazon.com-esque resume created quite the stir. This approach might not endear you to more hidebound organizations, but recruiters at creative and innovative companies may very well ask themselves, “What can this person do for us?”



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