by Charles Roe
The nostalgic days of the sysadmin or database engineer sitting in the back corner of a server room talking to themselves while working over new Unix global variables, command line executions or MySQL syntax are past, though not long past. Data Management specialists, whether entry level positions in Database Management, Senior Operations Managers, Applications Architects or NOSQL Database Administrators all need a core skill set that translates across the profession. But, in the modern world of IT and Data Management (DM) in particular, there is a move away from specialization towards heterogeneity in terms of the job requirement packages that recruiters and HR departments are looking for. Look at any DM jobs on tech employment sites like Dice, JustTechJobs, DevBistro or iCrunchData and the skills sets required to get the best jobs read like the menu of a smorgasbord restaurant, rather than a particular cuisine.
According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistic’s study IT sector jobs are expected to increase by 53% to 2018, that is an average increase of around 6.6% per year. DM jobs are a central aspect of that growth, as the need for a comprehensive big data program has become of paramount importance in many corporations whose petabytes of storage need better management procedures. But, with so many different areas in the DM industry, what are the primary qualification and skill packages needed to get the top DM jobs?
1. Education and Certifications
Education is a fundamental qualification for any available DM jobs. DM positions routinely state on the first line of the job posting that a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Systems Engineering or a related field is necessary – for many jobs a Master’s Degree is preferred. Certifications in various programming languages, networking platforms and others including those from DAMA International, the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals, Teradata Certified Master, Oracle DBA Certified Master Professional and the IBM DB2 Universal Database Certified Solutions Expert are central to obtaining and growing within a particular position.
2. Core DM Skills
An Oracle Engineer with 15 years of experience is wonderful if they always want to be an Oracle Engineer. To move up in the DM world a prospective employee needs to have a solid foundation in the core DM skills including a background, if not direct experience, with data modeling, data warehousing, data integration, data mining and data quality. An inherent understanding of database administration is a necessity in terms of database architectures, programming and scripting, design, implementation, repair and maintenance. A top skill package will include knowledge in PERL, Python, SQL, XML, Java, C/C++ and others.
3. BI/BA are Key
Knowledge and practical skill sets in Business Intelligence (BI) and its partner-in-crime Business Analytics (BA) are a key requirement on many company’s job boards. The ability to work with data and text mining, predictive forecasting, statistical optimization, governance, along with data processing, reporting and querying will give any DM job seeker a step up on others with similar qualifications. Understanding and being able to use the various software platforms in BI/BA adds luster to any skill package, since ultimately the bottom line is a key to any company’s success.
4. Communication Skills
In 1983, Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, first posited the model of multiple intelligences, where he divided the diverse cognitive abilities of humans into seven separate intelligences including logical –mathematical, interpersonal, linguistic and others. Data Management jobs certainly require logical-mathematical competence, but in today’s environment, employees also need the ability to interact in a large team, attend conferences, collaborate, share knowledge, communicate clearly and not sit at their desk fretting about losing their red stapler. According to a top technology headhunter in the Bay Area, “Data Management is built around long-term decision making, so the ability to work with management to find out their vision and communicate those goals to others within the company, puts a premium on communication.”
5. Proven Innovation in the Workplace
DM companies want employees who can imagine a world outside of the lines of code, develop new ideas for emerging technologies and instead of worrying about how to run their business with a “MySQL + memcached + non-transparent sharding” database, to envision new alternatives. Whether Dr. Michael Stonebraker’s claim that Facebook’s implementation of MySQL is a “fate worse than death,” remains a controversial topic throughout the tech blogosphere, but what is important is the innovation that the database engineers at Facebook have used to keep the site from imploding. Make a list of workplace innovations that you have come up with, read about top DM innovations within the industry and be prepared to discuss those for your interview – knowledge of the DM industry, what is moving it forward and the ability to speak intelligently about those changes is a key qualification.
6. Get in the Cloud
According to a 2010 Microsoft survey on the growth of cloud computing across the U.S, 54% of companies questioned said they are hiring for specific cloud-based jobs, 41% of Enterprise companies said they have one or more cloud projects underway and 52% said cloud computing is a strategic opportunity for future IT growth. This is only one study of many, but it highlights a point – DM needs cloud experts. AppNexus, Rackspace Cloud Hosting, the IBM/Google cloud initiative and Amazon’s Web Services are only some of the operations that make the news, there are thousands of cloud initiatives that require expertise in cloud-based DBMS and the jobs are there for the taking.
7. Networking and Virtualization
Even with the growth of cloud computing and the contracting out of applications, development and deployment services to third-party vendors, networking skills are not going to disappear – not everything is going to go into the cloud. Many companies, both large and small, still have extensive IT infrastructures and need skilled networking professionals to help manage, evolve and upgrade them. Skill in virtualization technology is highly desired throughout the IT world, especially when a VCP (VMware Certified Professional) comes with experience in traditional networking techniques. The advent and growth of virtualization, and the definite money saving possibilities for companies, makes the ability to design and implement a virtualization program while maintaining existing network infrastructures a premium.
8. Business Expertise
Experience with BPM (Business Processing Modeling) so that you can aid in the growth of the business while creating better company wide data practices will gain interest from any Hiring Manager. Data Management needs technical people who can engage with the management and administrative levels of companies. The management’s perspective revolves around efficiency and profitability, so the implementation of a massive big data program that will take months (if not years) and money, requires those with technical expertise to explain to those without it why such a system is important. You may be able to design and implement a new DM system, but matching that to the business goals of a company requires an understanding of how DM can be profitable, scalable and realized over a period time.
9. Emerging Technologies
Knowledge of standard DM technologies like SQL-based relational databases is a key to any resume, but and understanding of at least some of the newest trends in the DBMS debate like NoSQL platforms such as Cassandra, MongoDB, Couchbase, Riak, Redis, FlockDB, Stig and a long list of others is a central component to success. The needs of cloud computing were already discussed, but advancing trends in SaaS will continue growing and need experts qualified in dealing the needs of big data. Storage facilities are growing beyond what many companies can deal with, so data warehousing techniques, skills with ERP (enterprise resource planning), ETL (extract, transform, load) and CRM (customer relationship management) solutions and processes are only going to increase in the coming years.
10. Writing Ability
Read any list of job requirements for DM jobs and eventually there is a line or two about the ability to write reports, accurately document work, create and maintain documentation or some of form of requirement for writing ability. DM teams are not looking for the next J.R.R. Tolkien or Umberto Eco, but the ability to process thoughts coherently onto a page, in a readable fashion that co-workers and managers can understand is a prime skill. Technical-minded people are notoriously bad at writing, so a DM specialist who can compose easy-to-follow, legible reports will have an upper hand in the industry. Add some of your past documentation into your portfolio to show the ability to write well.
According to Denise Dubie, in her article “Wanted for hire: generalists, not IT specialists,” specific skill sets are no longer the prime movers of getting employment in data centers. Certainly, a thorough knowledge of the field is still a necessity for top positions, but with many companies conglomerating many positions into one, hiring managers want a diversity of qualifications that includes more than just an understanding of Oracle, Python or SPARQL.