The adoption of computing in both business and everyday life has left us suddenly looking at an incredible, global digital footprint. It took less than a decade for desktop PCs to shrink to handheld devices, making them easier to use – but each instance of usage just creates more information.
Too much information
The size of the data universe is expected to reach 180 zettabytes by 2025, an incomprehensible figure. There is a finite amount of information we can comprehend and assimilate before being overwhelmed, which means that there’s more data out there than any human could ever possibly use.
Oddly, this could provide the answer for businesses looking to make use of big data to guide their future decisions. Although our brains become overwhelmed by data, they have a remarkable ability to take intuitive leaps, or choose the line of best fit to navigate through complicated figures without a definitive ‘right’ answer. Businesses themselves already know that simply having access to the numbers – what used to be termed ‘raw data’ – doesn’t give any insight into your business or customers, it needs context.
Can a computer act as a brain?
This is where big data and artificial intelligence (AI) have been trying to work together for years. There are two types of AI; narrow field AI scans big data for specific correlations or patterns, while general AI tries to replicate human levels of identifying and then learning to improve. The problem with both of these methods is that while they can cope with all of the information that big data provides, they can’t replicate the human levels of cognition, or make the kind of leap that humans can. This means that it’s still up to people to leverage big data, humanise the numbers and provide insight into the analytics.
This creates a unique opportunity for career progression, as everybody from movie-streaming services to road haulage firms need people to take the wealth of information and turn it into a useful business asset. There could be insights into why companies have poor retention rates, information about user experience or even ways to automate and improve services, as well as the efficiency savings that companies strive for, all just hiding in the numbers. According to one Harvard Business Review article, these aims form some of the ‘top priority’ measures for companies.
Seizing an opportunity
Companies need people to make sense of these numbers, but many people don’t feel they have the background in analytics or data collection to successfully transition or start their career in the burgeoning field. This is why the University of York now offers a new 100% online MSc in Computer Science with Data Analytics, designed for graduates or working professionals who may not have a computer science background, but wish to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.
Obtaining business critical skills, such as data analytics, data mining and the fundamentals of cybersecurity not only give you a solid grounding in the field, but as all learning materials are delivered online, you have the flexibility to learn in your spare time and still keep your current job role. As you don’t need to take an extended career break, you can earn as you learn and apply the knowledge you gain as you go. There is also the option to pay-per-module, which removes the need for large, up-front payments and there are six start dates per year, which means you can start within weeks and makes obtaining a prestigious Russell Group Masters degree a very flexible option.
Big data is of no use to companies without big insights, and as the skills are currently in short supply, it creates a unique opportunity for those who want to break into a fascinating new career.