Crunching the numbers on Big Data recruitment

Lawrence Jones

Monday 28 September 2015

Big Data recruitment is big business. See how the UK stacks up in this global competition for talent.

The challenge of handling and analysing vast quantities of data is at the heart of Big Data. For those who get it right these insights are the key to driving profitability.

The speciality and complexity of the challenge – and the skills needed to achieve it – are heavily in demand, with the international marketplace for Big Data roles becoming more and more competitive. A recent Forbes report in the US highlights a clear growth sector for those with the right skills and experience. Just how does the UK match up?

Crunching the numbers

IT Recruitment makes up 12 per cent of the UK’s total recruitment spend. Worth around £3bn every year, London is the place to be for IT jobseekers with 70 per cent of all roles advertised there. Around 10 per cent of all UK IT jobs advertised are considered to be Big Data.

The average salary in the UK for Big Data roles is £60,938 per year, a rise of almost 5 per cent in the past year according to the most recent Experis Tech Cities Job Watch report. Comparing this to the American market, where the average salary is $104,850 (at the time of writing around £69,000), there’s not that much difference.

Representing the specialist skills needed, Big Data roles in the UK are better paid on average than those in the Cloud (£53,395), IT Security (£53,733), Mobile (£48,957) and Web Development (£48,722) sectors.

London is clearly the Big Data capital with workers paid 5 per cent more than the UK average, and 36 per cent more than roles in Birmingham – just an hour away. Perhaps reflecting the growth of the biotech companies, Cambridge is the next best place to be a Big Data job seeker.

For contractors, the average Big Data day rate was a healthy £526 (before VAT). Interestingly, contractors saw a lower yearly pay increase of just 1 per cent perhaps suggesting a desire for employers to keep things in-house and protect these valuable skills.

Sector specific

In its Big Data League, EMC identifies the retail sector as being the best at using information effectively. In a survey across 300 businesses in several sectors and industries, retail was closely followed by manufacturing and IT & telecommunications in the data management challenge.

The survey highlighted some issues for professionals, with 42 per cent of respondents concerned that IT infrastructure limitations are holding them back and 45 per cent of businesses recording a lack of data analytics platform experience.

While admittedly a small-scale survey, the report highlights a sector brimming with possibilities and one set to grow and expand as the challenge of using Big Data to drive business improvement becomes more important.

IT Skills

According to the Experis report, there is an increasing demand for professionals with skills in open-source platform Apache Hadoop.

Across the industry, there has also been a rising interest in those with skills in Big Data analytics and Business Intelligence tools such as Splice Machine, Tableau and SAP HANA.

But it’s not all about platforms. Maura May, of award winning recruitment agency Next-Ventures, has an interesting take on the skills Big Data experts need to get ahead: “Many of the technical skills are transferable, so it’s not necessarily essential to have used the exact software (or version of the software) which the employer in question is currently using.”

Indeed, for recruiters, it can be the soft skills that make the difference.

“Arguably the most important thing is finding someone who can draw insight from huge datasets and then relay their findings clearly to senior level stakeholders or external clients,” May adds. “It’s all well and good having someone who can do the technical piece, but it’s a real added bonus if this individual has the soft skills to go with it.”

Industry perspective

Simon Parkinson, Director of Operations and Solution Architecture at The Dot Group explains what he looks for when recruiting for a role: “Big Data jobs require a combination of web developers and architects, data scientists, analysts and data modellers, project managers, consultants and administrators.”

Given the increasing demand for Big Data experts, Parkinson suggests recruiters may need to focus more on skills than on sector-specific expertise. “The Big Data recruitment pool is thought to be smaller than demand, yet it is a pool that reaches broadly across job types and functions. Employers need to look closely to identify relevant as well as transferable experience and skill-sets,” he pursues.

The Big Data challenge is similar across industries and organisations, so where can job-seekers identify a ‘unique selling point’ when going for their next role?

“A challenge we regularly come across with clients is in trying to govern the traceability of decisions made from data within Big Data Architectures,” Parkinson adds. “This is an increasingly important skill that applicants will find differentiates themselves from the pool.”

Future for Big Data

Individuals who help companies crack the Big Data challenge can expect to be paid well. Given the rarity and speciality of the skills needed, it’s a situation that’s likely to continue – in the UK, Europe and the US, believes Maura May.

For her, the conclusion is very clear: “More accurate analysis can result in more confident decision making, which in turn can lead to reduced risk and higher profits. With that in mind, the demand for big data experts (whether it be Data Scientists, Data Engineers etc.) is continuing to climb at a swift rate, and this is very much the case on a global scale, not just UK and Europe.”

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