Linda Burtch, Managing Director at Burtch Works | 30+ years’ experience in quantitative recruiting
Another year into the data-driven boom, and several longer-term trends have been taking shape. Looking over my predictions from last year, there are also a few that have begun to further coalesce going into 2019. I’m eager to dig in and see what insights we can glean, so without further ado, shall we?
1. China will aggressively target US-based data science talent
As I pointed out in my 2018 predictions, China is positioning itself to overtake the US in analytics and technology, and they are aggressively recruiting US talent. Chinese companies hoping to land the best and the brightest have been keen to take advantage of the robust data science and analytics training that US universities offer, and I’ve heard from many of my senior-level candidates that they’re being approached.
2. GDPR may turn the EU into an AI desert
While it’s clear that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has already made an impact on global companies, it’s likely that the full implications of this sweeping regulation are yet to come. Naturally, since the fuel for artificial intelligence is copious amounts of data, anything that restricts access can hurt AI innovation and potential.
GDPR’s requirement for clear, affirmative consent for consumer data collection threatens to turn the European Union into a data science desert, and with the first GDPR-related complaints still making their way through the regulatory system, we have yet to see how significant its impact will be.
3. Python will overtake R and SAS
The results of our 2018 SAS, R, or Python flash survey showed, for the first time, all three tools battling within 1 percentage point of one another for the honor of being crowned the “tool of choice” among data scientists and analytics professionals. Looking at the five-year trend, it’s clear that Python is on the rise, and I expect that this year we’ll see it catapult above R and SAS into the top spot.
4. Legacy firms in California are expanding beyond the Golden State in their quest for quantitative talent
We all know California digital native firms have been setting up shop in other states to compete for talent, but I’ve also seen more traditional, legacy organizations beginning to adopt the same strategy, just without the flashy headlines of say, Google or Facebook. With California’s cost of living accelerating out of control (and salaries along with it), many firms have taken to opening offices in other attractive (but less expensive) urban areas such as Austin, Chicago, or Detroit to compete for quantitative talent that has begun to eschew California.
5. Salaries have been flat, but will increase this year
While our salary studies for data scientists and traditional predictive analytics professionals have showed salaries holding relatively steady for the past few years, this year I’m predicting we’ll see more noticeable bumps in salary levels. Companies have been trying to bridge the gap with bonuses and other “perks”, but to compete in today’s competitive landscape they’ll need to address salary bands for their quantitative staff.
6. Upskilling and bootcamps rising up to address the talent shortage
Upskilling seems to be on the mind of every hiring manager I’ve spoken to, and just might be a contender for buzzword of the year! As hiring frustrations continue to mount, companies are becoming more serious about internal training, with many turning to bootcamps to arm their quant-adjacent workers with more robust data science skills.
We’ve always preached lifelong learning as the key to keeping your skills fresh, and especially now it’s crucial for data scientists to keep expanding their skills in order to keep up with this swiftly-evolving field.
7. The visa battle will continue
Our annual salary studies have found that the data science and analytics fields, especially at the early career levels, are flush with candidates needing some type of visa support. Now that premium processing for H-1B and other visas is on hold (which typically allows employers to shorten the visa process by paying a fee), the hiring process has been significantly disrupted for many.
Since there is some dispute over if and how the US visa process should be overhauled, I am skeptical that this situation will be cleaned up in 2019. One tactic that I’ve seen some firms use to circumvent the US visa tangle is to set up their visa-requiring candidates in Canada instead. Stay tuned for a potential update on this situation in mid-February, which when the premium processing suspension is set to be reviewed.
8. Even your grandparents will know how to pronounce Huawei
Whereas last year I predicted that even your grandparents would be AI-savvy, in 2019 I think that Chinese tech firms are going to be the hot topic around the dinner table. The accelerating growth of Chinese tech giants over the past three years has been tremendous, and although many have been unfamiliar to the US market at large, that will likely shift. With firms like Alibaba and WeChat beginning to permeate our collective consciousness, I predict that soon even more Chinese firms will be making their presence known to US consumers.
9. The MS in Analytics degree will overtake the traditional MBA
Alright that’s all of the more pedestrian predictions, now it’s time to go out on a limb for a second!
In 2018, 70% of two-year MBA programs reported a decline in applications, meanwhile new data science and analytics programs continue to pop up to address the clear demand for quantitative talent. This excellent overview from the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Caroline State University shows just how many data science and analytics programs have been developed since 2007. With interest in traditional MBA programs flagging, I believe that analytics and data science degrees are ready to take center stage. Only time will tell!
What do you think of my predictions this year? Do you have any of your own that you’d like to add in the comments? Let me know what you think!
Want to learn more about my predictions and their implications for quantitative careers and employers? You can view the 30-minute webinar recording below, where I discuss these trends in more detail.