Ask the Experts

Demystifying Data

I’m currently in the process of applying for jobs in a lot of different sectors because my focus during school has been on business and entrepreneurship. I’m not much of a tech person. I can use my smartphone and laptop like everyone else, but a lot of these jobs and their websites mention things like “understanding data solutions” and “streamlining web-based services to the cloud for economic flexibility.”

I don’t want to sound like a total amateur if these topics come up in interviews. Even if they don’t ask me about these things, they seem important to understanding costs for businesses. I don’t need a degree in computer science, but can you please translate some of this jargon so I feel better prepared?

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve hit on an incredibly important topic for businesses everywhere. Like you said, not everyone needs to be a computer scientist or a “tech person” to understand the impact that data creation and storage has on businesses. Most businesses store a tremendous amount of data, and that accumulation of so much data comes with very literal costs: data storage, electricity to support data storage, and, depending on the sensitivity of the data, additional costs for security and data compliance. This isn’t a problem that’s going away, either: according to the IDC, the explosion in data and its ubiquity in day-to-day work will force companies to transform in both internal culture and operations. Why is this happening? Studies have shown an estimated 4300 percent increase in annual data production by 2020, and companies have to figure out a way to store and access their data safely and cost-effectively.

But how does this affect you, since you’re applying for entry level jobs and not trying to solve a company’s data problems? In short, understanding of these issues from the outset will allow you to understand some of the conversations happening above your pay grade and help you anticipate some of the decisions managers make. In speaking with data integration developers at Liaison, it’s important to become conversant in the differences between iPaaS and dPaaS cloud integration services so companies can get the most out of their stored data. Your ability to distinguish, in conversation, between companies like Facebook that need massive storage solutions and the company you work for, will likely help you stand out as someone who is keeping tabs on industry trends. As a younger worker, people will be impressed if you can talk a bit about things like colocation security systems, which give businesses the advantage of a scalable solution (e.g., as data needs fluctuate, data storage can change with needs).

Taking steps to understand what sounds a lot like industry buzzwords could give you a competitive edge in the job market, but at the very least it will get you started on understanding problems that almost all businesses will inevitably face in the coming years. A natural curiosity about what challenges businesses are likely to face will pay dividends in the long run as you are able to see the bigger picture and potentially move up in a company. There’s a wealth of information about different aspects of data and data security and how it will impact the business world for years to come–read up and prepare yourself for a great career!

“The only constant in the technology industry is change.” — Marc Benioff

Dennis Cook is a Software Engineer and Data Science Instructor at General Assembly.