How Data Skills Can Expand Your Career

Associate Professorial Lecturer from LSE’s Department of Statistics, Dr. James Abdey, and Danilo Sato, Head of Data & AI Services UK at Thoughtworks, consider how to gain the technical knowledge, the practical and human skills to succeed in the world of data analytics.

5 min read

“It’s been estimated that in the last two-three years, humanity has collected more data digitally than in the rest of human history combined.” Dr. James Abdey.

“Many more companies are looking for data analysts, scientists, and engineers. Those skills are becoming more and more valuable…so it’s harder for us to hire and find that talent.” Danilo Sato.

Why are data skills in such high demand?

According to a 2019 report from The Royal Society, demand for workers with specialist data skills like data scientists and data engineers has surged over the past five years (+231%).

As technology continues to progress and the quantity of data available expands, data is becoming more and more prominent in the way businesses make decisions. While all businesses crave certainty, they have to operate under uncertainty. Because probability allows us to quantify certainty, we can analyse raw data in meaningful ways to make it useful and inform decision-making and, ultimately, make better decisions.

What industries are looking for data skills?

Many companies are thinking about how they can exploit the use of AI and although levels of demand for data analysis skills vary across different sectors, data skills can arguably be useful in any industry. In fact, nearly half (48%) of businesses interviewed in the government’s 2021 Quantifying the UK Data Skills Gap report were actively recruiting for data roles. More recently we have seen an increase in the use of data, particularly data visualisations, in the journalism and public sectors. Due to the pandemic, we have all been exposed to a huge amount of data; covid cases, deaths and vaccination figures, and it has been the role of data professionals to analyse and display this data objectively so it can be easily understood by a large and diverse range of people.

How are industries and education providers adapting to find more of these in-demand skills?

“It’s never too late, there are always possibilities to reskill or upskill.” Dr. James Abdey, LSE

As demand for data professionals rises, the gap between supply and demand for data skills widens. Industries are having to reduce entry barriers to find people from different backgrounds with the potential and skills to fill these roles. Cutting prerequisites, offering internal learning and development opportunities, and promoting equality in the workplace are three ways of expanding the pool of potential candidates, as well as being open-minded about previous training or education a candidate may have. Hiring people from a wide variety of backgrounds brings different skillsets and perspectives to the table which is beneficial to any business and the collective knowledge of a team will always be greater than the sum of its individual parts.

You just need to look at the growing number of data-related courses education providers are offering at every level to understand how the demand for data professionals is rising. Students are searching for programmes which teach both the technical and human skills to succeed in the world of data analytics and get data analyst skills. As technology is advancing so rapidly, it’s down to education providers to develop and offer courses which will prepare students for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past.

What are 5 core skills for data professionals to focus on?

  • Decision-making under uncertainty

It is important for us to recognise and appreciate that we are living in the present and our decisions are made in the present, but the consequences of those decisions will not be realised until some point in the uncertain future.

  • Data visualisation and descriptive statistics

Communication and data visualisation skills are key in presenting vast quantities of data effectively. Next time you see a data visualisation ask yourself, is this the most effective way of presenting the information?

  • Quantifying risk through probability

To be able to quantify risk, we need to apply probabilities using data. Analysing raw data turns it into information, knowledge and ultimately insights which can be used in decision-making.

  • Data integrity

Human beings always exhibit biases (whether conscious or unconscious), therefore when collecting data from individuals we must appreciate that these biases exist and try to remove them or adjust for them, when analysing the results.

  • Evidence-based decisions

A lot of decision-making in business is often based on gut feeling and experience but bringing more science into this process and using data as evidence, businesses can make better decisions.

About LSE’s Data Analytics Career Accelerator

Taking place across 6 months and developed in collaboration with leading technology companies, this online Data Analytics Career Accelerator will provide you with the technical skills and problem-solving competencies desired by top employers. You’ll develop fundamental data analytics competencies with immediate and long-term relevance in the digital economy. You’ll be introduced to the core concepts of data analysis, learn to use visualisations to communicate insights through storytelling, and apply technical knowledge of programming to business use-cases. With input from leading technology companies, you’ll engage directly with the tools used in industry and practise their use in project-based exercises.

Further information