I had a conversation with another person in the Big Data field. We were discussing whether the Data Engineers would become a more common job title and migrate out of Silicon Valley. I told him yes. Big Data is downright complicated on many levels. There are too many new technologies and changes within technologies where it is time prohibitive to keep up with. Engineers will need to specialize in Big Data and keeping up with it.

Ability Gap

As a trainer, I’ve lost count of the number of students and companies I’ve taught. One thing is common throughout my teaching, there is an ability gap. Some people simply won’t understand Big Data concepts on their best day.

Analysts usually talk about skills gaps when referring to a new technology. They believe it’s a matter of an individual simply learning and eventually mastering that technology. I believe that too, except when it comes to Big Data.

Higher Complexity

Big Data isn’t your average industry shift. Just like all of the shifts before it, it’s revolutionary. Unlike the previous shifts, the level of complexity is vastly greater.

This manifests itself in the individuals and students trying to learn Big Data. I’ll talk to people where I’ve figured out they have no chance of understanding the Big Data concept I’m talking about. They’ve simply hit their ability gap. They’ll keep asking the same question over and over in a vain attempt to understand.

Big Data for Everyone?

This issue isn’t relegated to just non-technical or technical roles. I’ve had people with the technical role of creating a Big Data solution hitting their ability gap in a sad way. I’ve had sales people able to converse and understand Big Data concepts with ease.

I’ve spent copious time talking to other thought leaders and instructors about this issue. Is the ability gap merely that an individual needs more time to process the information? In my experience, the answer is no. Is the issue that materials are presented too complicated? I explain Big Data concepts with Legos and playing cards in a way that even most laypeople can understand. Understanding anything past that is outside their ability.

The Need for Data Engineers

I write this piece for several reasons. One, I want companies and managers to know there is a valid reason why a Data Engineer or Data Scientist is worth their higher salary. They’ve shown that they don’t have an ability gap. Two, I want individuals to know adding Big Data to your resume will not be easy and may be outside of your reach. And that’s ok. Third, I want individuals to have realistic expectations in their abilities. Banging your head against wall to learn something outside your ability is a futile endeavor. Your time is better spent improving or learning something else.

Conversely, you shouldn’t take this piece as discouraging you from learning Big Data skills. My experience shows that a qualified instructor is the best way to learn these concepts. The instructor can realize a misunderstanding or a roadblock and help you through it. This will always be the best way to learn.

Do we need specialists in Big Data? I say a hearty yes! I see the manifestations of this need while teaching. The success or failure of Big Data projects hinges on qualified Data Engineers architecting and writing these solutions.

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