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bigdatajobs2How big is the field of big data in Washington state?

Pretty huge.

Photo via Shutterstock

An estimated 38,170 people work in big data related jobs, making up 1.4 percent of the total workforce in the state. That’s second only to Virginia, according to research that’s set to be released on Tuesday by consulting firm McKinsey & Company at the Technology Alliance’s Insight to Impact conference.

“It is an exploding space,” said Ewan Duncan, who compiled the research on behalf of the Technology Alliance and serves as Seattle director for McKinsey & Company. “We are well positioned, but I think there is a lot more upside.”

That upside is seen in the number of open job positions in the Seattle area related to big data roles, higher than many other cities on a per capita basis. Even so, as the chart below shows, the number of graduates in Washington state with skills that could be applied in the field of big data are relatively low (behind Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, California and other states) — similar to a finding released in a report last week by the WTIA and consistent with the Technology Alliance’s repeated calls for more spending on education in the state.

Duncan noted that the “hype” around big data is still a bit in front of the actual delivery with many companies just starting to apply data analytics in their day-to-day activities.

“That is where the real opportunity is,” he said.

jobpostings33The report is part of a larger study that the Technology Alliance plans to release in the coming weeks, one which looks in great detail at the impact of big data technologies in Washington state.

The one challenge with analyzing the field of big data is that it can be hard to define. Duncan tries to get at this by breaking the value chain into five areas: services and support (Chef, 2nd Watch, etc.); intelligence & analytics (Context Relevant, Microsoft, ExtraHop, etc.); visualization and discovery (Tableau Software, Dato, F5, etc.); infrastructure (Amazon, Microsoft, Redapt, etc.); and creation (Socrata and Vertafore).

bigdata77While there is no single definition for big data, Duncan said that three important trends are emerging: very large data sets, advanced analytics to distill the data and utilizing analytics to refine businesses processes.

The Seattle area is historically strong in software engineering, which is naturally playing a role in the state’s importance in big data jobs.

“Seattle ranks highly in computer science overall, and I think that translates into big data,” said Duncan, adding that many of the large Silicon Valley tech companies are setting up shop in the region because of this talent.

The Insight to Impact conference, taking place Tuesday in downtown Seattle, will feature speakers such as Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain; INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele and University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska.

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