Google data experts share top data practitioner skills needed in 2022
Data Analytics Associate Product Marketing Manager
It’s 2022 and nanosatellites, NFTs, and autonomous cars that deliver your pizza are in full force. In a world where people rely on simple technology to untangle complex problems, companies must deliver simple experiences to be successful in today’s landscape. For many cloud providers this means enabling tightly integrated data offerings that simplify the data delivery process without losing sight of the sophisticated needs of the modern data consumer.
But while the name of the game is helping companies reach informed decisions from their data simpler and faster, what about the data practitioners - data analysts, data engineers, database administrators, developers, etc - who use these cloud data tools and technologies everyday? To proactively stay ahead of data cloud market trends in 2022 should data practitioners invest their time in specializing their data cloud skill sets (e.g. go deep in, say, data pipelining skills) or instead invest their time generalizing their data cloud skill sets (e.g. growing proficiencies in a mix of data analytics, databases, AI/ML, and more domains)?
Skill deep or wide with data - that is the question
For Abdul Razack, VP, Solutions Engineering, Technology Solutions and Strategy at Google Cloud, the answer is a bit of both.
“Data practitioners need to be broad in terms of their technology skills, but specialized with respect to the domain or domains in which they apply them. The reason why is because many things that used to be separate skill sets are now converging - like business analytics, streaming, machine learning, data pipelines, and data warehousing. Data practitioners need to be able to implement end-to-end workflows that solve specific business problems using skills from each category.”
It’s true, thousands of customers are choosing Google’s data cloud because it offers a unified and open approach to cloud that enables their practitioners to break down silos, begin and end projects without leaving the data platform, and innovate faster across their organization.
The data practitioners who mirror Google data cloud’s frame of mind of being smart and agile across data domains in their skilling and learning will reap the benefits of solving more nuanced problems - building out internet-scale applications, fine tuning smart processes with analytics and AI, constructing data meshes that make product building simple, etc - at a larger scale than they would if they specialized in just one or two areas alone.
Of course at the end of the day it depends on what tools a data practitioner is using to complete their workflows. There's only so much you can learn and skills you can develop when you’re using limited tools.
“Of course at the end of the day it depends on what tools a data practitioner is using to complete their workflows. There's only so much you can learn and skills you can develop when you’re using limited tools. Growing data proficiencies across the board is made a lot easier when you’re using a data platform like BigQuery to address all these needs. BigQuery eliminates the choices you have to make – for instance you don’t have to choose between streaming data and data at rest, batch and realtime, or business intelligence and data science. This freedom gives data professionals a huge advantage when they’re building their skill sets and taking on more complex projects.” -Abdul Razack - VP, Solutions Engineering, Technology Solutions and Strategy, Google Cloud
Knowing your value is half the battle when upskilling
While some experts think technology is the limiting factor of whether or not you can even go wide or go deep in the first place, others like Google Cloud’s Head of Data and Analytics Bruno Aziza purport that it also depends on who you are, who you wish to be, and what investments your company is making to ensure you can become that person.
“If you wish to set yourself up to be a Chief Data Officer, then you’ll want to understand how technologies fit together across your data estate first” said Aziza. “Only after you feel like you’re the go-to ‘data person’ can you then decide which part of the technology stack you want to double-down on.”
Only after you feel like you’re the go-to ‘data person’ can you then decide which part of the technology stack you want to double-down on.
But technology isn’t everything. Aziza notes, “Make sure you focus on the business impact that your data work provides. You want to spend as much time as you can with your business counterparts to understand their business goals and challenges. The Harvard Business Review provides great guidance on how to succeed as a Chief Data Officer.”
Even if you don’t have your sights set on a C-suite role, both Aziza and Razack contend that the number one skill data practitioners should tackle in 2022 is actually a broad and perhaps abstract one: develop and exercise the curiosity to solve problems with a data-driven strategy.
That is, today’s data practitioners should always be interested in educating themselves in the industry and continually upskilling in something. And their employers should also be invested in helping practitioners develop those interests, most likely through exposure to learning materials, engaging in career conversations, subsidized courses, or incentives attached to pursuing a new certification or skill.
“Every industry is going through a digital transformation and the ability to identify what data to collect, how to prepare the data, and how to derive insights from it is critical. Therefore, the ability to find business challenges and formulate a data-driven approach to address those problems is the most important skill to have.” Abdul Razack - VP, Solutions Engineering, Technology Solutions and Strategy, Google Cloud
Whether you’re a data engineer, data analyst, citizen data scientist, or data practitioner by any other name, asking more questions and being curious to learn more should be that thing that you gravitate towards in those spare moments…Be a constant learner. New concepts pop up all the time and you want to be the person who can learn the fastest so you can advance your company’s mission and contribute back to the community.
Take the example of the “Data Mesh” I just wrote about in VentureBeat. You’ll find 3 types of attitudes towards this new concept. There are Disciples who encourage continued learning only from the source - like the author of a new book or the creator of a theory. There are Distractors who tell you that new skills, trends, and technologies are fake news. And there are Distorters like vendors who will sell you one easy fix solution. But it’s the data practitioner who needs to proceed with caution when interacting with all three types and forge their own path to discovering the truth when they’re learning and building skills. And for better or worse, this comes with trial and error, experimentation, and an eagerness to grow relative to where they began.”
Ready to start data upskilling? Start here.
For those interested in keeping up their data curiosities, check out our Data Journeys video series. Each week Bruno Aziza investigates a new authentic customer’s data journey - from migrating to cloud or building a data platform to carrying out new data for good initiatives. Learn how they did it, their data dos and don’ts, and what’s next for them on their journey. These videos include a flavor of both specializing your data competencies and broadening your data competencies.
For those interested in deepskilling, connect with Google’s data community at our upcoming virtual event: Latest Google Cloud data analytics innovations. Register and save your spot now to get your data questions answered live by GCP’s top data leaders and watch demos from our latest products and features including BigQuery, Dataproc, Dataplex, Dataflow, and more.