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Continued: Minnesota companies and workers cache in on big data

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 24, 2013 - 9:46 PM

Now, companies want to wed that type of data with information on where customers are, what they want, what they’re saying on their social network, and how and when to ship products to them. As more retailers try to harness all that information, Oracle has been doing more business.

“It gets real complicated real fast,” Webster said. “Our approach is to try to simplify that as best we can.”

All of the top 20 retailers in the world use Oracle, which has a presence in Minneapolis because it acquired the local company Retek in 2005. The company’s client list includes Best Buy, Gander Mountain, Scheels and Von Maur.

Data without end

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Minnesota employers had about 1,450 openings for computer systems analysts, software architects, database administrators and related positions.

Many of those jobs will be for people who can corral and analyze data, and that doesn’t include some of the analytics jobs coming open at utilities, marketing firms and human resources consultancies.

Meanwhile, the world keeps churning out data. Worldwide mobile data usage — mostly smartphone traffic — grew 70 percent in 2012. It was 885 petabytes per month, or 12 times more than all of global Internet traffic in 2000, according to Cisco.

The Carlson School has been offering data science electives at the U for eight years, and now wants to start a master’s program in business analytics and data science. The proposal, OK’d by the Carlson faculty, awaits approval from the Board of Regents.

Bapna’s vision is broader than teaching a particular software program.

He thinks the data generated by social media is an unprecedented social research graph, “a global laboratory, where we can ask fundamental questions about human behavior.”

He wants to build a master’s program that sculpts people with the technical training and business savvy to ask the clever questions and write the clever computer code that yields profitable insight.

Universities like Stanford, MIT, California-Berkeley, Harvard and Carnegie Mellon already run programs that kick out data scientists, and several other universities are shifting resources toward such training. Minnesota’s master’s program could start as early as the fall of 2014.

New skills in demand

For now, people tend to fall into big data jobs accidentally, Cheifetz said. Someone gets a Ph.D. in math, and ends up working on algorithms for Wall Street. An above-average IT manager learns the new software and takes ownership.

But that will change. Companies will begin to seek out workers with a strong background in computer science and statistics, and experience running predictive models, Cheifetz said. Also important is the ability to translate the data into a clear narrative. “We’re almost talking about a computer science and statistics undergrad, with a minor in theater so they can talk to people,” Cheifetz said.

The independent study class at Metro State University was thrown together with the help of Logic Information Systems, a local firm that consults for companies that use Oracle Retail.

Advance IT and the state of Minnesota have pushed the Oracle Retail training since November, when executives from Logic, Best Buy, Gander Mountain, Scheels and Von Maur told Gov. Mark Dayton that about 150 jobs are available running the software, with wages easily at $80,000 a year.


  • related content

  • BRIGHT FUTURE: Brian Rosenberg worked on a project with co-workers at Logic Information Systems in Inver Grove Heights. Logic, like many companies around the country, depends on analysis of large data to make the concern run better.

  • SOFTWARE CLASS: Christina Wood, a state employee, is pursuing a graduate degree in management information systems at Metro State University.

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