DataFest18, the festival of data innovation in Scotland which sees events run across Scotland from March 19 to 23, is a showcase of how Scotland is taking a leading role in data on an international scale and a chance to interact with local and international talent, industry, academia and data enthusiasts.
For students and job hunters, DataFest 18’s Data Talent Scotland event at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza on March 20, offers a unique chance to come face to face with employers from across the country, willing to pay for the talent.
Just being a part offers the potential to discover that next career move, or even inspire a shift of focus towards new ‘in-demand’ skills that will help future-proof job prospects for years to come.
Robin Huggins, head of business development at recruitment specialists MBN Solutions, said the data boom has the potential for high rewards for people with a range of skill sets.
“The rewards for following a career in data are huge,” he says.
“Firstly with data becoming a key enabler across a huge range of industry sectors the opportunity is there to augment data specialisations with experience in almost any other industry sector.
“In addition to the obvious technology sectors, data specialists can find themselves working in education, health, research, finance, retail and many more industries, using their data specialisation to solve a great many modern problems, both business and societal.
“More and more companies are looking to hire data specialists as the
importance of “data driven” business decision making becomes ingrained in organisational DNA.
“Data specialists are now making their way to board level, with many organisations appointing chief data officers to manage this function at C-suite level.
“Reward and remuneration are consistently above the average for other technology disciplines, illustrating the demand for data specialisms across industry sectors.”
Data specialists can come from a variety of routes, from school-leavers who have technology embedded in their DNA and for whom data is a way of life, to older technologists who want to focus on data as a future career and people in support roles.
“Finally we have people from other professional walks of life who have decided to retrain and follow a career in data,” said Mr Huggins.
“The skills they have developed in other roles that they bring with them into data careers often make them extremely “well rounded” data specialists and highly sought after, organisationally.”
Scottish technology and data is certainly a growing industry – and well worth getting a foothold in at the start. While the Scottish Government recently announced a commitment to support Scottish innovation to the tune of an extra £45m, it’s against a backdrop of the recent Cities Outlook report which warned up to 230,000 Scottish jobs could be affected by the rise of robot labour.
It also highlighted how new jobs would emerge in sectors which are still in their infancy – such as fintech and data-driven industries – with cities with skilled workers best placed to seize the opportunities they present.
It’s those ‘data warriors’ who are at the cutting edge of this emerging sector and with the skills to disrupt traditional landscapes to create new ways of working, who could well hold the key to future success.
“Data Fest 18 will support data warriors, whatever their core profession or industry, by providing inspiration, tools and leadership skills to make a difference,” says Gillian Docherty, CEO of the Data Lab. The Data Lab is one of eight innovation centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council, which helps connect industry and public services together with university talent. It’s organising this year’s Data Fest.
“The theme for the festival is data driven innovation with a special focus on collaboration.
“Working across different sectors is key to supporting Scotland’s data warriors. By bringing diverse industries, expertise and data together, the huge potential of data can be realised through the disruption across sectors – all areas, from personal health to smart transport, from shopping to energy efficiency, from business to public services and beyond,” adds Ms Docherty.
Lifestyles are increasingly driven by digital appliances, meaning that data affects every aspect of our day.
There’s the fitness tracker watch that tells us when to move and whenever a new email drops, and the online grocery shop that points us to our favourite foods.
If data – the millions of bits of information gleaned about every one of us that fuels artificial intelligence – has made its presence felt in our personal lives, in the world of business it’s an increasingly precious commodity.
As well as being worth an estimated £20bn to the Scottish economy, it is also delivering a wealth of lucrative career opportunities.
Indeed, it’s been said that data scientists and the talented minds who come up with the next big use for all this new information are the rock stars of the tech world.
“Every aspect of our lives today is data-driven,” Ms Docherty says. “Being data savvy is the new norm.
“Whether using historic or real-time data that’s generated through supply chains, production processes or customer behaviours, an organisation has much to gain by analysing the wealth of information they have at their fingertips.
“It's a brave new world … the question then is how to get a slice of it?”
This year’s festival features a range of events including an international summit and, crucially, fringe events across Scotland – including a number in Inverness – which underline how data is a force the length and breadth of the country, across virtually every sector.
And for anyone just interested in finding out about tomorrow’s world and how it is being moulded by the data scientists and tech innovators of today, Data Summit 18 brings together inspirational speakers from the cutting edge of the data industry over a two day conference at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, when they will share experiences, thoughts and ideas.
With events developed to inspire collaboration and innovation, it’s expected to attract 450 organisations. Praised for the quality of its speakers, this year's event is expected to surpass DataFest 17, which attracted over 2500 participants from four countries. DataFest is famed for the diversity of its events and the inspiration it sparks.