Teenagers: Data is the Career For You

Ryan den Rooijen
Ryan den Rooijen

My friend Graeme McDermott, Chief Data Officer at Addison Lee, suggested I write an article explaining why data makes for a great career. Given that data is one of the most exciting areas to work in, I am more than happy to oblige.

Currently most people working in data are still white, male, and middle-aged, like Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock.

So, why data? Other than it being an absolute certainty that companies will need people with these skills for decades to come, here are four key reasons:

The Future is Software

In 2011, billionaire entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreesen commented that “software is eating the world.” In other words, companies that know how to build software products are dominating their competition. You will have heard of Amazon, Google, and Netflix since they make consumer products, but in the business world you have the likes of Salesforce, Adobe, and Microsoft generating billions of dollars of profit. Like major manufacturing companies before them, these are now the powerhouses of our new economy. If you want to shape the world of the future, this is where you want to be.

Data is a Superpower

Why are these software companies so successful? This is where data comes in. While anyone with the right skills can build a beautiful piece of software, fewer and fewer people spend money on software — games the exception. People want services, whether websites, apps, or in-store experiences. Knowing how to design these services comes down to understanding data. With data you can both predict what services will likely be successful, as well as improve the way that you build them. Being able to harness these powers not only feels great, but it allows you to have a fantastic impact as well.

As they say, if someone offers you a seat on a rocket ship — you just take it. Photo by Lauri Väin.

Data is Art, Science, and Sport Combined

Choosing a career path sucks. As someone who was interested in computer science and psychology and genetics and history it felt limiting to have to pick. However, many jobs require you to have a specialist degree. You will not become an accountant without a finance background, nor will you become a surgeon without a medicine degree. Data however, is different. Working in data requires problem solving, creativity, communication skills, and a whole lot of teamwork. Anyone is welcome. If you like solving interesting problems in creative ways you will probably enjoy a job as an analyst or any similar role.

Data is Raising Questions About Being Human

Artificial intelligence algorithms (i.e. rules that can update themselves) are increasingly a part of our lives, whether we are buying something online, getting a new phone contract, or streaming a television show. As more and more of our environments are shaped by these automated systems, what does this mean for us as humans? When you only watch videos that YouTube recommends, what does this say about your free will? What happens when this technology becomes part of our homes, our clothes, our brains? You can play a part in answering these questions, and deciding what happens next.

I’m going to leave it at that. There are other reasons, but between society, career, interests, and existential moral quandaries you can start to see why I, like many of my colleagues, love working in data, analytics, and AI.

If you happen to be in school and you made it to the end of this article, firstly, congratulations, you now know more about data than most. Hopefully you are excited and encouraged. Secondly, please let me know your thoughts!

— Ryan

People & Culture

Ryan den Rooijen

Chief Strategy Officer of Appsbroker CTS, the leading Google-dedicated consultancy. Formerly Chief Ecom & Data Officer.