"Big data is becoming an effective basis of competition in pretty much every industry," said Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute. "Whether you are looking at health care and the ability to provide personalized medicine, or you look at logistics or operations that are trying to improve the efficiency of the supply chain."
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Still, with the exception of a few notable firms like Amazon and Google, Chui said many companies have not benefited as much as expected from big data's insights, in large part because there are not enough people with the deep analytical skills needed to mine the data.
Because of this, Chui stands by a 2011 report from McKinsey predicting there could be a shortage of between 140,000 and 190,000 of these workers by 2018, as industries well beyond tech look for workers who can help them improve their companies by utilizing information gleaned from big data.
LinkedIn's head of data recruiting, Sherry Shah, describes the job market for these candidates as being "very hot right now" as the data field is "very sexy."
"So its superhard to find the right talent," she said.
Shah said the online networking site is looking to hire more than 100 data scientists this year, a 50 percent increase from 2014. And because Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn is not the only Silicon Valley company vying for these potential employees' talents, she said, "there is always a bidding war."
Shah would not say what these data scientists are paid, but noted that a person with a Ph.D. will command a six-figure salary, while the others are paid "competitively."
To find the right candidates in this competitive market, Shah said LinkedIn searches its own website, recruits at tech talks and conferences, and looks beyond the traditional pool of applicants for these jobs.
Shah said while 80 to 90 percent have a computer science background, the company also looks for employees in industries like biomedical or political science. Both industries, she noted, use a lot of data so the workers would replicate some of the work they did in their prior jobs in the tasks they do at LinkedIn, using different data.
Thirty-one-year-old Jerrod Lowmaster is one of those recruits. He received his undergraduate degree in Near Eastern languages and civilization from the University of Chicago and a master's in international economics from Johns Hopkins.
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"This is kind of my third career," said Lowmaster of his role as a data scientist for LinkedIn's growth group, which is focused on expanding the company's user base.
Now settled in San Francisco with his girlfriend and his dog, Lowmaster worked in intelligence for the NSA and then on a renewable energy project before joining LinkedIn.