Over the years commercial companies, federal agencies, and health systems have come to depend on business intelligence and data literacy as key drivers of success. When the importance of data and business intelligence is integrated into today’s classroom it helps to mold the next generation of leaders; those who will one day make decisions for these private and public sector organizations.
“Today, data is central to the core of most federal agencies and other organizations,” explained Heather Gittings, senior director, Global Industry Solutions, Public Sector and Healthcare at Qlik. “This means that the next generation of leaders can’t enter into the market without a firm understanding of data and its importance. It’s not optional – it’s needed for success.”
The job market for data-related positions continues to grow substantially. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016 there were 27,900 computer and information research scientists employed in the United States. It’s projected that from 2016 to 2026 employment for these positions will grow by 19 percent, a higher average than what’s predicted for other professions.
That’s why educators, like Javier Leon, adjunct professor at Saint Joseph’s University, are working to ensure that students learn not only the basics of data science skills but have practical experience working with data itself. “We’ll see 2.72 million jobs requiring data skills this year,” explained Leon. “Companies have seen the power of unlocking their business through better decision-making. As a result, the field is booming. Having a background in data science can land [students] a job or promotion. [And] it’s not enough to simply understand the theory. As educators, we must combine knowledge with the right tools to make sure our students – and our organizations – thrive with data.”
To give students the hands-on experience they need for success, Leon uses Qlik in his Critical Performance Management class which focuses data visualization. Allowing his students to explore the Qlik platform achieves two goals; it helps students to understand the ins and outs of a user-driven business intelligence tool and also helps them build a portfolio of data visualizations that can later be shown when applying for jobs.
One way Leon’s students use the platform is by participating in #MakeoverMonday, a global data visualization challenge. Each Monday students work with a specific data set to “create better, more effective visualizations and help us make information more accessible,” according to #MakeoverMonday creators, Eva Murray and Andy Kriebel. By participating in #MakeoverMonday, and regular classwork, students typically exit Leon’s class with roughly 30 visualizations – enough for an impressive portfolio.
“Some employers that are reviewing their resumes might not have even built a graph in the past year,” explained Leon. “So, to see someone with such rich experience can make the difference when it comes to hiring. [But] I don’t just want [them] to learn only the technical side. These students will be the leaders of the future, so we need to look at data holistically. We help students understand how to get buy-in for a project, and how to fail fast and cheap to decrease risk to their future organizations.”
In the years to come, the importance of business intelligence and data literacy is only going to increase. That’s why it’s critical for the next generation of leaders to be armed with hands-on experience. In doing so, as they leave school behind, they can confidently step into their careers, one step closer to leading organizations that view data as the pathway to success.
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