BAI Interview Series with Professor Minhaj: Bridging the Skills Gap in Data Analytics

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In the fifth installment in the BAI series of Data Science interviews, we talk to Prof. Mohamed Minhaj of SDMIMD. Prof Minhaj has specialized in Web Services and Information Management since completing his MCA and M.Phil in Computer Science. In his ten years of teaching and consulting for APTECH, ECIL, St. Philomena's College, and the University of Mysore, he has led consulting assignments for government agencies, international corporations, and NGOs. Finally, he is a visiting professor at the International School of Information Management (ISIM), Mysore and has also been a resource person for training programs conducted by Kuvempu University and KSOU. We discussed together the current state of Data Analytics and the challenges of developing talent today. 

A recent article published in the Financial Times in February underlined a persistent shortage of sufficiently qualified data scientists in the business community. Why is there a skills gap in the Data Science Industry?

 According to Gartner’s research, Analytics continues to be a top business priority and many organisations across the world, big or small are jumping on the Analytics bandwagon. Therefore, obviously, there is a great demand for qualified analytics professionals. Regarding the “skills gap”, first, being relatively new, analytics as an academic discipline is not as matured as some of the established domains of business management. Secondly, I personally feel many students who are interested in embarking on analytics profession lack clarity in terms of the specific skill sets that are needed.

There are three categories of people contributing to the world of analytics. We have statistics professionals, who are contributing the mathematical models for analysing the humongous amount of data that is available in the world, we then have computer professionals who are devising new software platforms and algorithms for harvesting insights from the small and big data, further we have the general business users who are employing these mathematical models and software systems and are helping their organisations take better decisions and devise new strategies. The skills gap in the Data Science industry is primarily because many people who are interested in Analytics are getting into a wrong track of analytics without factoring their academic strengths and weaknesses.

What can educational institutes and corporations do to bridge this skills gap?

 Analytics has been around for a long time but continues to drive disruption in the business world. Therefore, corporations are in need of a large number of qualified analytics professionals who can help them in leveraging the opportunities provided by analytics. On the other hand, institutes who are researching and specialising in analytics are able to get a competitive edge over their peers. Therefore, it is win-win situation for both corporations and institutes. What is important is bridging the gap between what is taught in the institutes and what is being practiced in the industry in a sustainable manner. This can be achieved in more than one ways; it could be in the form of collaborative research, corporations providing more internship opportunities etc. 

In an era where big data is taking centre stage in businesses, how should business managers equip themselves for a data-driven future?

 The analytics and data science is transforming from “good to have” to “must have” skills in the contemporary job market. While not everybody can or should become statistician or computer programmer or a machine learning expert, what is important is irrespective of the domain or job profile, business managers should get a foundation of analytics. A systematic learning approach that combines the data with the knowledge of the domain, process, and the technology would equip business managers to identify the opportunities from the data that organisations possess, asking the right data-driven questions and making the right decisions at the right time.There’s a huge potential for big data and AI algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Traditionally, businesses would base decisions on the expertise of its consultants, however, there is a push in business for data-driven decisions.

 How do you think automated decision-making will affect consultant’s job security in the future?

In the past when corporations embraced software systems like ERP and business automation, critics had expressed that it would replace the business managers. However, we have witnessed that instead of replacing humans, enterprise software has empowered the business managers by bringing in agility and efficiency. When it comes to big data and AI sophistication, I personally feel instead of becoming a threat, analytics is going to provide more opportunities, instead of replacing business managers; analytics is going to improve the productivity of the business managers. However, like any other developments, analytics also require specialised skills and only the fittest would survive.

You recently partnered with the Business Analytics Institute to promote education in data-driven decision-making. What are your goals here and how do the Business Analytics programs prepare students for the future careers?

 SDMIMD is promoted by a reputed educational trust in India that runs over 40 recognised institutions including Engineering, Medical, Dental, Ayurveda and Naturopathy colleges. With the strong backing of SDM trust, the state of art infrastructure that the institute has and the rigorous academic processes that are practiced, has helped SDMIMD to carve a niche for itself in the management education landscape of India. Further, after the recent international accreditations that the institute has received from the Accreditation Council For Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) and the Management Development Network, EFMD, the key focus areas are expanding its international linkages and to make the curriculum contemporary and globally accepted.

 As part of this endeavour, collaborating with Business Analytics Institute, which has rich experience in both training and consulting related to analytics would foster in strengthening our analytics stream. It is envisaged that this collaboration would aid in joint research and sharing of our academic practices to provide an international and interdisciplinary orientation to SDMIMD students who are specialising in analytics.

 

Prof. Minhaj teaches at the SMDIMD, St. Philomena's College and  the University of Mysore. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at linkedin.com/in/mohamed-minhaj-a90887b6 .This is part of a series of interviews by the Business Analytics Institute on Data Science and Data Science skills.

 

Read our other interviews with Data Science professionals in the series:

BAI Interview Series: Yves Mulkers on Data Science Skills

BAI Interview Series: Davy Cielen On Data Science Skills

BAI Interview Series: Dean McKeown on Data Science Skills

BAI Interview Series: Lee Schlenker on Data Science Skills

 

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