SOUNDING OFF

by
You can learn a lot by observing and asking questions. But to shake things up, you have to get real ticked off about the important things that need fixing. The dangerous alternative is complacency.

About this Blog

RSS

Recent Posts

Understanding the Generational Divide

Double Messages about Aging

2014 Career Forecast: Want to be Data Scientist? Part 4

2014 Career Forecast; Data Scientist, A Hot, High-Demand Job, Part 3

2014 Career Forecast; Top Executive Jobs 2014, Part 2

Understanding the Generational Divide

The “generational divide” is in the news these days. Historians, scholars and writers have been churning out dissertations, academic and white papers, countless articles and book companies have been publishing books covering the subject from every conceivable angle.     

Visit Amazon and punch in baby boomers, Gen-X, and millennials and you’ll find dozens books about each generation.

 

I’ve read a few of them, and gave up frustrated when I found the same information repeated and regurgitated in different ways.

 

If unsure about the boundary lines separating the generations, here’s a rough guide. Baby boomers, 1946-1964; GenExers, 1965 – 1978; and Millennials, 1980-early 2000.

 

Clearly, there’s money to be made writing about generational differences.  And there are even websites targeted at the different generations.

 

Put it all together and we have a bona fide niche business dispensing information about generational differences.    The website creators felt that they could capture a readymade audience by focusing their content on one generation. They were right.  Invest 30 minutes on Google, and you’ll find myriad sites about the generations.  I’m amazed at how many websites there are about baby boomers. And new ones are springing up every week.  AARP was one of the first.  But since 2011 when the first and oldest wave of some 78 million baby boomers turned 65 (for the next 19 years every day 10,000 boomers turn 65).  When one website goes belly-up, another replaced it. The subject matter of the sites varies. Some are about jobs, since most boomers have discovered that retirement is a myth.  Only the AARP, a mainstream super successful business still devotes disproportionate space to the issue when only a small percentage of the boomer population can actually spend  the last portion of their lives living off their pensions and savings doing whatever they want to do.

 

When it comes to careers and jobs, some clever marketing mavens created a new vocabulary for this overwhelming population of boomers.  Retirement years (a grossly inaccurate term) are called “golden” years, and jobs for boomers are often called “twilight careers” or “encore careers” (offensive terms).  Imagine how boomers stocking shelves at big box retailers or flipping burgers at McDonald’s feel about those terms?

 

While 2011 was a significant and historic year for baby boomers, it’s only in the past year that the media has elevated it to an ongoing breaking story. The mainstream media, newspapers, Internet, TV, has been covering the subject from a number of angles, lifestyle, historical impact, and jobs are the big ones.  But there is also a spillover effect.  Fascination with the baby boomer phenomenon has also triggered an interest in other generations.  Hence, the generational divide has become a mainstream term. But it triggers many questions.  The biggies are: How important is this information? What information is important? And, are we making too much of it?  In upcoming blogs, I’m going to try and get a handle on this subject.  

 

Posted on: July 12, 2014 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Double Messages about Aging

How do you feel about aging?  If approaching 50, aging is already a concern.  In fact, in some fields, notably fashion, entertainment, and especially technology, it’s a major concern.  Trendsetting tech companies the likes of Microsoft and Intel would hire brilliant toddlers if they could write code.  But once they start nearing 40, they’ve been programmed to think that they may have passed their creative peak.  How dumb is that?  But weren’t some of the greatest innovations turned by men in their 20s, many of whom never graduated college?

Forget what the HR heavies and the PR flack tell the public, hundreds – no thousands – of companies prefer to keep their workforces young.  Forget their ads, and their website career pages showing a sampling of their workers.  Note they’re all happy and smiling, driving home the staged point that they all look like they’ve all found job heaven.  And many readers (likely naïve morons) believe that those relaxed smiles never leave their faces. That’s right, 8 hours of loving every millisecond of their jobs. Last, but by no means least, the cross-section of workers was carefully chosen to demonstrate the diversity of their workforce.  There’s the obligatory mixture of white, black, Hispanic and Asian workers.  While most exude youthful exuberance, note a few gray and white-haired oldsters in the bunch. Naturally, they too are smiling, communicating the illusion that they’re working for an organization that epitomizes a diverse workforce.   And  organizations’ battalion of attorneys are delighted because they’re keeping their employers happy by keeping them out of court, and shooting down even the mere whisper of an age discrimination suit.

To drive home an obvious cliché, money and power talk.  I’ll amend that last statement.  Money, power, and youth talks.  Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, most Americans – or maybe the greater part of the civilized world – are impressed by money, power and youth.  A young person who has all three has transcended the American dream.  We love prime time where we get to see how the rich and famous live. We can’t get enough  garish opulence, the in-your-face excesses of the rich and famous – the mansions and estates spread over acres of lands,   the countless rooms, pools, gardens,  cars, planes and boats. 

There are plenty of celebs in their 50, 60s and 70s  who surround themselves with the all the decadent toys of opulence and they love showing off, strutting their stuff and flaunting their fortunes so the world – the vast global audience – can see in living color the fruits and toys of outrageous wealth.  I understand why these shows are so popular, but I’m sickened by the celebs who agree to have their privacy invaded, and allow camera crews to film their riches, and all the expensive toys and gadgets that they’ve acquired. They have every right to be proud of their accomplishments, but flaunting it is obscene.

But whether the rich and famous are in their 20s or 60s, they all share a common trait. They go out of their way to tell the world that they go to great lengths to stay young and youthful. The older they get, the harder they work at it. But, an aging population, particularly problems created by the swelling numbers of boomers turning 65, has forced the trendsetters and newsmakers to present a revised and updated picture of aging. More on this in my next blog.

Posted on: January 31, 2014 08:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

2014 Career Forecast: Want to be Data Scientist? Part 4

If I’ve piqued your interest in data science, and the role of the data scientist, I’ll wind down my 2014 forecast with nuts and bolts  information about the job, 

Josh Sullivan, vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group, gives us the lowdown, and answers basic career questions, such as what kinds of organizations hire data scientists; how to get into the field; and the type of person that’s best qualified.

Beyond Booz Allen, there are many organizations, such as LinkedIn and Google that are hiring data scientists.  By working with many kinds of organizations in a consulting capacity,  and through its exposure to  diverse industries, such as life science, pharmaceutical,  oil and gas and government,  the company learned about the importance of reading data, interpreting it, and finding anomalies so it can be applied in all business sectors. Sullivan said data scientists are valuable to technology businesses, but also to many other fields, such as  health care, financial services and others looking to gain more insight from their data. 

How to prepare to be a data scientist
“You don’t need to be a math geek or a data modeler experimenting with complex algorithms.” Said Sullivan.  “Instead, be curious, no matter what your field.  I believe that résuméscan be static and boring. I don’t take too much stock in them.  Instead, it’s more about applying a candidate’s curiosity, passion and willingness to learn to their individual skill set.” 

Sullivan looks for candidates  with advanced degrees. “They aren’t the make or break criteria, rather more of the icing on the cake,” he said. “Those graduate degrees are important because our clients respect advanced degrees and want to see them in some way. But what matters most to me and my team are finding people who have diverse backgrounds (statistics, basic programming or domain knowledge like financial services or pharmaceuticals) combined with a willingness to learn.  Those are usually the people who can be molded into the strongest data scientists.  Most of our statisticians  have a PhD in math or statistics, but that is not the bar for hiring.”

What kind of person (analytic, problem solver) is best suited to be a data scientist?
There are no magical unicorns; for example,  data scientists can’t do everything. “Instead, the best and most effective data science teams are built with multiple, talented individuals who are constantly learning from one another and self-educating,” said Sullivan. 

Sullivan likens it to the “way a jazz quartet comes together, each member with a specific strong suit that when combined (with other musicians) make beautiful music.”  Booz Allen looks for candidates with intellectual curiosity and who can work well together on teams. For example, he’s hired musicians and a graduate in forestry management.  They may sound incompatible,  but they have so much math, science and analytic expertise, they “fit right in,” he said. 

To learn more about data scientists,  visit Booz Allen’s website,  www.boozallen.com/careers.

Posted on: December 25, 2013 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

2014 Career Forecast; Data Scientist, A Hot, High-Demand Job, Part 3

A decade ago, the term information overload was one of hundreds of popular buzz terms spawned by the Information Age.  Because of technology, we’ve not only revolutionized how we work, but also every aspect of our lives.  We’re capable of gathering information about anything easily, quickly and at staggering speeds. The result is massive quantities of information, which we’re struggling to organize, compartmentalize and categorize so it can be analyzed and used for myriad ends.

Managing massive quantities of information led to a new job category, data management, and job title, data scientist.  The position -- like hundreds of others – is a byproduct of the technological age.

A University of California Berkley 2003 study concluded that worldwide information production increased 30 percent every year from 1999 until 2002. In 2010, Erich Schmidt, Google’s CEO at the time, stunned attendees at a conference when he said people create as much data every two days as the amount of information created since the beginning of recorded history.     

Drowning in information

A 2011 study conducted by McKinsey Global Institute warned that there is a significant shortage, of 140,000 to 190,000 data scientists, to analyze the data. And by 2018, an additional 1.5 million managers and analysts will be needed to get a toehold on the incomprehensible quantities of information generated every second.

Hence, the fierce demand for data scientists.  Even though it’s an essential career, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track data scientist occupational information. Yet the BLS reports that demand for operations research analysts, who provide similar services, is expected to jump 22 percent by 2018.

 “When we refer to data science, we’re not talking simply about the ability to harness, analyze and draw insights from the data that companies have at their fingertips, said Josh Sullivan, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group in McLean, Va.

‘We’retaking it one step further by asking bigger questions and using the data to draw future insights and answer new questions,” said Sullivan.

“That is the difference between business intelligence and data science,” said Sullivan, who heads the company’s data science and cloud analytics research.” 

A job in transition

“The role of the data scientist is still emerging and being defined, but I believe that there is no perfect mold for a successful data scientist,” Sullivan said.

When hiring data scientists, Sullivan looks for curious candidates, “predisposed to ask the question, ‘What’s next?’ and are willing to learn and engage in creative thinking on behalf of their clients.” 

Sullivan looks for candidates whose skills complemented one another.  His team blends diverse skills such as forestry management, musician and physicist with trained scientists specializing in chemistry and computer science.

“In terms of career prospects, this field has barely scratched the surface of what it will become,” as more companies realize the critical value of data scientists, Sullivan said.

Sullivan predicts data scientists will be one of the fastest growing professions of the next decade, not to mention essential cogs in organizational machinery.

 Think you’re cut out to be a data scientist? Find out in my next blog. 

Posted on: December 25, 2013 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

2014 Career Forecast; Top Executive Jobs 2014, Part 2

According to New York City-based search firm CTPartners’ 18th annual Hot Jobs report, a number of   factors will drive executive hiring in 2014.  Here are a few of them:

In the tech sector, Big Data will only grow bigger, as organizations race to collect and monetize information to gain competitive advantage. Use of cloud services will be pervasive in all industries because it enables access to data, changing how we interact with mobile devices and offering 24-7 access to content.

Additionally, the explosion of online education over the past two years will continue as career builders and organizations take advantage of the massive amount of learning content available online.

In financial services, compliance will continue to become increasingly complex.   The insurance industry will embrace digital media and use advanced analytics to stay competitive.

In the healthcare sector, both the public and private sector will struggle to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act and improve the quality of care and reduce burgeoning healthcare costs.

Taking the above factors as a backdrop, Brian Sullivan, CEO of CTPartners, outlines some of the hot executive jobs for 2014 in technology, financial services and healthcare:

Technology

Sullivan noted that, “Technology’s impact is being felt more than ever, not just in traditional ways of increasing our ability to produce more for less,” but in being able to reach  more consumers easily. 
 
Chief information officer. The CIO position is more critical to most organizations than ever before, said Sullivan. The CIO is at “the forefront of many trends associated with many hot jobs in the data, mobile, digital and analytics arenas.

Chief marketing officer.   The CMO’s role has become more complicated as market sectors rely on analytics to demonstrate that marketing is actually driving revenue and growth.

Chief risk officer/Information security officer.  Protecting organizations’ digital assets has never been more important or difficult. 
 
Online education executive.  With the rapid acceptance and proliferation of online educational content, educational institutions are increasingly offering learning content online.

Chief creative officer, media/television. The growth and expansion of programming available through both traditional and non-traditional means, from cable TV to video on demand to new ways to watch content, have made the landscape for content extremely competitive.

Financial services

Head of compliance.  Financial services will be more regulated than ever before, said Sullivan.  “The continued onslaught of regulations has created a cottage industry for compliance executives, with total compensation for this role up 25 percent in the last two years alone,” he said.

Head of strategic & integrated marketing, asset management. As firms elevate the visibility of their brands on a global scale through digital, social media, advertising, PR and the Web, they need marketing executives who can harness cutting edge technology in creative ways.

Chief digital officer/head of digital insurance. Insurance is emerging from the dark ages, with insurers’ relationships with consumers increasingly beginning online. Thanks to digital media – the Internet, social networking, blogs, video, smart phones and others – consumers now have broad and convenient access to a wealth of information.

Healthcare

Chief strategy officer. The continued convergence of healthcare and technology and the need for increasingly strategic input has created a pressing demand for executives who can manage complex issues and problems. 

Posted on: December 25, 2013 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
ADVERTISEMENTS

"Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it."

- Danny Kaye

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors