I love being a data professional. I mean, my job is to literally look at the data and figure stuff out. I’m supposed to come up with cool insights. I also get to tell the story of how a business functions. It is a very awesome job, with awesome things to do.
But corona virus has changed the world, and along with it, the profession of being a data scientist. We’ve been fortunate enough, as a profession, to avoid the biggest impacts of the corona virus recession by going remote and working from home, but we haven’t been immune to its effects. My LinkedIn feed is full of data scientists that have lost their jobs recently as companies start right-sizing their organizations in the wake of the coronavirus economic pandemic. I feel for them and hope they land on their feet. There is still demand for data scientists out there, but it is lower. Also, there is also a bigger supply of people looking for these jobs than ever before. The wages we have seen in the past few years are going to be lower for these individuals.
That brings me to my predictions about how the profession is going to change post pandemic.
Wages will be lower for the foreseeable future
Historically, data science has been an expensive job for most organizations to fill. This has been the case because there was high demand, low supply, and a bit of hype. As I mentioned above, in a recession, the demand will fall as the supply jumps. All else equal, don’t expect to get a job making what you were 6 months ago.
There is still demand for this type of work though. But the purchasing power of companies has shifted. You are going to be competing far more than you were. People hoping to break into the field are going to have a much harder time too, and it was already hard to break in for them.
Keep digging though. The jobs are out there.
There is a chill in the air for AI
A few years ago, it seemed that deep learning was an unstoppable force. Ground breaking things were happening every day. AI learned what things looked like, and then it learned to talk, and then it learned to listen, and then it learned to play go, and then it learned to read (sort of). It was amazing, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon, hard.
Now executives have over invested in AI, gotten lackluster results, and started to pull back under the guise of a global pandemic. Look I get it. It was a cool new technology, that didn’t quite deliver as promised. I would still argue that that was user error, but nevertheless, it is frustrating. AI is not magic pixie dust, but if used correctly saves time and money.
What we will see instead is that data professionals will pivot to story telling with machine learning on the side. I think that with a changing business climate executives are going to be much less likely to sign off on uncertain machine learning project, but they will have gotten used to the insights data scientists are good at delivering. We’ll see more data scientists delivering insights and less machine learning.
The way that I see this is that data scientist and machine learning engineer will start to coalesce into two distinct jobs at a faster rate than they have.
Data Science as A Service Will Rise
I think that this experience will give rise to a new breed of tools. Frankly, I expect that the most talented data scientists that got laid off will start to build companies. Those companies will provide what they have been doing as a service. Although these exist, there will probably be an explosion of such companies.
Likewise, executives looking to reduce costs will start to look into alternatives that cost less than having a data scientist on the payroll. That will lead these entrepreneurial data scientists attracting customers and building a book of business. I think in the next 6 months to a year we’ll see a proliferation of services that are viable business models.