We, at AIM, reached out to a few data scientists across diverse industries to understand if they share the same optimism about their jobs.
The foremost topic of discussion among professionals these days has made a quick shift from the challenges of working from home to the unprecedented wave of mass layoffs rattling numerous industries. Bracing for an oncoming recession, businesses are cautious about their spending on existing projects, as new ones are deferred.
While data scientists are not immune to the current economic downturn, this field has reportedly seen minimal volatility and fewer layoffs compared to peers. In fact, some companies are evening hiring for these positions today, including Walmart, PayPal and GoJek, among others.
This may be because analytics can play a critical role in understanding changing customer behaviour, providing competitive intelligence, identifying potential risks, and driving operational efficiencies to optimise costs, as most countries face its deepest recession yet.
We, at AIM, reached out to a few data scientists across diverse industries to understand if they share the same optimism and the reasons for the same.
Greater Job Security, But Still Dependent On Sector
Most data scientists AIM spoke to were unanimous in their assessment that despite the criticality of their functions, their jobs may still be at risk, particularly those working in more vulnerable sectors, such as travel, hospitality, and retail.
“It is widely established that data scientists add a lot of value to an organisation, but some sectors, like edtech, have managed well – and even thrived – despite the slowdown, and are hence better positioned to protect the jobs of their analytics team,” says Prashant Kikani, data scientist at Bengaluru-based startup, Embibe.
According to Usha Rengaraju, a data science consultant and a Kaggle Grandmaster, although tourism is likely to take the biggest hit, Covid-19 crisis has given rise to unexpected situations in finance, supply chain, healthcare and education, where the scope for application of AI is enormous. “This would lead to a surge in job openings in the intersection of life sciences, Genomics and AI,” she says.
Shilpa Rao, Head – AI Powered Strategic Intelligence at TCS, expounds on this, focusing on one key area – healthcare.
“As we slowly shift to the ‘new normal’, analytics and AI will play an important role in reshaping an altered world. Given the urgency to find an antidote or treatment against this deadly virus, numerous opportunities have opened up for leveraging analytics in the areas of drug discovery, clinical trials, molecular modelling, medical diagnostics, and related fields.”
Useful Tool To Understand Consumer Behaviour & Future Planning
Companies across industries are witnessing sweeping budget cuts and restructuring of programs, and analytics can help rationalise some of these decisions. The uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 has led to massive changes in consumer behaviour, necessitating astute data-driven planning.
“Take the example of retail, for instance,” says Rao. “If customers do not get their favourite hazelnut creamer, they may be willing to switch to vanilla bean or even milk. Similarly, hoarding patterns and the switch to online or curbside pick up of groceries will give rise to new data that will shed light on prevailing trends and preferences,” she adds.
Additionally, according to her, understanding these new behavioural patterns and identifying the best action in terms of mix, price, and promotional offers will open up numerous opportunities across industries. Concurs Surya Prakash Manpur, Data Scientist at RealPage, a Texas-based multinational:
“Demand for skilled analytics professionals will not dampen during this recession because they are trained to come up with data-powered solutions that businesses can base their critical decisions on, to minimise risks and losses, as well as to increase revenues.
Building on this, Rajagopal S, a data scientist working with an American multinational conglomerate, feels that during these times, data engineering will also join and lead the fray to provide more depth to forward-thinking strategies.
“With the reduced dependency on human intervention unwittingly promoted during the lockdown period, customers will be looking to adopt newer techniques,” he says. “It is, then, worth preparing to deal with a lot of unstructured data in the form of machine logs, and understand its finer details with ease,” he adds.
Added Advantage Of Seamlessly Working From Home
As companies look to trim their workforce and explore more flexible options like contractual work through freelancers, or even outsource some projects to places less affected by lockdowns, the idea of remote working is seeing a resurgence.
While many professionals are adapting to working from home, for others, this is not even an option. Amidst this, the jobs of data scientists have been the least disrupted, given that they have a wide array of digital tools to facilitate remote working. What is more, the type of projects and variety of functions handled by them makes it possible for them to work remotely.
In fact, according to an AIM report, more than half the respondents felt zero impact to their daily work with working from home, and nearly one-tenth of them felt their productivity had improved with remote working and thus, were able to get more work done.
Increased Role Amid Automation & Deeper Tech Intervention
With the precarious economic situation driving companies to adopt a leaner team, businesses are likely to embrace more digital solutions. According to Saurabh Jha, who is Director of Data Science at Dell, firms will turn to automation solutions to make their current process more efficient and reduce overall operational costs.
“These priority areas will demand greater use of the massive data at a company’s disposal, and the use of analytics to self-learn and improve.”
Jha firmly believes that the insights extracted from this data, if acted upon through critical decision making and planning, can harness its true value to create greater efficiency and improve productivity across industries.
Adds Navin Manaswi, founder of an emerging tech startup in Bengaluru, WoWExp Technologies, “The field of automation and AI is deeply embedded and anchored around data sciences, and holds a lot of potential in supporting companies weather this crisis,” he says. “The cost of producing products and services would reduce due to automation, whereas data analytics would make the system more efficient than ever. Thus, professionals in this field will be least affected by layoffs brought on by the recession,” he adds.
The global impact of the Covid-19 recession is likely to have a cascading effect on every industry – while most companies have freezed hiring, some large tech firms have also rescinded offers made to students graduating this year. Although better-positioned than others, data scientists working in more vulnerable sectors are still at risk of losing their jobs.
Despite the uncertainties, this time offers data scientists the opportunity to use the power of data and analytics to build a resilient business model to mitigate the risks posed by these disruptive events. This, and the factors described above, have made analytics jobs more relevant today.