Apart from disrupting business continuity, COVID-19 has also brought in unexpected unemployment with companies either laying off or furloughing their employees to keep up with this competitive landscape. Although sales and customer-related roles are the most affected ones, even data scientists, despite being the sexiest profession of the century, are not immune to this economic fallout.
A lot of this could be attributed to high salaries drawn by the data scientists, which could be a great aspect for the company to cut down costs and slim down their finances. A survey done by Analytics India Magazine reveals that, as of the first quarter of this year, the median salary of analytics professionals in India is ₹14.4 Lakhs – a 14.3% growth over the 2019 median salary of ₹12.6 Lakhs.
With data science being one of the highest-paid job roles of the industry, companies from various sectors are shedding off their analytics employees, in order to cut down their spending — a majority of them are expecting to have reduced sales in the coming quarters. In fact, according to a news report, 1.5 lakh IT professionals, including data scientists, are going to be laid off and will be without jobs due to this pandemic.
A spokesperson of DataRobot, an AI company, which has recently laid off its workforce stated to the media that, it is necessary for businesses to regularly evaluate teams and their internal investments to ensure that the business is best positioned for the future, and especially important when market conditions change.
Alongside, in order to cut employee resource costs, many companies are also outsourcing their data-related work, which, in turn, will make the position of data scientists vulnerable in organisations. Many firms, to lower their overhead costs of creating a core data science team, are looking to outsource their data analytics operations to third party vendors. Even many startups have reduced their high-risk investments in order to survive during this crisis.
Airbnb from the hospitality industry also has recently laid off 1900 employees, which is approximately 25% of its workforce, including data scientists and analysts. The company needed to prioritise their investments that support the core of its host community and reduce it accordingly. “We assessed how each team mapped to our new strategy, and we determined the size and shape of each team going forward. We then did a comprehensive review of every team member and made decisions based on critical skills, and how well those skills matched our future business needs,” stated in the company release.
In another news, a fintech startup, Kabbage, that focuses strongly on small and medium businesses has also completely closed down its India operations in Bangalore by laying off a significant number of its employees, which included engineers, data analysts as well as data scientists.
This pandemic has also brought in the dependency on automation where businesses are heavily relying on newer technologies. And therefore, organisations need to hire employees who are skilled with these new technologies; existing professionals of the industry who would lack these advanced skills would, in turn, be vulnerable to layoffs.
Also, a lot of data support jobs have been replaced by automated tools like chatbots, and many businesses have started deploying low-code/no-code tools to fill in the skills gap, instead of hiring new professionals. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, has also taken over some lower-level data tasks that were earlier performed by data engineers.
Businesses have also changed their focus of working projects, which earlier used to be on growing the bottom line, however, according to research, many of these data analytics professionals in organisations are currently working on customer engagement projects and initiatives that are related to foreseeing the impact of lockdown on their business.
With a lot of uncertainty in hand, businesses are continuously working towards improving their brand image and cutting down costs to survive the post-pandemic world. As the industry matures, the relevant data related skillsets get useless, and therefore, data professionals need to quickly upskill and learn newer tools in order to continue relevancy.
How upskilling can help data scientists in surviving the layoff amid this crisis?
These layoffs amid the crisis can be gruelling for IT employees, including data scientists and other analytics professionals. And, one of the main reasons for laying off data analytics professionals in organisations has been their outdated skills that aren’t beneficial for businesses any more. This has brought in the urgency for data science professionals to upskill themselves in order to stay relevant in this ever-changing technology landscape.
In fact, in a recent survey by LinkedIn, it was revealed that 64% of Indian professionals are currently focusing on learning and improving their knowledge of tools to navigate through these challenging times. Ashutosh Gupta, India Country Manager, LinkedIn stated in their release that, “it is reassuring to see a majority of India’s workforce remain confident about the long-term outlook, and determined in the short-term to upskill, pivot, and adapt.”
Upskilling will also provide lower-level data science professionals with an opportunity to explore a change in their career and can create possibilities for them to enter in better data-related positions. Amid crisis upskilling is the only way to future-proof your data science career.
This also requires a lot of support from ed-tech companies, who are continually enhancing their online learning resources and providing industry-ready AI, ML, and big data courses for professionals who are willing to stay relevant in these competitive times. Companies like Simplilearn, Coursera, edX, Udacity, among others, have also made data science courses free in the market for aspirants. Besides, Ed-tech companies are applying predictive analytics using artificial intelligence and machine learning to assess active learners.
According to Irwin Preet Singh Anand, managing director India & APAC at Udemy, learning is the need of the hour that can help the workforce to succeed. He said, “At a time of unprecedented change and heightened concern around recent events, the most important job skill would be the ability to learn.”
Apart from full-time online courses data scientists can also opt for boot camps, certificate courses, opt for mentorship or can even participate in hackathons to reskill or upskill themselves. These platforms can enable an in-depth understanding of data science and new age technologies, which are going to gain traction in companies amid and post this crisis.
With organisations transforming towards a data-driven model amid crisis, businesses are looking to hire professionals with data skills. Consequently, the data science job market will end up experiencing fewer layoffs as compared to other tech roles of the industry. However, no job roles are entirely immune to the oncoming recession, and therefore data scientists are expected to continuously upskill/reskill themselves in order to stay relevant in the industry.
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Sejuti currently works as Senior Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine (AIM). Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org