Big Data has the power to transform organisational effectiveness and success. By interpreting and extracting meaning from data, companies can refine their product development process, improve customer retention, or find new business opportunities. As digital transformation initiatives continue to rise, so too has the demand for data scientists and business transformation professionals. But as the industry is rapidly changing, it’s essential to keep your skills fresh to stay ahead of the competition. In this post, we’re sharing the top data skills you need in 2021 to stay ahead of the curve.

Sharpen your technical skills

First let’s lay the groundwork and ensure you’re developing a solid foundation of technical skills. An aptitude for statistical analysis and computing, mining and processing of large data sets is essential. You’ll also need knowledge of various programming languages to organise unstructured data sets and implement data analysis and machine learning, like SQL, C/C++, Java and Perl, with Python being the most common coding language in data science roles.

To recognise and extract valuable information from an organised data set, understanding analytical tools like SAS, Hadoop, Spark and R is key, and certifications can help you to establish your know-how with these tools. Look for opportunities to integrate best practices from software engineering into your work, like version control, continuous integrating and testing, to make yourself even more marketable. Lastly, be prepared to work with data that comes from different channels and sources across a business.

Invest in your professional development

As the profile of business transformation and data science continue to rise, committing to your professional development will help differentiate you from other talent in the market. Think of your career as an investment; you need to continually learn and build up your knowledge so that you understand the latest trends and developments, stand out against the competition and ultimately have more to offer to a potential employer.

There are plenty of learning opportunities to choose from: you might download academic papers, subscribe to relevant newsletters, or read blogs about the fast-changing technical landscape. You could attend virtual conferences to seek out a mentor, or to widen your network and learn from the experience of peers. Course providers like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or bootcamps will offer practical lessons that you can put into practice in a hands‑on way. You might choose to publicly share any insights you’ve discovered, opportunities for improvement or solutions to industry problems, for example through articles on LinkedIn, to establish yourself as a credible voice in this space.

Refine your soft skills

While technical skills are an essential requirement for data professionals, employers also look for soft skills that’ll contribute to the value you can offer their business. Strong communication skills are crucial so that you can effectively articulate data analysis, present research-backed solutions or introduce new ideas to colleagues, and clearly communicate with team members who have different backgrounds or priorities to your own.

Business acumen is critical too, helping to inform decisions and implement actions that support the company’s strategy or achieve its goals. To do this, you’ll need to draw on your experience and knowledge to weigh up risks and opportunities, understand the roots behind your employer’s commercial success, and review the landscape of the wider industry to make sound decisions that produce good outcomes.

Combined with strong technical skills, honing these soft skills will not only boost your competitive advantage over other candidates, but they will also increase your adaptability to work in different environments, making you more attractive to future employers.

If you’re looking for your next career challenge, we’re here to help. Experis is the global leader in professional IT resourcing and solutions, operating in more than 50 countries worldwide. Thanks to our expert industry knowledge, history of success and strong relationships with organisations large and small, we’re well-equipped to share market insights like these and match specialist IT professionals into permanent and contract assignments. Browse all our current job opportunities here.