Open data careers

What is the professional background of the people who have found themselves working in open data? And how are their careers likely to develop in the future?

The answer to the first question is that: it’s very diverse. A session at Open Data Camp 5 heard from people who had started out as foresters, commercial under-writers and as architects. And from people who had begun their careers in large DIY chains and councils.

Just one participant had been recruited to an open data project from university. And he had studied history while he was there.

Become and expert – then do open data

If there was a common thread, it was that people had found themselves working with data, picked up technical skills, and then worked out that open data was a better way of doing what they wanted to do with data than other approaches.

One or two had even started open data projects as a hobby; and then been able to use their open data skills to impress their bosses and get a better job or pay package.

Will that be sustainable in the future? When the session moved on to discussing the skills that organisations need from open data experts, the consensus was that it might be.

You want a data scientist. Are you sure about that?

While many government departments, public bodies and even charities advertise for people with data skills, they often advertise for data scientists. But they don’t do spreadsheets, and might not like – or be good at – communicating the results to policy makers, stakeholders and the public.
Someone with sector expertise, who picks up an open data interest and skill-set to support their policy, communication or core interests may be a better fit.

Organiser Henrick Grothuis did a quick search on LinkedIn for open data jobs. Companies were looking for lots of different skills. “This camp looks perfect for people who want to develop diverse careers,” he said. “Open data is a route to picking up skills that a lot of people want.”