For the past year or so, I have been touting the job opportunities in the field of “big data” in which massive amounts of personal data including medical information, social media usage, mobile device usage, buying behaviors, etc are accumulated, analyzed and used for marketing purposes. While there may be growing career opportunities for life scientists in the field, especially bioinformaticists, computational biologists and database managers, before you take the plunge you may want to read an article in today’s NY Times entitled “You For Sale: Mapping, and Sharing the Consumer Genome” (great title for us biologists).
The articles walks readers through how Acxiom —a 40 year old data mining company and the second largest provider of consumer information in the US—mines and “refines” (Acxiom executives call what they do, refining rather than mining”) personal information and sells it to paying customers. Admittedly, I previously knew little about how data mining algorithms work but I must say reading the article provided me with me insights and clarity about the pervasiveness and potential for misuse and abuse of the services and features offered by Acxiom and other companies of its ilk. BTW, the largest provider of data mining services in the US is Epsilon.
According to the article, “Acxiom maintains its own database on about 190 million individuals and 126 million households in theUnited States. Separately, it manages customer databases for or works with 47 of the Fortune 100 companies.” And, not surprisingly the company hires top talent from the software industry including its CEOScottE. Howe, previously a corporate vice President of advertising at Microsoft and Phil Mui, formerly group product manager for Google Analytics as it chief product and engineering officer.
There is little doubt that electronic healthcare records will help to improve patient access and health outcomes once it is fully implemented. And, the success of this new industry will be contingent upon hiring talented biologists, healthcare professionals and software engineers. But, for every benefit that a new technology can bestow upon humanity, there is always a down side.
To that point, it is important to get a complete picture of an industry before you make a decision about a career in it! If big data management is the direction that you want your career to take, then go for it but remember to keep your “eyes and ears open.”
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!