Career spotlight: Big-data architect

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Behind every majestic bridge and towering skyscraper stands an architect. The infrastructure that shelters and connects the people of a city cannot exist without highly trained, creative minds to envision and plan it. For a business world that’s reliant on gathering, storing, accessing and analyzing big data, it’s just as vital to have individuals prepared to lay out and implement the plans for storing and processing that information.

A career as a big-data architect revolves around shaping the way information is gathered and maintained, optimizing how organizations understand it and put it to work. These professionals enable forward-looking strategies while regularly solving complex and fascinating problems. For someone considering pursuing a master’s in analytics, data architecture could offer an endlessly intriguing path.

If you think you have the right skills and interests to be a big-data architect, there are many great positions in the market. First, you should learn more about what it means to be a data architect, the skills it takes to land the job and the daily workplace demands of the role.

Understanding big-data architecture

The huge amount of information that drives customer engagement, product development and advanced logistics requires extensive storage solutions. At the same time, the pace of business means there is always a pressing need to identify, find and transmit the relevant information almost immediately. A big-data architect considers the most efficient, cost-effective way for an organization to get the answers to its questions and problems.

Big-data architecture produces a pipeline for that information, turning raw data into understandable and actionable insights for decision-makers. The architect determines how that information should be stored, processed and accessed in order to yield the best possible results for the organization. Creating an effective system requires a person who is constantly aware of every layer the information must pass through to reach the desired outcome, and how each layer functions.

The basic layers include:

  • The data source
  • A storage facility
  • Analytical tools
  • The users or services working with the data

Big-data architects begin by evaluating the internal and external data the business collects and uses. Based on that information, strategic priorities are then determined to organize and implement this data. Models and applications related to the organization’s short- and long-term needs are created, with a desirable end-goal of problem-solving and effective planning.

The foundation of a systems builder

Aspiring data architects must have a firm grasp on how to use various platforms for managing and processing data, like Hadoop. Experience with designing and developing applications is a major advantage when it’s necessary to craft new solutions for a particular business need. These individuals should master modeling tools like Enterprise Architect, ERWin and Visio, and be able to code in both structured languages like Java and more flexible, statistically oriented ones like Python.

A data professional understands how to work with a range of databases, using both SQL and NoSQL languages as necessary. The expert uses enterprise-search solutions and skillfully transforms, integrates and analyzes data. A general knowledge of scientific and engineering principles can also be a big help, especially when faced with tricky problems that call for innovative thinking.

Developing that varied base of knowledge and skills requires specialized education. Data-analytics master’s programs provide the grounding in essential techniques and tools to find work in the field. Students can seek out the multidisciplinary learning that will guide them through data modeling, analysis and optimization.

Forging a career in big data

Depending on the industry and organization where you work, you may be faced with a wide range of day-to-day responsibilities and challenging projects. Scaling the architecture and adjusting its functionality is an ongoing process, especially at businesses that consistently take strategic cues from the information the system processes. While working as a data architect, you may be asked to complete an array of tasks that can shift with the needs of the organization as a whole, like:

  • Monitoring and reporting on the functioning of data systems
  • Integrating data from multiple silos in order to improve processes, predict future problems or gain a better understanding of customers
  • Speeding up responses to analytics requests
  • Reworking the architecture to draw on additional data sources and deliver deeper insights
  • Collaborating with IT to establish a new data strategy
  • Integrating new systems with existing ones
  • Providing savvy users with direct access to data while managing costs and resource utilization

To tailor solutions that meet a company’s requirements, an expert needs the ability to communicate clearly with both executives and IT professionals. The architect must be equipped to handle the pressure from these stakeholders, who all have pressing concerns that can be addressed with the right information.

A successful data architect is adept in numerous technical areas and also skilled at managing the needs of a business. This career is ideal for someone who is fascinated both by the theoretical underpinnings of data science and the power of its real-world applications.

Working toward a master’s in data analytics online can be the first step toward a professional life in building structures for data that deliver new possibilities to an organization. The Villanova School of Business offers an online Master of Science in Analytics program that can start you on the road to success as a big-data architect. If this piques your interest, please visit the Villanova Master of Science in Analytics program page to learn more.

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