Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interesting Article

At a time when there is so much negative news regarding the economy and the job market, here's some positive news for MS graduate candidates in analytics from sascom MAGAZINE.

The making of an analyst
Find, hire, and train employees with analytical minds
By Ted Cuzzillo

The first graduates with a master’s of science in analytics from North Carolina State University found evidence this spring of a growing demand: Recruiters offered starting salaries to new business analysts that were at least comparable to – and perhaps higher than – the nationwide average offered to new MBAs, statisticians and computer scientists.

The 20 graduates of the university’s Institute for Advanced Analytics are starting at an average salary of $83,300. MBAs start at $65,500 for computer science and $54,700 for math and statistics, according the Graduate Admissions Council and the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

As vast quantities of data flow into corporations, a new problem has arisen: how to approach and analyze it all? It’s no longer just quantitative. It’s often unstructured, messy and possibly corrupted, and it’s constantly changing and swelling. Often, it has to be fit for executives’ perusal in the morning.

The old methods don’t work, and those who know the new methods are in short supply. How do you find them, and how do you train them? Wayne Eckerson, the director of TDWI Research, suspects that most companies look first on the open market for analysts. Failing that, they look inside to find a business-savvy person doing similar work who might be trainable. “This could be a subject-matter expert, a report developer who spends a lot of time talking with the business, or a data or systems analyst who supports a business department,” he says. He warns that a serious, long-term shortage of analysts may have serious effects on the industry. Companies will find it harder to launch predictive analytics programs or improve existing ones. The word “analyst” may mean any of several sets of skills. Some analysts know the programming required to pull together mountains of data from different sources and extract what they need to answer a question. Others have enough knowledge of business, math or statistics to see in the data what happened and what may happen next. Harder to find, says Polly Mitchell-Guthrie, education industry strategist, are those who can do both. Even harder to find are people who can also define the business question and come up with recommendations for senior managers. Top analysts understand the industry they’re in. And they understand what to do with data that doesn’t yet come shrink-wrapped and ready to serve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Happy...

… that you selected an analytical career path! Even in the face of daily dire economic news, the quantitative job market continues to hold its own. Many of you may have read this interesting take on how one man has tried to stand out in the job-hunting crowd. News outlets around the world featured the story of Paul Nawrocki, an unemployed Manhattan manager who has been sporting a sandwich board to advertise his job search. While you’ve got to admire Mr. Nawrocki’s originality, you can feel confident that more traditional recruiting and job-hunting tactics are still serving our industry well. Since my last post four weeks ago, many have wondered how our corner of the job market has fared. I am happy to report that, in the analytical groups of the companies I work with, there have been very few layoffs. The managers and directors who head these groups understand how difficult it is to recruit solid quantitative talent and are hesitant to let anyone go.

And believe it or not, there are still plenty of career opportunities for analytical specialists. Job hunters who have kept their skills current and worked to broaden their expertise across a few industries will likely have a few options to consider. It’s important to be flexible on location and be willing to roll up your sleeves to work with data and SAS. And in this market, there is not a lot of room to negotiate compensation. My best advice for everyone is to keep your professional network current, so you are able to tap into those connections when and if you need them.

(By the way, are we connected on LinkedIn? If not, click here!)

Stay tuned for updates. And as for Mr. Nawrocki, I bet he has started a new job by now!

I welcome your comments and observations.

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Job Market Update

First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance
. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Many people assume that this famous quote from Roosevelt was about World War II. In fact, it was part of his first inaugural address in 1933 and was specifically meant to ease the country’s fears about the worsening economy. Since my last blog entry on the state of the job market for the quantitative business professional in July, there have been dramatic changes in the economic and business climate. It is rare these days that I have a conversation without being asked for my take on how these changes are affecting the current job market and the near-term prospects for job seekers in our industry.

Not surprisingly, the drumbeat of negative news about the economy resulting from the meltdown of the financial markets has many people on edge about the stability of their companies and the security of their jobs. At Smith Hanley, we have been paying close attention to every aspect of the current crisis — what I see happening in the quantitative job market is surprising, and should offer my audience relief and even confidence.

We are still seeing a healthy amount of hiring and new job openings. Last year was a record revenue year for the quantitative recruiting groups at Smith Hanley; and this year, even if we have a weaker fourth quarter, we will surpass last year’s numbers. Certainly, the overall unemployment rate has climbed rapidly from 5% this summer to a current rate of 6.1%; the weekly jobless reports are also grimmer, with the number of jobs lost in September nearing 150,000. In the panic of the moment, however, it is important to note that the unemployment rate for college educated professionals is still at very low 2.5% and I strongly believe that for analytics professionals, that number is lower still.

While it’s true that this recession is having a negative impact on employment in most disciplines, professionals with backgrounds in data analytics (including statisticians, econometricians, operations researchers, and mathematicians) are continuing to enjoy job security and employment opportunities. Albert Einstein once said: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value.” In uncertain economic times, the best advice we can give the men and women in our field to keep their jobs secure is to work hard and demonstrate to their employers the value they bring to table. As quantitative professionals, they are uniquely qualified to sift through the mountains of business data necessary to help management develop effective streamlining strategies, a vital tool in this economy. In this case, it is nice to be considered to be among “America’s most wanted”.

These are interesting times. In a news cycle full of gloom and doom, I am pleased to report that employment in analytics remains robust, and with no substantial layoffs or hiring freezes in sight. But in this volatile environment, things could be different next week – so stay in touch with your recruiter at Smith Hanley for the latest updates on the analytical employment market.

Please share your opinions about the economy and current job market by posting them to my blog.

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Declining Math Skills in the US

Last week, I was disappointed as I read in the New York Times that the number of children in the United States who are excelling in mathematics is in decline. It seems that American culture does not highly value talent in math and as a result, many students, and especially girls, are not motivated to achieve in this discipline.

My own 13 year old daughter, Becky, decided to drop out of the chess club this year, after having competed nationally and internationally since she was in the first grade. “It is just not cool, Mom.” But I am continuing to insist on participation in after school math enrichment through the local Kumon branch. And she is dutifully rising early every morning to get to her 7:15 geometry class at the high school. Luckily, I still have some influence!

As a recruiter for positions requiring quantitative skills, I am very aware of the acute shortage of analytical talent here in the United States. Off shoring these jobs resulted because of the inability to satisfy all the demand (and I did not see any negative impact to salaries here as a result). The demand continues to grow and it sounds like the supply will increasingly come from foreign sources.

Here’s the link to the article:

I would love to hear about your experiences – please share them by posting to my blog.

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Numerati by Stephen Baker

As I'm sure you are all aware, we live in an extremely numerically driven world, where many of you mine for information along all sectors and industries. The Numerati, by Stephen Baker is a book describing exactly this, according to John Derbyshire, the author of a book review from The Wall Street Journal. From measuring advertising success, to predicting customer behavior, to electronic name recognition, and blog mining, the elite quantitative professionals are staying competitive and current in trends concerning the most updated data and necessity of data analysis. This is a very interesting delve into the issue of privacy and the impact of data mining.
To read more:

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Monday, August 4, 2008

For your information


I wanted to pass along some interesting data that we found from KD nuggets.

From our vantage point, we don't necessarily see this as true for quantitative professionals, but we thought you might find it a worthwhile read. Enjoy.

Subject: Surprising Effect of US Recession on Data Miners

The previous KDnuggets Poll asked: How do you expect the US recession to affect the demand for data mining / analytic software and services in the US and worldwide?

The surprising result is that a third of respondents felt that it would increase the demand.
John Elder, one of the leading data mining consultants in the US observed that his company saw an increase in demand. KDnuggets also saw an increase and in demand for consulting. However, this increase did not apply to all.
About 40% of respondents felt that the US recession would reduce the demand, and the rest thought that there would be no change.
Also, based on number of jobs received by KDnuggets, and looking at "data mining" jobs at other large job boards, we see that hiring by large companies (except perhaps Microsoft) has slowed down in the last quarter.

Here are full results of KDnuggets Poll: Effect of the US Recession on Data Mining Demand

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quantitative Job Trends 2008 5-6-08

Recession Talk Exaggerated re Analytical Job Market

While talk of recession continues to dominate headlines, with the fresh job market data issued in May, we question whether there is a recession at all. Overall, the economy lost 20,000 jobs in April, significantly fewer than economists had predicted. Furthermore, April saw substantial growth in professional hiring, adding 39,000 new jobs. All this information supports the healthy activity we are experiencing.

Despite some doomsday predictions, current data indicates that we may have passed the period of greatest risk and could even be on the road to another robust hiring phase. For example, Monster Worldwide, the Internet jobs company, recently reported that its monthly employment index for April experienced the sharpest gain in more than a year.

In addition, recent figures on jobs, GDP, business confidence, and consumer spending all tell a consistent story indicating that, while the economy weakened abruptly last fall, there has not been continued deterioration. It seems increasingly probable that the US will skirt a recession this year.

New job orders continue to arrive from all sectors, with consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical companies leading the way. Energy, telecommunication, and consulting firms are all looking to hire; and we are seeing activity from advertising agencies, insurance companies and retailers, as well – areas we assumed would contract during a soft market. Even the beleaguered credit industry is showing signs of a return to staffing during this second quarter.

This continued hiring seems a testament to the constant level of demand for good talent. While other areas may be feeling the effects of the economy more drastically, our clients are still in need of employees with strong analytic aptitude, and the ability to lead the way with data-driven business decisions. The technical and strategic talents of those in the marketing analytics industry are highly desired by today’s companies, and this helps to shield quantitative professionals from the effects of the softening market.

To understand recent and upcoming conditions, it may be helpful to examine a few substantial differences between the current market softness and the recessionary period of 2001-03. Economists frequently describe modern recessions as being “U” shaped, rather the “V” shape of past recessions. Prior to 2001, recessions tended to be sharper, with a sudden spike in layoffs and unemployment rates. The trough was deep, but short lived and the rebound was quick. During the 2001-03 period, the falloff was not nearly as sharp and the bottom not nearly as deep, but the turnaround was slower, with many months of sluggish growth.

While some believe we may be in the beginning stages of this new kind of economic cycle, many indicators suggest otherwise. During 13 of the 24 months between May ‘01 and May ‘03, monthly job losses averaged between 150,000 and 300,000. In contrast, the job losses reported this year are much less dramatic, at 80,000 per month for January through March, and just 20,000 in April. It is also worth noting that unemployment peaked in June 2003 at 6.3% during the earlier contraction period, whereas the current rate is hovering at about 5.0%.

I am happy to say that the impact of the reported soft market on the analytical community seems likely to be minor. We have not heard of any substantial layoffs and salary offers remain aggressive. Our candidates continue to enjoy a steady stream of new opportunities, and filling these highly specialized positions is a persistent challenge for many companies.

These are the challenges we welcome. We are here to help you understand and prepare for fluctuating market conditions. Let us know of any way in which we might be able to be of service.

Best regards,

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quantitative Trends: 2008, Part II

As it is our goal to keep you informed of what we're seeing in the marketplace today, we thought you might appreciate some insight into the current entry-level space.

Is the Job Market Mad For Grads?

It is according to The Chicago Tribune, which recently reported a robust hiring market for college graduates this spring. While the article highlighted a number of “hot” areas, it did not address the entry market for our industry, specifically quantitative candidates coming out of master’s degree programs in statistics, economics and operations research. Here are a few of my observations on the current and upcoming markets for analytical grads.

In general, demand from our corporate clients for entry-level candidates has trended down since fourth quarter 2007. There is a growing perception that more experienced candidates are available as a result of the uncertainty hitting some specific industries. As a result, many organizations are attempting to fill open positions with candidates who have some corporate experience, even if it is only one or two years.

New Grads Address Specific Needs

Even with current conditions favoring more experienced employees, companies remain sensitive to the continuing need to staff their quantitative groups and assure that the pipeline of trained talent will remain unbroken, especially for critical, hard-to-fill openings. Corporate talent acquisition groups are also busy planning for the wave of Baby Boomers approaching retirement age, and new grads will play a key role in filling this looming void.

In uncertain economic times, new grads also help address the all-important issue of staffing costs, as they are typically brought in at much lower salary- and benefit-levels. In addition, new grads often offer “fresher” technical skills than their more experienced colleagues.

Flexibility is Key

If, as predicted, the market continues to soften, graduates on training visas will have a more challenging time this spring. It is important for these individuals to be flexible with geographic requirements and, as always, hone their communication skills, both spoken and written. It has not been my experience that these candidates need to consider lower compensation levels.

Although a repeat of the distressing graduate markets of 2001/2002 is unlikely, let’s not lose track of lessons learned. While some organizations will make offers to students

months in advance of graduation (many large consulting firms routinely follow this practice), these offers can be rescinded, as they were frequently during the last recession.

Soon-to-be graduates need to stay abreast of changing circumstances at their future employers and remain flexible, if necessary.

Market Shrinking, But Salaries Rising

So far this year, we have seen the entry market demand for recent analytical grads shrink by 32%. Starting salaries, however, have continued to increase. The average starting base salary for a quantitative master’s graduate for the 12 months ending June 2007 was $57K; that base has since increased to $62K.

Even in the uncertainty of today’s economy, the need for strong quantitative talent remains solid. So relax — it’s our job here at Smith Hanley to keep an ear to the market and keep you in the loop. Please get in touch with any specific comments or concerns.

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quantitative Trends: 2008

It's that time of year again! As 2008 is well underway, Linda has put together her much anticipated "state of the union address" sharing her thoughts on the outlook for this year's quantitative job market. You'll find that below.

As always, we welcome your input and observations, so feel free to post your opinions!


Don’t Panic Over Recession Forecasts

In light of the dire predictions filling today’s economic and political news, I want to share some of my expectations for the quantitative job market going in 2008. Many of the sobering employment statistics released February 1 by the US Labor Department do not reflect our industry’s current outlook. Though the economy as a whole lost 17,000 jobs in January (the first monthly decline in four years), and the number of long-term unemployed (+6 months) is up about 21% from a year ago, I am happy to report that job security for the quantitative professional is high, with continued strong demand and frustratingly short supply.

Quantitative Professionals are Secure …

Recruiters here have not seen any significant signs of slowdown in our job markets. To date, there have been few layoffs in the quantitative professions, and recruiting and hiring remain a priority for many departments. Talented professionals are still in short supply, continuing to make it difficult to fill open positions even in this changing economic climate, and also making quantitative specialists less vulnerable during layoffs.

… with Some Exceptions

The consumer credit groups are a bit of an exception to the general level of security afforded the rest of the quantitative industry. The mortgage crisis has resulted in some cutbacks at lending institutions, banks and real estate companies, especially those heavily involved in the subprime market. For those who remain, bonuses have been uneven.

In addition, corporate hiring managers do seem less interested in entry-level statisticians at this time, believing (or maybe just hoping) they will be able to take advantage of the softening market to add experienced, talented staffers. I continue to encourage our clients to be open to considering junior or entry-level statisticians, as other industries are still competing for more experienced hires. By accommodating the learning curve of entry-level statisticians, companies may be cultivating a unique talent base that will garner large returns on their investments as the need for industry-specific quantitative experience continues to grow unchecked.

Industry Crossover Presents New Opportunities

Hiring managers across the board are realizing they might find the employees they need among the ailing credit industry’s talented quantitative professionals. Candidates with bank and credit experience offer knowledge of sophisticated statistical techniques, as well as expertise in managing large and often messy data sets. In the past, it has been a challenge for other industries to compete with the higher compensation levels and generous benefit packages of the big banks. As the credit industry pulls back, candidates are looking outside that arena with new eyes, suddenly able to appreciate the career advantages offered by knowledge diversification.

Consulting Firms Continue Healthy Growth

As many corporations are realizing the limitations of outsourcing their analytics overseas, they have turned to domestic consulting resources to handle their quantitative needs. This has lead to

a visibly growing demand for quantitative professionals in consulting environments - from very large global concerns to small boutique shops.

Relocation Presents Continuing Challenges

For 18 months, the soft housing market has had a major impact on the ability of candidates who own homes to relocate. A few companies are able to provide a safety net for homeowners through a buy-back policy, reducing the stress involved for families contemplating a move. Other companies have agreed to extend temporary housing allowances (in the past often limited to three months) to accommodate the longer time required to sell a home.

Salaries Remain Firm

In another sign that our industry is riding out the recession news, the recent market pullback has not reduced the salary offers our quantitative candidates are receiving. Though bonuses will be disappointing for many this February and March, others will see on- or above-target payouts. The frequency of sign-on bonuses is also holding steady at about 35% of the offers our candidates receive.

Let Us Help You Navigate the Shifting Economic Terrain

Though negative economic reports continue to make the daily news, the real news for our industry is much brighter. Quantitative professionals are still enjoying lucrative careers, with new opportunities for growth and diversification rising from both traditional and unexpected sources. Smart hiring, creative thinking and careful career management will help ensure a positive outlook for quantitative professionals. I will continue to monitor the market closely for changes and trends, and look forward to analyzing the news to help you stay abreast of developments affecting your career.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, as well as how we can help you plan for this year and the years to come.

Best regards,

Linda Burtch
Burtch Works
Don’t Forget to Connect to me on LinkedIn and become a Facebook fan!

Friday, January 25, 2008

2008: The Year of Quant? recently published an article on the outlook of careers in 2008. With some interesting predictions, we encourage you to take a look!

Hiring Outlook 2008
By JOHN ROSSHEIM, Monster Senior Contributing Writer

You want a New Year's prediction for the US labor market? Here you go: 2008 will be the year of the quant.

By quant, we mean not just quantitative analysts, those brainiacs of finance who drive many a hedge fund's oversized returns -- and occasionally help set off market crises like the recent mortgage-backed securities meltdown.

No, for 2008, we have the entire range of creative workers who excel in the logical and mathematical in mind, for they are in intense and increasing demand in fields like systems design, electronic engineering, accounting and, yes, finance.

Read on to see how your corner of the economy will fare in the new year.