Friday, December 7, 2012

Year in Review: Good News, Bad News

It’s that time of year again when we take a look back on 2012 and begin looking forward to 2013. When evaluating the past year, I see good news and bad news.   

Raises in salary have been marginal
The bad news is that salary increases in 2012 were minimal. While we are definitely in better shape than in the years directly following the recession in 2008, companies have been focusing on cutting costs as uncertainty about growth prospects continues and, as a result, raises have been incremental.

Base pay increased by about 2.8% in 2012, a marginal increase from 2.7% in 2011. This varies significantly by city and industry, with Denver; Dallas; Detroit; and San Diego seeing higher than average increases in the 3% range, and San Francisco; Chicago; and Minneapolis experiencing below average increases around 2.7%.

If candidates want to see a good bump in pay, they will need to change jobs. Mid-level to senior people can expect an 8-12% increase in salary with junior candidates sometimes seeing slightly higher increases.

No urgency to hire
Overall, there’s a lack of urgency to hire. Junior candidates are seeing a fair amount of activity this year, but the trend has certainly been steady as you go. Clients are hesitating seeking the ‘perfect match’ and delaying hires at the more senior end (those making over $150k base). This is especially evident in certain industries, such as consumer packaged goods.  CPG firms continue to focus on costs and are not hiring, in some cases laying off and replacing seasoned workers with younger and less expensive staffers. 

Bonuses are also a factor in hiring, especially in the late fourth and early first quarters. Senior level candidates are choosing to sit tight until they get their anticipated first quarter bonus and hiring companies are reluctant to cover a lost bonus with a sizable sign-on. Instead, they are waiting to hire, or in some cases moving on to other, less expensive, prospects.   

Now for some good news
The quantitative job market has been strong, even throughout the lackluster recovery. Consulting companies, for one, continue to be on the rise and are dominating analytics. Corporations are more and more turning to the flexibility of using consulting companies to address their quantitative issues and these firms are hot to hire if you are open to the heavy travel.  I have also seen more tech companies developing their in-house quant capabilities and hiring more aggressively than other industries.

Housing market improving
One major change in just the past few months is that the housing market is looking more favorable. This means that there is less hesitation on both the client and candidate’s end to relocate for the right situation. Corporate relocation packages are coming back, whereas the pattern up until recently has been using sign-on bonuses to cover moving expenses.

A note on bonuses
Bonuses may not be back to pre-recession levels, but things are getting better and pay outs have been consistent. One of the most interesting trends that I’ve seen developing is companies paying out partial bonuses in 2012 in order to accelerate income in anticipation of next year’s higher tax rates. I have seen this come up a few times in active candidates since the presidential election and am curious what impact this will have on hiring in the next few months.

2013 – Here we come!
Every year has its ups and downs but I continue to see improvement in the job market and the quantitative arena as a whole. I’m ready for 2013, which incidentally is the International Year of Statistics. Let’s see if it lives up to the title!  

It’s been a great year at Burtch Works and hopefully for all of you as well. Have a great holiday season and best wishes from everyone here to you and yours. See you next year!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave

Bill Franks offers an excellent guide to understanding and utilizing Big Data in his informative and fun book, Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave. It's a well written account of the "Big Data" craze that does a good job of emphasizing the longevity of this movement. With how often the phrase Big Data gets thrown around today, it's easy to write it off as merely a fad. Bill gives his audience a great understanding of why this is not true and why all organizations should be taking the appropriate steps to enhance their analytics.

In a sense, the book is a how-to for both organizations that need to initiate a Big Data movement and those that simply need to enhance their current system. I found this particularly interesting because although I am a member of the analytic community, I am something of an outside observer as a recruiter. Big Data is going to blow us all over, and Bill Franks is letting us know what we should expect.

From my perspective as a recruiter, I do wish that the author gave some short term solutions to the ever expanding shortage of advanced analytics professionals who can manipulate this data, but I suppose that's because there is no short term answer! This is a great read for both a technical and non-technical audience. I learned a lot and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

American Math Education: Worse Than We Think?

As a recruiter of quantitative talent I’m always interested to hear how math education in the United States compares to other countries. As a mother of three high school kids, I’m personally invested in the state of public school education and how our children can compete internationally. This is why I found Arthur Levine’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal particularly troubling.

Mr. Levine points out the obvious truth that most Americans are aware of: the United States is mediocre at best in math education. Every year recent grads are competing with the best in the world and they are unfortunately ill-prepared. If we don’t focus on fixing this problem now, it will only get worse. Math education has fallen to the wayside and apart from a new statistic coming out every few months to support what we already know, it doesn’t look like the government is making any effort to make a substantial change.

What Mr. Levine points out though is that there’s another form of competition within the US as students in urban and inner city schools compete with their counterparts in the suburbs. Shockingly, he specifically points to Evanston, IL and Scarsdale, NY as exceptions to general low performance in American schools. Mr. Levine writes that students in Evanston outperform students in Finland and Singapore, the top school systems in the world.

My children are currently enrolled in Evanston Township High School, and while I’d love to believe they are part of a competitive, high performing system, I was skeptical. Based on experience this did not ring true, and sure enough the facts prove otherwise. According to the Prairie State Achievement Exam, only 42% of student at ETHS met federal education standards in math. This is clearly substantially lower than the 75% proficiency rate in Shanghai and even 50% in Canada.

My children are fortunately able to partake in ETHS’s high level math program. As frustrating as the national statistics are, the students in this program are outstanding, motivated, and sure to succeed. I can’t speak highly enough of the fantastic teachers who devote so much to math education and inspire their students.

I wish there were more programs like this available to more students nationwide. I’m sorry to say that the overall picture, though is bleaker than Mr. Levine paints it. If even these so-called “affluent suburbs” are not up to par with the international community, something has to change.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The New Golden Child of Statistics

Happy Election Day everyone! I went out and voted this morning and hope you all will too. The past few weeks for many of us have been a veritable bombardment of political ads and polls. It seems like every day there are several new polls out, sometimes with conflicting results. It has made me think about how presidential elections have evolved into an incredibly calculated guessing game and even more about the statisticians behind this evolution.

I am continually amazed by the changing face of statistics. I can easily look back 30 years ago when I started recruiting for this industry and remember the stigma that these professionals carried. Statisticians were back room number crunchers whose brilliance was rarely recognized. You would be a god in the statistical community if you had a textbook taught at a university, let alone had a New York Times Bestseller on the bookshelves.

Needless to say, the script is very different today. Moneyball has reached pop culture status, Facebook and Twitter are providing scientists with information about public safety, and Nate Silver is now a household name.

If you haven’t heard of Silver yet, you’re in the minority. Author of the widely popular New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, Silver is showing the world that statistics is sexy. He rose to fame with his PECOTA system used to predict the performance of major league baseball players and over the years has turned to politics. (I’m sure you’ve all read about his much debated 2012 presidential picks!)

I for one could not be happier to have Silver in the spotlight. His new book The Signal and the Noise is on my holiday reading list and his refreshing insights are always a nice break from the same old commentary. Silver’s unique approach to statistics will be highlighted this week as part of the Karla Scherer Endowed Lecture Series for the University of Chicago. With the election winding down this week, he is sure to speak about a wide array of topics, including his first love: baseball.

Tickets are (not surprisingly) sold out, but I can only hope to see more of Silver and the new face of statistics in the coming months.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Case for Saving Algebra

In his op-ed piece “Is Algebra Necessary?” Andrew Hacker struggles to justify the teaching of traditional advanced mathematics in our public schools. I’ll admit that the statistics he provides are jarring: community colleges across the country report that fewer than 25% of new students passed their required algebra classes; at The City University of New York, 57% of students fail the mandatory algebra course. High school numbers are more shocking with millions of students from several states falling well below the level of “proficient” in mathematics.

Clearly we have a problem and it’s one that might be avoided by simply eliminating algebra and trigonometry from the curriculum, but does that really solve anything? Hacker argues that advanced math is irrelevant to most career paths. While that may be true, taking algebra out of the equation doesn’t make the fact that millions of children are frustrated and intimidated by math any less of an issue.

I think we owe something to these students. Hacker points out that less than one percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded each year are in mathematics. While he uses this as a way to support his claim that advanced math has become unnecessary, I see this as an argument to the contrary: now, more than ever, we need to encourage students to appreciate math and help them excel in it.

College is obviously too late to start. High school is not soon enough. This is one point that I think Hacker and I are in agreement on. As early as kindergarten children should be exposed to math and as they grow older and hone their analytical skills, math should evolve with them.  Many kids can’t succeed in advanced math because their early foundation in math fundamentals is so weak. It isn’t any surprise that by the time they have to take college placement exams the results are what we see today. The real solution is to start early.

To do this we need passionate educators. We need teachers that make math fun and treat it like a puzzle.  Unfortunately, many elementary school teachers are also less than enthusiastic about math. They may not be confident in their own skills and whether intentionally or not, it’s passed on to the students. It only makes sense that math be taught by a math specialist at all levels, not just in secondary education.

In 2010 Hacker writes that 15,396 bachelor’s degrees in mathematics were awarded. Let’s see if we can get some passionate teachers from that group. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Market Research Changing with the Times

It should come as no surprise that Social Media is growing and becoming an ever larger force in marketing. As many of you might have seen in Tuesday’s front page article in the New York Times, the Social Media trend is just getting started. Almost every company has a Twitter and Facebook page and you can’t turn on the TV without being bombarded with commercials filled with hashtags and QR codes. While the sheer volume of followers is something many companies are pursuing, it’s what some companies are doing with this data that’s really impressive.

A quick visit to Frito Lay’s Facebook page is a testament to the impact Social Media has on market research. Flaunting an impressive 2.3 million ‘likes,’ Frito Lay is utilizing their Facebook following in a way that’s changing the how we collect data from consumers. The days of focus groups and surveys may be coming to an end, and in their place we see interactive and engaging methods targeting younger demographics and providing more information than traditional surveys do.

The evolution of Social Media is sure to continue and as market researchers, you must be ready and adapt to the change. Of course, what we are seeing in market research can hardly be explained in isolated instances and a few Facebook pages – there are plenty of important factors at play here. I invite you join me this Thursday, August 5th at 11am CDT for a special webcast that explores these factors and where we are headed in the coming months and years. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Job Distribution by Major Metropolitan Areas

A few weeks ago I shared with you which cities are hiring quantitative professionals. But what industries are prominent in which cities? Click here to find out where technology, pharmaceutical, consulting and other industries are hiring. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cool Media Project in the Works

I recently came across an interesting discussion on LinkedIn about Rick Smolan’s newest pet project called “The Human Face of Big Data.” The project is meant to shine a light on the work of the Big Data industry, and as someone who works almost exclusively with this field, I was immediately fascinated. Putting a face (or many faces) to Big Data is an extraordinary idea and it seems like the perfect time to do so.

No one can deny any more the incredible influence that data analysis has on so many aspects of our daily lives, but even so it would be brilliant to capture this influence in a photograph. Gary King was right to call this abundance of data analysis a revolution, but the truth is the revolution has been a long time coming.

For 30 years now I’ve been working with recruiting marketing scientists into the workforce and I have seen the industry evolve first-hand from a small, back-room career with limited potential into a force in the board room. This project will truly do justice to the professionals of this arena but moreover, it will allow the public to see the work we do not as some dry, mysterious science, but rather as an exciting source of good.

Can’t wait to see how it all pans out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tell Us Something We Don't Know

Did you see the article in Saturday’s NY Times? The Age of Big Data article was a huge Internet hit. Everyone was talking about it, from Federal News Radio to individual bloggers. Big Data is Big News, but not to us. We’ve been talking about it for … years.
  • We know that the ability for computers to crunch vast quantities of data has been around for a good handful of years.
  • We know that the data doesn’t explain itself—that to be meaningful it needs to be analyzed by quantitative specialists who can help companies turn lots of data into usable information.
  • We know that statistics are sexy—especially in the job market.
So, where’s the news in this news?

A quick Google search reveals that the rest of the world is still trying to define Big Data. Literally tens of thousands of sources have Big Data on the brain. In just the last hour, Google News reports 37,100 search results for Big Data. Listed below are just a few examples of the stories you can find. Take a look, if you're interested. In the meantime, while everybody is busy figuring out what Big Data means, we’ll keep moving forward. And we’ll let you know when the rest of the world catches up.

Panel: Social big data analytics proving difficult within the enterprise (ZD Net)
Big Data is Changing the Game (IT Web Business Intelligence)
Big data and open source software (Federal News Radio)
Big Data and Procurement: Get Ready (Some Context First) — Part 1 (Spend Matters)

Why Midsize Businesses Shouldn't Leave Big Data to Big Businesses (Infoboom)
Some Thoughts on Big Data (ABC Technology and Games)
What is Big Data – An Explanation in Simple Words (SQL Authority)

'Big Data' Prep: Five Things IT Should Do Now (PC World)
Using big data to make an MPG for everything (
Big Data = Big Challenge? Utilities compete for analytics talent (Intelligent Utility
SQL Server 2012, cloud, ‘big data’ driving momentum in 2012 (Search SQL Server)
What's your agency's big data IQ? (Government Computer News)
Best U.S. jobs will be in data (CBS/smartplanet)
It's the Age of Big Data: That's Why Math Counts! (Psychology Today)
2/13 The Last-Mile Challenge of Big Data (Qlik Community)

Why Big Data is a Big Deal for Marketers — and HR (HR marketer blog)

What Big Data [Means] for Your Career (FINS Technology)
How Big Data is Creating the Future of Science Fiction (Smart Data Collective)
The Intersection of Security Intelligence and Big Data Analytics (Network World)
EMC to Open Cloud and Big Data R&D Center in Russia (The Nation)
The Future of High-Tech Health Care — and the Challenge (NY Times Technology)

Big Data: Smart move for the future (Fierce Finance)

Big Data and Rise of Predictive Enterprise Solutions (Smart Data Collective)
How's India Dealing with Big Data? (CIO.India)
The Age of Big Data (NY Times Sunday Review)

Big Data Demands New Skills (WSJ Tech)
Defining the Art of Big Data Leadership (Forbes)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Big Data Hits the Big Time but at What Price

“What Are The Odds That Stats Would Be This Popular?” That was the question Quentin Hardy asked in his NY Times piece last Friday (01/26/12). If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’d know that the odds have been good and are getting better.

The real issue isn’t in the headline, but comes a couple of paragraphs down: “What no one has are enough people to figure out the valuable patterns that lie inside the data.” As Big Data becomes a hot news topic, the demand for skilled analysts is growing exponentially. That’s good news for new grads in the field and those who have some experience and are ready to move up.

But it’s a troubling fact for clients looking to meet their growing needs for quantitative specialists with
top candidates. It’s not a field for the faint of heart. Curricula in strong programs are rigorous and intellectually challenging for students. A quantitative mind will give you the leg up, and, as is true in many areas nowadays, a confidence in your computer skills will help you succeed.

A commitment to pursue an advanced degree in analytics is also important. A Master’s degree is often required for most jobs in businesses, and sometimes a PhD is preferred. There are excellent programs offering Master’s degrees, and as the visibility of this field grows, there have been a number of new programs emerging, such as:

• North Carolina State has offered a 10-month
Advanced Analytics program since 2006
• Northwestern
recently announced a new Masters of Science in Analytics
• The College of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina is another young program

It’s important to note that the number of graduates from programs such as these doesn’t begin to meet even the current need, and many of our upcoming elementary and secondary students aren’t getting the
strong math foundation they need to compete.

The law of supply and demand will kick in eventually. What can you do in the meantime? Stay tuned here and we’ll keep you up-to-date on what’s happening. If you are a hiring authority, make short- and long-term plans for your hiring needs so you aren’t scrambling to fill positions in a tight, competitive market. And for our candidates, keep up your skills. Become and remain the best of the best. And as always, call us with questions.