The Unfolding Future: More Data, Not Enough Data Gurus

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More than ever, organizations are looking to data to drive new business, design new products, and run more efficiently. “Competing on analytics” has truly become the key to success in today’s and tomorrow’s markets. The trouble is, it takes knowledgeable people to build, run, and maintain the databases that underpin the analytics-driven enterprise.

The managers and professionals who dedicate their careers to fundamental database administration are a shrinking pool. Many are retiring, while others have career aspirations outside of the IT department. The data profession itself is splintering into an array of new specialties and tasks—away from database administration and programming and toward higher-level data science and business consulting tasks.

These are some of the findings of a new survey of 281 data managers and professionals who are subscribers to Database Trends and Applications. The study reveals that data managers and professionals are embracing their expanded roles and are motivated not just by money, but by the technology challenges and learning opportunities the database field now offers. (“The Vanishing Database Administrator: Survey of Data Professionals’ Career Aspirations,” September 2014.)

The survey, conducted by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., in partnership with Ntirety, a division of HOSTING, finds that more than two-fifths of data professionals say they will be leaving the field within the next decade, either due to retirement or moving into business roles. 

Same Database or IT Manager/Professional Role 10 Years From Now?

Yes, and hopefully with more technical or management responsibilities....33%

Yes, but hopefully with fewer technical or management responsibilities....4%

Yes, hopefully doing something very similar....15%

No, I want to move further up into business management....13%

No, I want to start my own business....4%

No, I want to get out of IT or database management altogether....5%

No, I will be retired....19%

Don’t know/unsure....5%


30 years since the first relational database product was introduced

The “graying” of the data profession is inevitable, especially considering that it’s been 30 years since the first relational database product was introduced. While data professionals are getting older and leaving the workforce, however, database technology is only becoming more critical to enterprise success. Technologies such as cloud computing and big data analytics are driving a greater need for data skills. Demand for DBAs is outpacing the supply at an alarming rate.

Data Professionals are Bullish on Long-Term Prospects

The opportunity to explore and learn new technologies is the most-often-cited attraction to the profession. Respondents are more energized by technology opportunities than other factors in selecting or preferring employers. Data management professionals tend not to be job hoppers. However, most data professionals admit their jobs are stressful, and there is also a substantial pool of dissatisfaction which is due mainly to the need for emergency “firefighting” that gets in the way of more innovative tasks, a lack of staff support, and salary stagnation.

Overall, however, data professionals are bullish on their long-term prospects. There is a yawning gap in perspective among the different age groups: Younger professionals are highly optimistic about growth in the field, while their more senior counterparts are more pessimistic. The survey finds 41% of data professionals intend to leave the data management field within the next 10 years. About half of this group will be retiring, while others will be seeking other opportunities in management or self-employment.

At the same time, most entering the field tend to be quite satisfied with their jobs, and they recognize the crucial role they are now playing in today’s analytics-?driven organization. They also see long-term potential in the field. 

How Satisfied Are You With Your Job at This Time?

(Total does not equal 100% due to rounding.)

Very satisfied....27%

I am very dissatisfied....7%

It could be better....29%

It’s OK....38%

Long-Term Outlook for Database Professionals

Jobs and opportunities will increase significantly....17%

Jobs and opportunities will increase in line with industry growth....38%

Things will remain the same....18%

There will be fewer jobs and opportunities....20%

Not sure/don’t know....8%     

Database technology is only becoming more critical to enterprise success

In years gone by, data professionals were charged with organizing and securing data within specified domains and the results of their work were often not visible beyond the IT department. Now, they are increasingly being elevated to leadership roles within their organizations, which are looking to big data to drive business to the next level. Data professionals welcome this transition, the survey finds. Data science represents the next growth stage for the database profession. The new survey finds the trend toward data science-type roles—such as “storytelling” and deeper business analysis—accelerating, with data science-type roles now an important part of data professionals’ jobs.

The survey results reflect a heavy weighting toward middle-aged males. Among respondents to this survey, data management ranks covered in this survey tend to be staffed by mature professionals. Only 6% are below the age of 35, 25% are between the ages of 35–44, and 38% are between the ages 45–54. About a third, 32%, are 55 or older. IT and data management also still tends to be a male-dominated field, 80% to 20%. The participation rate for females is higher among younger professionals (under 35), 73% male to 27% female.

Needed more than ever are skilled managers and professionals who can help identify and capture data from a virtually unlimited array of sources, and who are able to package and present the data as insightful and actionable information. Today’s data professionals and managers recognize the value they bring to their organizations, and tend to be highly committed to their careers and jobs. 


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Posted October 28, 2015