The explosion of information over the past several years has led to many new opportunities and challenges for businesses and governments. As organizations learn to analyze and interpret data to promote new discovery, understanding, and enhanced decision-making, sharing knowledge across the industry is a valuable way to promote innovation. No place is as uniquely positioned to drive the conversation on big data and analytics as Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington region.
As one of the nation’s premier high-tech centers, this region is home to a rapidly growing number of companies focused on creating, analyzing, and providing the tools and skills needed to drive results from big data. The Greater Washington region’s big data assets were on display recently at the inaugural 2017 Capital Data Summit, hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC).
The event featured keynotes from leading big data companies including Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Meg Whitman, DigitalGlobe Executive Vice President, Founder and CTO Dr. Walter Scott, and Clarabridge Founder and Vice Chairman Sid Banerjee. Panels brought together industry experts, government data principals, and leading academics that are on the forefront of the big data revolution. The event focused on the key needs and the future of the big data industry with over 330 attendees.
Filling the tech talent shortage
Finding qualified talent to support today’s data ecosystem is not easy. In fact, in the Greater Washington region, the demand for data analysts and scientists is 26 percent higher than the national average, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum. In her keynote, Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, emphasized that the opportunity to create new tech talent starts with universities. “From a policy perspective how one thinks about education and reskilling at a much accelerated rate is potentially the policy issue of our time,” she stressed.
John Balaguer, Raytheon Vice President of Engineering, Intelligence, Information and Services, shared Raytheon’s perspective around data hiring. “The growth in that sector of hiring is 100 percent year over year for the last three years. So this is a growing area of interest for us and we’re keenly interested in what curricula are out there to support us.” To better prepare students for the technology workforce, panelists emphasized the need to engage students in data curriculum earlier, especially at the K-12 level. They noted that it is never too early to start building decision-making, critical thinking, and writing skills – all vital for data careers.
Investing in big data
In 2016, venture capital funding for companies offering analytics products and services in Northern Virginia and Greater Washington totaled over $93 million. For investors from Revolution Growth and Updata Partners, the focus on investing in big data startups in the Greater Washington region is a clear choice. With the region’s expert workforce and top universities, Greater Washington is a prime location for data investments. And the talent is loyal in the area too, something not always seen in other tech hubs. “Around here…we find people are loyal to the cause and want to join these companies and really build something. I think that’s a nice backdrop for building a company,” explained Updata Partners General Partner Carter Griffin.
Griffin suggested for investors considering big data startups to get involved now as “less than one percent of data is being used, which means there’s a big opportunity in the venture capital space.” By investing in machine learning and AI investors can focus on the technologies that are driving the future of business.
Looking towards the future
So where is the future of big data headed? AI, machine learning and the cloud were the clear choices for industry leaders on our panels. Innovations in these areas are rapidly increasing the amount of data produced, the accessibility of data, and the demand for real-time analysis. Google’s Solutions Architect Loren Hudziak shared, “The thing we’re most excited about is this third wave of cloud computing and how we can make it accessible to just about everybody.”
Panelists also discussed the shift from traditional data models to unstructured data. For example, at IBM Federal, Chief Architect for National Programs John Andersen noted that over 80 percent of the data produced over the last year has been unstructured. This shift is spurring the need for new cognitive computing that can analyze unstructured data “at the edge” so a variety of users can leverage its power in real time.
Events like the Capital Data Summit will continue to play a role in the Greater Washington region and across the country to bring together industry leaders and disruptors to drive innovation. To sum up the day and the state of the big data industry, Meg Whitman put it succinctly: “Disruption is happening at lightning speed” and “the future belongs to the fast.”
Bobbie Kilberg is President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), a position she has held since September 1998. NVTC is the largest technology council in the nation with about 1,000 member companies employing 300,000 people in the Potomac region. In December 2001, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) during his term in office. Kilberg is a graduate of Yale University Law School (J.D.), Columbia University (M.A.) and Vassar College (B.A.).
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