This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.
In this digital era, there are so many changes swirling around us. At the top of the list is a phenomenon called “Big Data,” a trend with tremendous implications and that likely will have deep influences on the remainder of your career.
Big data is a term to describe the colossal amounts of information that are being generated by digital media, sensors, and metadata and that are presenting many entities with all sorts of challenges in the course of storing and assimilating all this data.
In mental terms, it’s almost impossible to grasp just how big Big Data really is. Here’s is a weak attempt at putting this bigness into perspective: If the data now stored across the planet were printed in books, these books would cover the entire surface of the United States some 52 layers deep, according to Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of a new book titled “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.”
What do the implications of Big Data hold for you and millions of other young professionals across the planet?
For starters, it has the potential of providing you with work tools and ways of looking at things that were scarcely imaginable even a decade ago. Within a larger context, it will provide companies and other large entities with a stunning level of clarity about how their clients respond in everyday life and how they relate to the products they provide.
In terms of your work as a professional, Big Data will shed deeper insights into the needs of your clients and your profession that you previously never anticipated. Likewise, your understanding of the wider aspects of your work will grow more refined. You will come to understand your profession less as a something comprised of distinctly different parts, more as a something in which all the parts interrelate. To put it another way, in professional terms, Big Data will afford you a considerably bigger picture.
You will also learn that while your face-to-face interaction with your clients is no less valuable, the time you spend in your office reviewing the growing volumes of work-related data and how it can help you better understand your clients’ needs will be of equally immeasurable benefit.
In time, Big Data will also afford more diversity in the workplace. There will no longer be a cooker-cutter or one-size-fits-all approaches to how people do their jobs. You will notice greater differences in the way you and your peers tackle day-to-day challenges. You will come to appreciate these differences, and in the course of noting and discussing these differences among your coworkers, your career will become even more challenging and engaging.
Granted, Big Data will be no panacea by a long shot. Big data mining of customer Internet surfing and buying habits presents all manner of privacy risks.
Likewise, your intuition — all those insights you’ve gained working for years with clients — will be as vitally important as ever, though you will learn that the information you gain from data will work to enhance these intuitive insights.
But make no mistake, AleX, there is no turning away from the implications of Big Data. It is the new normal in the workplace. To remain a successful professional, you will have to embrace the challenges that it poses. There is no opting out. Failing to rise to these challenges will put you at a distinct disadvantage among those peers who accept these changes with an open embrace.
Author: Jim Langcuster (@extensionguy)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.