March 27, 2001, 8:59 AM — When Greg James decided to develop a five-year career plan in the early 1990s, he took out a blank sheet of paper. On it, he wrote down his background, which included large-scale database systems, enterprise system architectures, strategic planning and artificial intelligence. He began drawing lines between the experiences that related to one another, "and data mining was what popped out at me," he says.
That exercise underscores the interdisciplinary nature of data mining and was the start of a successful career for James, who's now pursuing a doctorate in that area while also serving as vice president of information marketing at National City Bank in Cleveland.
As it turns out, there's high demand and low supply for data mining skills today, according to Michael Berry, founder of Data Miners Inc., a data mining consultancy in Cambridge, Mass.
"Many companies are only now waking up to the potential of their vast stores of data," Berry says, and as data mining becomes more common among market leaders, "second-tier companies will want to start mining data in self-defense."
What Does It Take?
Data mining involves extracting hidden predictive information from databases to solve business problems. In some cases, analysts mine data for interesting patterns within a segment of the customer base. Then they look for something that might describe why those patterns are happening, James says.