The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic has at once and with force altered the landscape of so many industries. The data professions are no different. In today’s post, we’ll explore COVID’s impact on data science jobs, and discuss strategies for data professionals to pivot and thrive in this new world economy.

COVID's impact on data science jobs
As a data professional and a business owner myself, I’ve been witnessing these changes in the industry firsthand. I’ve seen many of my friends – other entrepreneurs in the data space – go out of business. In the past few months, there’s been less work floating around the B2B space. I’ve also noticed, however, as someone who owns their own data consultancy firm, that many data implementation projects are incredibly easy to outsource. 

These factors, among others, are coming together right now to produce a dramatic impact on the data industry at large. And to be frank, I’m worried about COVID’s impact on data science jobs and how these changes will affect my fellow data professionals. I want to make sure you are all prepared and ready for these big shifts!

As a data professional you’re a knowledge worker, so you’re buffered and in a sense have a bit of a safety zone. But as the crisis continues, things will eventually equalize and you too may begin to feel COVID’s impact on data science jobs. I want to make sure I help you prepare for that. I will be spreading information and resources to help data professionals get ready for these big changes!

COVID’s Impact on Data Science Jobs

Let’s get into the four biggest changes we’re seeing in the data industry due to COVID-19.

  1. Small to medium-sized data consulting firms are going out of business
  2. Small to medium-sized data businesses and firms are getting less client work
  3. Almost all knowledge industry businesses have moved online… (perhaps permanently!)
  4. Data implementation work is very easy to out-source online, for lower costs

After exploring each of these major changes and what they mean for you as a data professional, I’ll teach you how you can pivot your career to be able to succeed in this new economy.

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One thing to be kept in mind is that the impact these changes have on your data career and how you should pivot will be largely influenced based on whether you’re part of the eastern economy or the western economy. 

Change #1 – Small to Medium-sized Data Consulting Firms Are Going Out of Business

Due to COVID-19, we’re seeing many small to medium-sized consulting firms shut down and cease operations. What this means for data professionals is that when the need for data consultancy does return, very few firms will be adequately prepared to actually carry out this work.  Even if there is a shell of operation left, these firms would need to spend time and capital re-equipping in order to take on these new jobs.  At the same time, many firms are fearful to rehire and the high overhead costs that come with having employees.

What this means for data professionals: 

When things begin to restabilize, there will most likely be a spike in demand for data implementation work, with less supply to carry out the work as firms have gotten rid of their staff. 

However, there most likely will not be as high of a demand for implementation workers in the western economy. More on that to come!

Change #2 – Small to Medium-sized Data Businesses and Firms Are Getting Less Client Work

The second major change is that firms are getting less B2B work, and as such getting rid of many of their staff from Western countries. In order to pivot and come up with new ways of generating revenue,  many firms are focusing on products and services geared towards the B2C market. 

These products are usually lower-ticket offers such as courses, online workshops, online events – anything they can sell at a lower price point to consumers, that can help consumers interested in data science and is feasible for them financially (seeing as many professionals have less work). 

What this means for you as a data professional: If you’re a data professional who’s recently been laid off, you may be thinking now is the perfect time to use your skills and talents to create an online course. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more false.

The market is being flooded right now with B2C offers, and if you’re starting up as a new entrepreneur with little to no audience, you could have a difficult time competing with other businesses and actually making sales from your course or product.

Change #3 – Almost All Knowledge Industry Businesses Have Moved Online… (Perhaps Permanently!)

The third major change is that knowledge industry businesses have moved online, and that is likely to be a permanent move. While many remote tech workers are rejoicing at the idea of taking their high salaries and moving to places with lower costs of living, Mark Zuckerberg has already announced that anyone who chooses to do so will face a pay cut. No matter what you think of this news, it makes sense from a business perspective. There’s no sense in paying a Bay area salary to an employee that lives in a small town in Texas!

And it’s not just large tech giants that are making the move to permanent remote work. Many small and medium-sized companies are also discovering the benefits of moving teams online. With less overhead, and often more productive and happier employees, who can blame them? Remote work is win-win for both employers and employees, and many of them are considering continuing on this way long after the pandemic passes. 

As the trend of remote team management continues and companies continue realizing the cost benefits, it’s only a natural progression that more and more businesses will start outsourcing data implementation work to lower economies.

Previously there was a barrier because outsourcing as online work wasn’t the status quo. There was a fear to stray from the typical model of having an office and hiring employees to do face-to-face work; people had it in their mind, “it’s always been done this way” and stuck to standard conventions. 

Now that old world is gone. Businesses are doing whatever they can to survive and thrive in this new world economy. COVID’s impact on data science jobs means companies are embracing virtual work and are more open to outsourcing. If we can run our businesses profitably and productively online, then hiring people from lower economies to do implementation starts to make a whole lot of sense. You can get more results for the level of investment, especially when many businesses are operating under economic constraints.

What this means for you as a data professional: Well…it depends. How you handle this change is dependent on whether or not you’re part of a Western or Eastern economy.

  • If you’re from a Western economy

You’ll want to start considering moving into data leadership or data strategy roles. Roles that require strategy, leadership, and project management skills are far less likely to be outsourced to those in developing countries.

My new product, Winning With Data, helps you build out these exact skills – so you can garner the attention and respect you need to get an invite to the data leadership table (and STOP worrying about your data implementation role being outsourced or axed!). 

  • If you’re from an Eastern economy 

You’ll want to move fast and build out your data career as a for-hire data implementation professional. Make it simple, easy, and safe for Western businesses to hire you online.

Change #4 – Data Implementation Work is Very Easy to Out-source Online, for Lower Costs

Because of the move to online work, the degree of separation between business operations and outsourcing to lower economies has been removed. With data implementation work being very easy to outsource online for lower costs, we’ll be seeing many companies begin to hire globally and source talent from developing countries as so many try to keep their margins low. 

The good news is that regardless of whether or not you’re from an Eastern or Western economy, this shift actually represents a market opportunity for all of us who decide to pivot and prepare ourselves now.

Prepare For COVID’s Impact on Data Science Jobs By Pivoting Your Data Career 

I’ll lay out specific strategies to pivot your data career, based on whether you’re a part of an Eastern economy or a Western economy.

How Data Professionals From Eastern Countries Can Pivot Their Career

If you’re from an Eastern economy, COVID’s impact on data science jobs means you’re going to see a huge spike in data implementation work. In my experience running a data consultancy firm for the past six years, I’ve hired many people over the years, and I find Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Russia are exceptional for hiring data workers. If you are a data professional from one of those countries, I would say prepare yourself for more demand from western businesses.

One way you’ll want to prepare is by improving your English, because this is often cited as the biggest barrier in hiring global talent. Your English doesn’t have to be perfect, but getting it in tip-top shape is the number one thing you can do to stand out and make it a no-brainer for Western companies to hire you. 

The second thing I would focus on is to start looking at how you can brand yourself as a freelancer or a small business in a way that is compatible with the expectations of Western businesses. Professional, visually-appealing brand, and marketing materials will help you position yourself as an expert freelancer qualified for these data implementation jobs.

Thirdly, you’ll want to make sure you put a strong emphasis on security. Many corporate executives feel afraid to outsource work globally to other countries, in large part due to security reasons. I would suggest looking into how you can secure the work you do, and offer processes to your prospective clients. Have a clear outline of how you secure transactions and work on getting testimonials from past clients that reference your reliability and trustworthiness. Do whatever you can to help your prospective clients understand that you know that security is extremely important in data privacy and that you have those bases covered.

How Data Professionals From Western Countries Can Pivot Their Career

If you are from a western economy, there are a few different ways you could pivot your career to make sure you always have work in this shifting data science landscape.

Become A Highly Specialized Data Consultant 

In order to pivot from general data implementation work, I would consider doubling down on a particular topic within data science and become a highly specialized consultant within that area. You could consider consulting on AI ethics or data privacy (even consulting businesses on data privacy related to your regional laws like GDPR or California Protection Agency). You could also choose to go into data visualization consulting. 

Choose a niche that isn’t easily outsourced and focus on becoming the best of the best in that specific area.

Become An Outsourced Data Project Manager 

An incredible opportunity for those with project management skills is to become a data project manager, but one who is specialized in outsourced data project management. This means you’re accountable for projects where the data implementation work is outsourced, and you specialize in ensuring the project’s security and reliability. 

This is going to be something that is extremely valuable to Western businesses that are looking to outsource their work as there are currently still a lot of risks associated with outsourcing. Helping data implementation work get done on an affordable basis while ensuring results and minimizing liabilities is going to be a fantastic market opportunity for data professionals with project management skills.  

Become A Data Leader

The final option is to transition into data leadership and data strategy. You could do in-house advising or be an independent data strategy advisor and help companies get the most bang for their buck with respect to data projects. 

This would involve technical planning and data operations oversight, ensuring projects are profitable. You’d also be the person to help if something goes wrong and not according to the plan –  you would be the one to manage that non-conformance and adjust the strategy and planning. 

Data strategy, but all strategy in general, is very rarely outsourced to developing countries. Usually, you keep those things close to home and either run strategy in-house or have a specialized consultant come in and help you work out a plan. This is a failsafe way to pivot your data career without having to fear your job is going to be axed or outsourced to a country that pays lower wages. 

I hope this article has given you a comprehensive overview of all the big changes coming our way within the data science industry, as well as helped you brainstorm different ways to pivot your career so you can stay relevant and in-demand as a data professional. If you have questions or comments on these industry changes, let me know in the comments below!



If you are ready to STOP worrying about COVID’s impact on your data science job, there is a route you can take to recession-proof your role and make sure you’re always in demand as a data professional.

That route is becoming a data leader, my friend. 

As a data leader, you’ll be able to become indispensable by leading data projects that actually increase profits for your company. And you’ll be rewarded for it with a hefty salary (data leaders currently make 2x as much as data scientists!)

But how do you start to be seen as a leader when you’re stuck in the weeds of implementation?

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