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Interview: John Schitka, SAP on The Type of Data Scientists We Need


We discuss the focus areas of Big Data strategy at SAP, how SAP is leading the competition, the kind of data scientists we need, advice and more.



John SchitkaJohn Schitka works on the SAP Big Data Solution Marketing team. His interest is on the benefits of Big Data in general with a focus on Hadoop in the SAP Big Data ecosystem along with the SAP HANA platform for Big Data. A graduate of McMaster University, he holds an MBA from the University of Windsor. He has worked in product marketing and product management in the high tech arena for a number of years, taught at a private college and has co-authored a number of published text books. He has a true love of technology and all that it has to offer the world.

First part of interview.

Here is second part of my interview with him:

Anmol Rajpurohit: Q5. What are the focus areas of Big Data strategy at SAP?

John Schitka: Simplicity. Starting with business needs/benefits discussion and not a tactical IT infrastructure discussion. Helping businesses get up to speed quickly and simply sap-hanavia the s-innovation and offerings like SAP Sales Insight for Retail. A focus on simplifying IT so business can define an improved strategy possible with a modern IT infrastructure where complexities are streamlined for real-time responsiveness so timely access to information can bring intelligence to users allowing informed action and unleashing innovation to transform the way business creates, performs, and connects.

SAP HANA allows business to modernize IT with a streamlined real-time data platform ideally suited for Big Data and interaction with Hadoop. This along with SAP HANA analytics and predictive capabilities and leading BI tools and visualization tools like Lumira, lets business harness the full value of all their data to get meaningful, actionable insights to empower people with timely context-rich information anywhere, anytime, on any device. SAP’s cloud offering allows companies to tap into the rapid innovation that the Cloud enables, letting them transform and adapt quickly to ever changing market dynamics.

From a technology point of view it’s the SAP HANA platform, s-innovations and cloud offerings all driving simplicity, our BI and visualization tools that bring insight in easy to digest actionable format to end users, and of course our ability to integrate with Hadoop and act as a single point of access to diverse data sources.

AR: Q6. How would you differentiate SAP in the highly competitive field of Big Data solutions?

competitionJS: The SAP HANA platform with the speed and simplification it offers is our key differentiator. There is the SAP s-innovation initiative that brings simplicity and redefines how business software delivers value in a digital and networked world. Of course the SAP cloud offerings. And there are the relationships with, and open agnostic approach SAP has with Hadoop and NoSQL; SAP operates with the major Hadoop distribution.

SAP has over four decades of experience over which it has gained breadth and depth of knowledge in 25 industries and 11 lines of business. This gives SAP the true ability to act as a trusted advisor to help guide and support organizations as they try to lever Big Data. And of course there is the core team of SAP Data Scientists along with their industry expertise that can be offered to help businesses get up to speed.

AR: Q7. What is the best advice you have got in your career?

JS: Don’t rest on your laurels. Something a mentor said to me when I was much younger. Basically never feel that you are done. Always look for and keep setting new goals – don’t become complacent. You may have achieved a lot, but your are only as good as your last effort.

AR: Q8. Data Scientist has been termed as the sexiest job of 21st century. Do you agree? What advice would you give to people aspiring a long career in Data Science?

From my point of view, the crux of Big Data is Data Science. Simply having volumes of data does not mean insight or value from Big Data. In order to get business value from Big Data you need to be able to understand and analyze what you have. This is where the right people and the right tools come in.
data-scientistData Scientists can get an understanding of the business need and then work to understand the data with the proper algorithms, and tools to provide what is needed by the business user to get value from Big Data.

So a Data Scientist needs not only to have a strong analytical, statistical mathematical background, but they also need to have and gain specific industry understanding and expertise. They need not only to understand the mechanics, they need to work with industry experts and understand what the users do and need in order to deliver it. Building that industry relationship and expertise is key.

SAP has a team of PhD scientists and technology experts with global, industry-specific experience (e.g. Manufacturing, CPG, Retail, Energy, Transportation, Sports, etc.) who can leverage hundreds of use cases and differentiating intellectual property to help businesses achieve ROI quickly.

AR: Q9. On a personal note, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?

JS: Away from work – who gets away from work? But seriously, my family. I have 2 young grandchildren I am very lucky to live close to and thus am able to see and play with a good deal. And my wife and I love to travel. That and a couple of iPad app games.

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