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The Age of Big Data

By Steve Lohr

Mo Zhou was snapped up by I.B.M. last summer, as a freshly minted Yale M.B.A., to join the technology company’s fast-growing ranks of data consultants. They help businesses make sense of an explosion of data — Web traffic and social network comments, as well as software and sensors that monitor shipments, suppliers and customers — to guide decisions, trim costs and lift sales. “I’ve always had a love of numbers,” says Ms. Zhou, whose job as a data analyst suits her skills.

To exploit the data flood, America will need many more like her. A report last year by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the consulting firm, projected that the United States needs 140,000 to 190,000 more workers with “deep analytical” expertise and 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired.

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