As the “B” in BRIC emerging economies, Brazil is at the intersection of massive economic gains and growing pains related to ongoing infrastructure limitations. Energy and transportation are some examples, but the hardest resource to find is also the most valuable: qualified professionals.
In IT, there is already high demand for skilled professionals. And given the speed of changes in the industry, the demand will grow even faster for individuals who have Cloud and Big Data knowledge and skills in their portfolio. With this scenario in mind, EMC Brazil put together its first “EMC Summer School on Big Data” at Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ) this past February.
Why Rio de Janeiro? Rio de Janeiro is home to Petrobras, Brazil’s national Oil & Gas provider, which recently discovered large oil reservoirs within deep layers under sea level. If you have ever heard of the phrase “data is the new oil,” this example is especially true. UFRJ realized the potential of converging the industry ecosystem around deep oil discovery and exploration and created a new research center on its campus that EMC was nominated to participate in back in 2011. Focused on Big Data analysis of seismic data as it applies to oil exploration and extraction, the R&D center aims to uncover news ways to extract value from the data generated by the oil and gas industry.
The event provided participants with a unique opportunity to learn from leaders in academia and industry. I had the honor to be among the presenters as well as experience the program as an attendee. What follows are some highlights of the experience.
First, the R&D team was caught by surprise with the number of applications submitted. The event was initially designed for 60 attendees, but once the portal was open to the public, there were more than 700 applications to attend. This event was not only popular with academics. In fact, many from finance, utilities, telecommunications and other industries also submitted applications. To keep the learning experience intimate and the hands-on labs to a manageable size, the list of applicants was reduced to 200 to make sure each and every attendee had a meaningful experience. UFRJ is already planning for next year’s event to cater to the growing demand!
One of the sessions that stuck with me most was given by Milind Bhandarkar, Chief Scientist, Machine Learning Platforms at Greenplum, which becomes part of the newly-formed Pivotal company in April. Milind was one of the original team members for the initial implementation of Hadoop around 2006. He led a hands-on workshop where attendees got to play with jobs and scripts and went away with more than just the great experience, but also with the virtual machines they had practiced on, powered by Pivotal HD.
After four days of learning, sharing and interacting, all I could hear was positive feedback. For many, it was the first experience with Big Data beyond webcasts, white papers and hype. People could finally grasp the power of Big Data technologies and get a sense of the art behind analyzing diverse sets of data, like a true data scientist. And for me, it was clear that EMC is helping Brazil and Latin America build the future technology leaders around Big Data and Cloud Computing.