Back in 2019, there was speculation that 2020 was going to the year for Data Science and, whilst it certainly was, the reason for its acceleration wasn’t entirely planned. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the implementation and use of all disciplines within Data, including Data Analytics, Machine Learning, AI and Data Science, grew exponentially across all industries globally. Since March 2020, teams have been using data to help themselves navigate the unknown. By having tangible hard numbers and statistics, decision makers have been able to make informed business choices which not only make supply chains and service offerings more effective and efficient but save time and money – both crucial elements for any company, but especially in a time of crisis.This growth of Data & Analytics is set to continue as we move further into 2021 (and beyond). Figures suggest that 2020-2022 could be the biggest period of growth the industry has ever seen, from being worth $189bn globally in 2019 to an estimated $274bn in 2022. This not only means more innovation and disruption from numerous businesses globally, but also a higher demand for Data specialist recruitment. So, what exactly could this growth look like over the next 12 months?The rise of the Machine Learning Engineer (MLE)Usually, when companies want to build a data-driven business model and analyse the data, they would hire two separate roles in order to do this: A Data Scientist to do the deep dive analysis and then build the model, this model would then be passed to an Engineer who would write the code and deploy the model so it can run effectively in a business setting and get results. However, as a direct result of the pandemic, companies are now looking at ways to get as much as they can out of their financial investment and make their teams leaner. Machine Learning Engineers mould the roles of the Data Scientist and Engineer into one and the salary investment would be slashed by half. But implementing this change won’t be an easy feat for employers straight away. Machine Learning Engineers will be harder to find that Data Scientists and Engineers, as many data specialists won’t have an all-round knowledge of both disciplines instead, holding specific specialisms in one area. Nevertheless, with this increased demand for MLEs, we will see people who are earlier in their careers building up the necessary skills to have the perfect CV for a MLE, making them much more employable.An increase in e-commerce This year we will undoubtedly see an increased focus put on e-commerce. As our world becomes increasingly more virtual, companies will be trading more than ever online and, to be successful, many of them will need to invest heavily in the data and technology needed to run e-commerce efficiently. From updating their website to implementing more analysis and testing, these aspects will allow companies to better understand what their consumers are doing online, ensuring that their e-commerce platform is fit for purpose. Amazon is a prime example of where most e-commerce retailers will be aiming for over the next few years. Aspects that we take for granted from the retail giant, such as being told when something is out of stock and the expected delivery date of our order, is in fact a very complex data and algorithm platform that takes large financial investment to perfect. However, we will likely see more and more smaller businesses looking at how they can create and build something similar for their own sites. IR35 won’t be the death of the contractor In 2021 the economy will continue to rely heavily on an agile workforce, however, with the introduction of IR35 in April many companies are going to pause, or stop altogether, the hiring of self-employed contractors; instead, opting for permanent members of staff. A Catch-22. That said, this won’t necessarily be a long-term issue. IR35 started in the public sector and at that time, a lot of companies locked up and didn’t hire contractors. They suffered from losing those highly skilled individuals and became worse off for it and, over time, the issues were resolved, and contractors could once again enter the workplace without too much worry. The business world will, of course, have teething problems with this and we are likely to see the number of contractors decline in the first half of 2021. Many of these individuals may opt to take on permanent roles for the time being, accepting a lower net income but, after a 12 month delay and with a greater understanding of the IR35 processes and legislations, businesses should feel more confidence in continuing to hire contractors, especially in high level roles.DiversityOne of the biggest trends we’re likely to see in the industry in the year ahead lies within Diversity and Inclusion. The market has been traditionally quite poor when it comes to diversity, especially where gender is involved. Currently, only 18-25 per cent of the market is female and these percentages decrease the further up the career ladder you look. After the events of this year, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, more businesses in the space are going to focus on how to improve their diversity. Of course, there is no quick fix, and this will be a theme for many years to come but 2021 will certainly be a great starting point. Internal structures and procedures will need to be revisited by HR leaders and senior teams and tackling the problem much be started at the roots with aspects such as the hiring process and attitudes towards Diversity and Inclusion within existing internal teams.2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year and one that has witnessed huge change, growth and innovation within all areas of Data. The Data & Analytics market remains full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, take a look at our latest roles or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.