Data Only Says What It Measures

LinkedIn compiled reports of Top Skills every year that are in demand and are highly appealing to recruiters and employers. I worked on a visualization with this data from Makeover Mondays. Makeover Mondays is a place for people to practice their data visualization skills every week. There is a community on Twitter and people of all skills are welcome.

I participated in my first Makeover Monday last week and I got really into it. I browsed the data on the Tableau sketch that was created by Marissa Michelotti. The LinkedIn data was organized into three years: 2014, 2015, and 2016. For each year, LinkedIn ranked the top ten skills with data from 14 countries: Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Canada, United States, China, India, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, France, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Netherlands.

What is the Most in Demand Skill (according to LinkedIn)?

Globally in 2016, the list of the skills are:

1) Cloud and Distributed Computing
2) Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
3) Web Architecture and Development Framework
4) Middleware and Integration Software
5) User Interface Design
6) Network and Information Security
7) Mobile Development
8) Data Presentation
9) SEO/SEM Marketing
10) Storage Systems and Management

In both 2015 and 2016, Cloud and Distributed Computing (CDC) ranked the first spot globally. In 2016, Storage Systems and Management (SSM) ranked in the 10th spot, a big drop from the third place in 2014. User Interface Design ranked 5th, a jump from the 10th spot in 2015. Data Presentation ranked 8th in 2016, and did not make it to the top 10 in previous years.

Cloud and Distributed Computing (CDC) is in green. Storage Systems and Management (SSM) is in yellow.

I was interested in the skills that made it to #1 and #10 spot for 2016 and to see trends within and between continents. Looking at the trend for each country, Cloud and Distributed Computing will remain in the top 10 for some time to come while Storage Systems and Management will slowly drop down the list. United States and Singapore are showing signs of growth in SSM (yellow) and China shows a slight decline in CDC.

Lesson for information design

I spent a lot of time thinking about the difference between static and interactive visualzations when I was making this visual. The value proposition of having an interactive visualization is that it provides people choice, it allows them to craft a story and it allows them to explore all the data. With static visualizations, the goal is for the designer to craft and direct the story. In this case, the designer spends more time with the visual to create a focus and the message they want their readers to learn.

Does it mean that my skills aren’t relevant if it’s not on this list?

My first reaction when I saw this data was that it was very heavy on technology and engineering. Where was the rest of the world? What about the Imagineers, dancers, chefs, filmmakers, marine biologists? It’s great to see that these skills are becoming more in demand, especially for those with a passion for the STEM field. However, for those with skill expertise elsewhere, it does not mean they are not in demand and less needed. Skills in areas such as business, communications, art, music, film, marketing, design, or research are all much needed. Many people who thrive in these professions don’t necessarily use LinkedIn to develop their careers. For example, freelancers and entrepreneurs have their own clients and do not rely on others to employ them for work. This data from LinkedIn is a great example of how data only says what it measures- it measured skills that were popular and trending by people who benefit from using LinkedIn. Information is always contextual and I think this is one of the most important lessons I learned when I explored LinkedIn’s data.


I am aspiring to be an information designer. With no formal background in this field, I am equipped with a combination of skills from design strategy and life sciences.

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