Twitter builds up data scientist army in Singapore

Twitter is looking to tap into the local talent pool in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Singapore.

In a statement to Marketing, Twitter confirmed its plans. Dickson Seow, Twitter Asia Pacific communications head, added that the new team will be first data science team to be based outside of the US, focusing on its international growth opportunity.

“Today, 80% of our users are based outside of the US, so it makes perfect sense to have a data science team based outside of the US to focus on international user behaviour," he said.

“We like to say that data leads at Twitter. All of our business strategies and product development work have data scientists providing modeling, experimentation and insights into our user behaviour to enable us to make the most-informed business and product decisions,” Seow added.

Going forward, the social media giant is looking to make ten new hires who will be involved  in creating new products for Twitter's key markets such as Japan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brazil. Heading the team in Singapore is Linus Lee who has spent four years with Twitter and will be relocating back to Singapore. Lee has built and led various data science teams at Twitter in areas of product data science, business analytics, and experimentation.

The move to build up an army of data scientists comes as no surprise to the industry as the importance of the data scientist role has picked up in recent years. With the rise of trends such as predictive analysis and targeted marketing, it comes as no surprise that the field is fast gaining traction across all industries.

On Twitter's recent hiring plan Kiren Kumar, executive director of Infocomms and Media, Singapore Economic Development Board said:

"The establishment of Twitter’s analytics team is an  exciting development as it provides Singaporeans with good job opportunities and allows them to partake in the creation of new products and services from Singapore.  We believe that such frontier digital jobs will  provide Singaporeans with the growth opportunities they need to compete on a global stage.”

The demand for software engineering and analytics talent is expected to increase as companies embark on utilising data and digital assets to drive efficiencies, improve their reach to customers and develop new products, explained Kumar.

Currently infocomms companies such as Twitter as well as non-infocomms companies in the consumer, manufacturing, healthcare, urban solutions and finance sectors are driving the demand for analytics talent.

According to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) there were more than 2,000 data analysts working in Singapore in 2014 and the government expects the number of frontier digital jobs to grow by a third over the next three years. To meet the future demand, the government is taking active steps -  EDB is currently working with our companies and education institutions to train more than 400 data analytics professionals yearly at steady state.

NUS, for example, has collaborated with IBM to set-up the Centre for Business Analytics. The Centre aims to help students and mid-career professionals gain the latest skills in business analytics. It also offers a Master of Science degree programme in Business Analytics (MSBA), with sectoral focus on supply chain, finance and retail.  At the undergraduate level, SMU, UniSIM and NTU also offer analytics degrees. Collectively, local universities offer five Bachelors programs and four Masters programs.

Singapore is also developing thought leadership in analytics, by continuous innovation in analytics techniques and their application to key domains. Companies can access this expertise through partnerships with Singapore’s research and education institutions. For example, I2R has collaborated with Rolls Royce and Visa to recognize patterns in machines (engines) and consumers (fraud detection on Visa credit cards).

In an earlier conference hosted by Marketing Magazine, former CMO of StarHub Jeannie Ong said data scientists jobs were the next big job scope to hit the marketing industry as they could provide a wholesome analytics approach to marketing and fill in the gaps marketers couldn’t always predict or see. As such the company worked with the likes of SMU to build up a future batch of data scientists.

Meanwhile in a statement to The Straits Times Lee also said the local team is being tasked with developing business plans and products to increase the number of Twitter's monthly active users which currently stands at 310 million globally. The move comes as the company has in recent times seen much struggle to grow its user base.

Last quarter Twitter failed to add users and also saw several of its top brass exit earlier this year. Most recently Twitter’s international marketing director for Asia Pacific, Russia and the Middle East, Frederique Covington also exited the company.