Big Data Takes Over Western Massachusetts

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Students and Region’s Economic Development Leaders Celebrate Big Data TechTrek & Launch of MassMutual’s Data Science Center in Amherst

On Monday, September 28, 2015, MassBigData co-hosted its first ‘TechTrek’ in Western Mass., working in partnership with the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and MassMutual. In addition to bringing together 100 students from the Five College area, the event also marked the launch of MassMutual’s new data science center in Amherst, which hosted the event.

The event was a rousing success, as students were able to hear from computing and analytics executives from several prominent organizations that are driving Big Data innovation across Massachusetts, including MassMutualNational GridEnerNOCLexalytics and MachineMetrics. Company executives highlighted how big data is driving innovation in financial services, energy, and manufacturing. They then took the time to network one-on-one with students about the job opportunities that exist in this growing sector and in the growing ‘Big Data’ cluster in Western Mass.

In addition to the companies, attendees also heard from Rick Sullivan, President and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (our organizing partner on the Trek) and from Katie Stebbins, Assistant Secretary of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

Both Rick and Katie connected the dots on how Big Data jobs can have a resounding impact on the economy of Western Mass., pointing to investments made by the state and local universities in the Massachusetts Green-High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, the fact that the region is home to many top-tier colleges and universities, and in the growth of data-driven startups in the region.

MassMutual was a great partner for the event, allowing us to host the TechTrek in conjunction with the launch of their new data science center at Kendrick Place in Amherst, next to the UMass campus.

In addition to this new center, MassMutual has also supported Big Data education in Western Mass. through a $2 million, four-year effort to support ‘Women in Data Science’ programs at both Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, highlighting their commitment to growing the Big Data workforce in the region.

This was the first MassBigData Tech Trek to take place in Western Mass. and the turnout was stellar from the Five College-area schools, which include Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This was the third TechTrek in 2015, following up on successful events in Worcester in April and Boston in early September. The 2015 Treks brought together nearly 400 students, over 25 local companies, and 40+ speakers from data-driven businesses and organizations from around the Commonwealth.

The event was covered by two local media outlets, including a feature story in The Republican/MassLive in Springfield and another story in the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. The Gazette piece quotes Amherst College student Omar Pineda, Jr., who is notes that the Trek was “a good opportunity to see what opportunities” exist in the Pioneer Valley, and that he could pursue a Big Data job in the region, rather than returning to his home in New York City. That’s a core point of why we host the TechTreks – to introduce talented Massachusetts students to the innovative companies in the Commonwealth and to open their eyes to the opportunities that exist across the state.

As highlighted by many of the economic development professionals in attendance, Western Mass has a huge amount of opportunity in the computing and analytics space, from infrastructure like MGHPCC, to tier-one research universities, and innovative spaces for entrepreneurs to grow their companies, such as Valley Venture Mentors in Springfield.

The rise of the Western Mass. Big Data cluster is reason for excitement and we’re already looking forward to the next opportunity to engage with the amazing set of companies, students, researchers, and professors that are driving interest in Big Data, computing, and analytics in the region.