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Strata + Hadoop Interview Series – HORTONWORKS, John Kreisa and Kamal Brar
December 16, 2016 News


John Kreisa, VP International Marketing and Kamal Brar, VP and GM APAC of Hortonworks were at the recently held Strata+Hadoop Conference in Suntec Singapore. They were kind enough to talk with us and give us a quick interview on their views about Big Data initiatives in the ASEAN region.

We asked them how was the ASEAN countries doing in terms of their Big Data initiatives. Kamal believes that while some regions in ASEAN are more at the cutting edge than others in terms of deployment and being mission critical ready, there are others who are still waiting. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia however are the three leading the curve.

John sees this as a great time to be in this industry and develop skills needed around data science and data technologies.

“The amount of data that’s becoming available from social media, to machine generated data, or even from smart devices, is ever increasing. It’s going to increase 10 fold and so organisations in every industry are looking for ways to exploit that data. This will transform the way they do business both internally and externally, create new business opportunities. Data Scientists are the fore-front and a core skill set that organisations are going to need”.


John Kreisa

He added that Data Science, being a combination of a number of different skills, machine learning, algorithmic skills, coding together with a good understanding of the business will be a good starting point for an individual looking to take up this role. They will need to have the core math and analytical foundational skills. At the same time they need to have a clear understanding of the business and what the business goals are without losing sight of the business impacts that the company is trying to achieve.

Kamal recognises the fact that there is a skills shortage for data scientists in the region.

“There has been a conscious effort and initiatives from governments in the region to build in terms of skill sets that Malaysian and Singaporean governments are sponsoring”, he says. “We are actively looking at partnering with some curriculum development and with some of the larger tertiary education providers and really embedding the ecosystem”.


Kamal Brar

“What’s wonderful about the eco system we are a part of is that it is open, it is a standard space and gives an opportunity for everyone to contribute. We are going lead some of the enablement education through curriculum development, but the fact that its open source, I believe it gives tremendous opportunity for students not just as an opportunity to learn, but a career path directly into a very specific role within the industry. I think we will actively partner and continue to actively partnering with governments and tertiary education to build that up”.

However the domain is large and there are many areas to specialize in. What is critical is to have the core fundamentals right and focus on the interested topic adds Kamal. The best option is to choose based on the fundamentals before getting into the actual learning.

“There are many self-study tools. Hortonworks University for instance, has a lot of self-paced learning courses that anyone can take today for free. It’s really around what suites you, where do you see your next opportunity in terms of going from tertiary to the professional industry”, he added.

“In addition to Hortonworks University, there’s the Hortonworks Sandbox which has a complete pre-packaged all of the tools and all the platforms, including some of the key data platforms like Spark and that is packaged in a downloadable easy to use, with tutorials that will help someone to get started”, added John.

Kamal sees that Malaysia has an opportunity to lead in creating a data science hub. There is a lot of demand in the space and not just in Malaysia but the whole of ASEAN, there’s skill shortage across the board.

“The wonderful thing about this region is that it is easy to get around. In that context for Malaysia, that may be sufficient to serve the demand to an extent, but I see tremendous opportunity where probably 2,000 (Data Scientists) is a great starting point, but it will probably grow a bit from there”, he said. Kamal was commenting on a question if the governments initiative to have 2,000 Data Scientists by 2020 would be sufficient to fill the shortage.

By 2020 they both agreed that the requirement for Data Scientists in the region will be much higher than projected.