Syed Ahmed, head of business technology at Servcorp
I usually hire on potential rather than hard skills. Someone with at least five years’ experience in a nascent field is going to be hard to find anyway, so I would look for transferable skills such as problem solving or pattern analysis.
What you’ll find is people who come from traditional BI sort of space, who have reinvented themselves.
However, it’s a significantly different mindset to do big data type analysis versus doing traditional BI analysis. They are very different things, because they start from different points. One’s more exploratory and the other one is based on having a well understood set of parameters that you investigate.
There are parallel fields that lend themselves well to this sort of skillset – people who have a masters or a PhD in mathematics or propositional logic and that sort of stuff. You can tap into that sort of skillset.
It’s about how much time you want to invest in bringing them up to speed with commercial realities. What you really may want is someone with the core ability to attack a certain type of problem. Everything else you can polish around that.
I also wouldn’t necessarily start by looking for someone to fill the role directly if I didn’t understand it deeply first. My approach would be to engage a specialised consulting service to deliver two outcomes: set up the data analytics practice or framework, and then assist me in recruiting the right person to fill the role.
That way the consulting service, that I would ensure has expertise in data analytics, has assessed the maturity required to deal with the problem in my organisation, and can provide advice on what specific skills are required. They usually have a much better network of skilled professionals due to their focus or specialisation.
If engaging a consulting service was not an option, I would reach out to my personal network to source the data analyst.
If it was me, I wouldn’t write the job description for a data analyst by myself – I’ve been off the tools for so long so I wouldn’t know what to say technically. If you want to attract the right sort of people then you have to speak their language.
I don’t necessarily write job ads for developers or engineers, my teams helps re-write them because they understand what is current in the marketplace and what attracts the right sort of people.
Are you facing a particular challenge and need some advice? Contact Rebecca Merrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more articles in the CIO Insights series, be sure to check out:
How to approach innovation
IT offshoring/outsourcing – how much is too much?
Dealing with shadow IT
Legacy systems – love them or leave them?
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