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What Makes A Great Data Scientist?


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Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer, Teradata, presents at the 2012 Big Analytics Roadshow.
As enterprises come to understand the value of analytics, more support and funding is being allocated to build these departments. Managers are now faced with the challenge of who to hire. What exactly makes a great analytic professional? Is a Data Scientist a "must have"? Should a candidate have a PhD? Is prior experience in a specific industry vital? Just what is the right fit when creating a successful team? The answers to these questions are still unclear as the value of analytics continues to grow.

In this session, Bill Franks, author of the book, Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave, addresses these and many more questions as he defines the characteristics of high-performing data scientists and great analytics teams.

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What Makes A Great Data Scientist?

  1. 1. What Makes A Great Data Scientist?Bill FranksChief Analytics Officer, Global Alliances, Teradata @BillFranksGA
  2. 2. The Big Data Tidal Wave Is Coming……Will your organization have the right talent to tame it?2 Confidential and proprietary.
  3. 3. Who Is The Data Scientist? Analyst Data Scientist Statistician Advanced Analytics Consultant Predictive Modeler Common Question: Data Miner Do others share your view of the similarities?3 Confidential and proprietary.
  4. 4. Data Scientists: Common Misconceptions Miss The Mark • It is not just about: • Programming skills • Statistics and math skills • Advanced degrees in relevant fields • Specific industry experience • Hire knowledge and skills, not just check boxes! • Most great analytic professionals are an exception • Some examples…Many skills are necessary, but not sufficient 4 Confidential and proprietary.
  5. 5. Some Critical, Yet Underrated, Traits Of A Great Data Scientist • Commitment • Creativity • Business Savvy • Presentation Skills • Intuition Note: The traits are listed in no particular order Common Question: What about other traits?5 Confidential and proprietary.
  6. 6. Commitment Traits Of Great Data Scientists (1 of 5)• Commitment benefits every profession• People either have it or they don’t• Don’t waste your time on someone without it6 Confidential and proprietary.
  7. 7. Commitment Traits Of Great Data Scientists (1 of 5)Assessing candidates: • Listen carefully to how a candidate describes their work • How do they deal with problems? • Do they go the extra mile? • Once hired, it is very easy to see if someone has this or not7 Confidential and proprietary.
  8. 8. Creativity Traits Of Great Data Scientists (2 of 5)• This is not the first thing most people think about• Every analytic endeavor is different…• Every data source has issues…• There are many ways to frame a problem…• Need to aim for improvement, not perfection Common Question: Aren’t analytics all about formulas and not creativity?8 Confidential and proprietary.
  9. 9. Creativity Traits Of Great Data Scientists (2 of 5)Assessing candidates: • Creativity is a rare trait in those with the technical skills • Ask how they dealt with some “Oh #$%@!!!” moments • A creative person will have a good story, not a list of steps9 Confidential and proprietary.
  10. 10. Business Savvy Traits Of Great Data Scientists (3 of 5)• Data Scientists are an odd hybrid• Strong business and technical skills are required• Ability to focus on the important is key• Cultural awareness is critical• Business savvy ≠ experience Common Question: Are there any other examples of focusing on the important?10 Confidential and proprietary.
  11. 11. Business Savvy Traits Of Great Data Scientists (3 of 5)Assessing candidates: • Ask why they made the decisions they did • You should hear some practical and business considerations • If you just hear technical criteria, be wary11 Confidential and proprietary.
  12. 12. Presentation Skills Traits Of Great Data Scientists (4 of 5)• Must be able to engage non-technical audiences• Technical details will lose a business audience• Results aren’t the most important factor of success• Why do the results matter & what should be done?• It is all about storytelling…12 Confidential and proprietary.
  13. 13. Presentation Skills Traits Of Great Data Scientists (4 of 5)Assessing candidates: • Take a test drive: Have them present at the interview • Ask for articles, white papers, etc. • Check out their social media presence • You’ll see exactly where they stand Common Question: Do even junior people need these skills?13 Confidential and proprietary.
  14. 14. Presentation Skills Traits Of Great Data Scientists (4 of 5)• Below are actual slides from a candidate presentation• The person did not get the job…14 Confidential and proprietary.
  15. 15. Intuition Traits Of Great Data Scientists (5 of 5)• Very hard to quantify• Is the right decision usually made the first time?• Must win trust from business partners• Analysis requires a lot of art with the science• Must be a data artist as well as a data scientist!15 Confidential and proprietary.
  16. 16. Intuition Traits Of Great Data Scientists (5 of 5)Assessing candidates: • Hard to list criteria that aren’t too “squishy” for HR • Ask about background in art, music, or other creative area • Once hired, you’ll see over time if someone has it Common Question: Does artistry imply that two people will get two answers to the same problem?16 Confidential and proprietary.
  17. 17. Does Big Data Change Everything?> No…> Your fundamental data and analytic strategies won’t change…> You may need some new tools and tactics…> However, the big picture remains: Driving value from data through effective analytics The right people will help you tame it!17 Confidential and proprietary.
  18. 18. Great Data Scientists… • “Get” data • “Get” the business issues • “Get” how to frame problems • “Get” that they are artists as well as scientists • Will be able to tame big data for you!18 Confidential and proprietary.
  19. 19. Thank You! @BillFranksGA