With all the talk about data scientists, big data, and the potential for information overload on the horizon, the job market for “analytics superstars” is heating up. Managers are scrambling to find and keep talent – a topic the brought a packed house to the SAS Financial Services Executive Summit, held April 10-11 at SAS World Headquarters.
Jill Dyché, vice president of best practices at SAS, led the roundtable discussion, asking senior-level managers about ways to recruit and retain a talent base of data scientists, statisticians and other roles. The consensus? It’s not easy, but panelists said that it’s critical to demonstrate the challenges of the role and the type of business impact they can have.
During the hiring process, Halina Karachuk, vice president of innovation, research and analytics at AXA Equitable, stressed transparency about the role and the impact the candidate can have. “I have to be honest about the level of resources,” Karachuk said, explaning that her team had to stay “scrappy” when going up against bigger firms with more capabilities. “I have to find people who enjoy the scrappiness.”
Another tactic is to nurture and reinforce creativity within the analytics profession. Jessica Dunn, senior vice president of business intelligence and the analytics center of excellence at Bank of America, encourages team members to find new solutions to old problems.
“[Creativity] is a big thing on my team,” Dunn said. “We say, ‘Don’t think about what’s done today. Think about what’s possible.’ The key people on my team are the ones that can think outside of the box.”
John Brocklebank, a 30-year SAS veteran, discussed how the software company locates the resources that can solve complex business problems. As the vice president of SAS Solutions OnDemand, Brocklebank now directs a team that solves “Nobel Prize problems” with SAS technology. The challenging work keeps employees focused and nimble while building their skillset.
“We cover all industries,” Brocklebank said, noting that SAS Solutions OnDemand encompassed everything from clinical trials to fraud detection. “If people get tired of working on one project, they can move to another area. And you can often transpose the skills learned in one area to another.”
Not surprisingly, the participants covered the emerging role of the data scientist. The panelists agreed that there are great opportunities for data scientists, particularly for those that understand the intersection of business and IT. For managers, the requirement is to synthesize the many types of analytics capabilities into a strong working unit.
“At the end of the day, you have to get a group together with a variety of strengths and weaknesses,” Karachuk said. “It’s my job to figure those out and play to the strengths of the team.”