Data Scientist or Not?

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I ask this question as, here at MBN Solutions, we have noticed a concerning trend recently. We frequently speak to companies who are looking to hire “data scientists” and then only realizing once they interview candidates that’s not what they need. And, after spending the last two days attending the Data IQ Summit, we know that this is a particularly hot topic in the data space today.

I hope your business is thriving and you’re recruiting and retaining the analysts you need. You will know far better than any recruitment firm what your business needs, but do you ever get bamboozled by the diversity of job titles flying around these days?

Is it Google’s fault?

It would be easy to blame Google for this. They seem to have started the trend in businesses creating data scientist roles and certainly managed to generate the media coverage of this being the “sexiest” role this decade. However, to be fair to them, when Google use the term data scientist they mean it. Tech companies, Computer Science faculties at universities and some IT departments understand the origin of this term and the very specific technical skills expected. That does not help business leaders though and many of both the media coverage and supplier advertising only adds to their confusion.

What I mean by “a concerning trend” is recruiting managers creating data scientist roles when what they really need are data / customer / marketing / insight analysts. We are learning to help avoid this by talking more with clients at the outset. Building longer term partnership relationships helps us understand many of our clients, but even for the new ones, we have learnt to take time to understand what they are seeking to achieve.

Where a marketing or insight leader requires someone with the technical skills to analyse customer data, build predictive models, improve marketing targeting and communicate a clear understanding of customers on which marketers can act, 9 times out of 10 what they need is an analyst.

Will the real data scientist please step forward?

True data scientists are best described as an IT specialism. They have the coding skills and software experience to create/merge the data sources they need, mine that data for patterns and present their findings in a range of sophisticated visualisation tools. Many will also be able to help with the integration challenges of taking data triggers or models and integrating them with your marketing automation or CRM solution.

However, data scientists are not the answer to everyone’s needs. Where you have already created a suitable data solution and want someone to generate value from that on which marketers can act, you would be better seeking a marketing or customer insight analyst. These candidates will be familiar with SQL coding, analysis software, model building etc, but they will also have or develop the business skills to understand marketing, research and present to even senior leaders in your business.

Are you sure of your labels?

So, before you reach for the data scientist label during the latest restructure in your business, I’d recommend sparing a thought for what you are trying to achieve. If you’re still not sure, feel free to call MBN and chat it over. We are used to helping clients think this through and always happy to just have a conversation.

Have you had your fingers burnt creating data scientist roles, or has that worked for you and your team? Please do share your experience too.

Michael Young – CEO – MBN Solutions