Study Seeks to Find What Makes a Successful Data Scientist

by   |   June 29, 2012 1:30 pm   |   0 Comments

Tom Davenport (left) and Greta Roberts are studying what makes data scientists tick.

With six-figure data scientist shortages predicted in the next five years, two organizations have started a joint study to find out what characteristics make a successful data analyst to help managers spot, train and retain talent.

Talent Analytics Corp. and the International Institute of Analytics (IIA) are partnering for a landmark study that will delve down into what makes the person behind the keyboard do what they do, asking questions about lives outside of work and personal ambitions. Talent Analytics, based in Cambridge, Mass., makes software to correlate worker skills and performance. IIA, in Portland, Ore., studies how enterprises use analytics for competitive advantage.

Participate in the Study

Click below to participate in the study “Understanding Analytics Professionals” being conducted by IIA and Talent Analytics.

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Greta Roberts, CEO and founder of Talent Analytics, said an approach that goes past factors like education, type of degree, and skills is crucial because often workers with similar educational backgrounds have much different performance.

“Our study measures characteristics internal to the worker themselves, as well as demographics external to the worker,” Roberts said in an email interview. “If the study shows strong relevance of internal worker traits, this will be enormously helpful to organizations extending looking to expand sources to recent college grads without experience or long term skills in the analytics area, or internal candidates who ‘from the outside’ may not have been identified.”

Roberts, who is a faculty member at IIA, said searching for and hiring data analytics talent has been a hot button topic at recent conferences and during her conversations with industry leaders.

“We’ve sort of hit the perfect storm in terms of industry growth, business need and technology advance,” she said. “Business analytics is white hot right now as businesses are desperate to build out their analytics capabilities and hire analytics people.”

Roberts said the survey takes about 30 minutes to complete, and anyone who participates will be invited to a webinar to review the results once the data is analyzed.

Tom Davenport, the director of research at IIA and visiting professor at Harvard Business School said enterprises are beginning to consider how personality traits are affecting performance, and a study about the nature of successful analytics professionals is a good way to showcase what’s possible with that approach.

“Companies are just starting to think analytically about human resources in general,” Davenport said. “People I’m working with now are just starting to ask if we can use analytics to figure out who is going to be successful.”

Email Staff Writer Ian B. Murphy at

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