The world is changing at warp speed. What seemed like science fiction just a few years ago is now almost mainstream. Our thermostats know when to turn the heat up or down, depending on our routine behavior and the weather outside. Some cars have the intelligence to drive themselves. And from selling coffee in Japan to patrolling shopping malls in Silicon Valley, robots are taking the place of humans.
As artificial intelligence (AI) gains traction in the real world, technology professionals need to rethink the skill sets needed to move a business forward. It’s no longer sufficient to hire people with old-school tech skills. In fact, I believe that you should stop hiring pure developers at all. Instead, you should hire tech-savvy professionals with strong data analysis skills. Essentially, hire data scientists.
How Data Scientists Can Help Your Tech Team
If we use self-driving cars as an example, the developers need to program the car to do more than just stop and go. They also need to teach the self-driving car how to drive by feeding it data so it knows which direction to go, when to stop, how to park itself without hitting another car, etc. And once the car is on the road, it’s a data-enabled device, collecting information at every turn. It’s critical that the developer working on the car can analyze that data, understand what it means, and apply it to continuously improve the quality and capabilities of the vehicle. It’s a complicated task, with many levels of complexity. So while traditional programming skills are important, in this example, having the skills to interpret and analyze the data is also critical.
Finding this top analytics talent isn’t easy, but it’s important to invest in people with these skills, especially as new technologies such as AI continue to grow. But how do you find these people, and how do you know if they have the skills you need?
How To Find A Great Data Scientist
Particularly since we work with data, I hire a lot of data scientists. When interviewing candidates, I try to make sure they are masters in three key traits:
- Data Literacy: Ensure your candidate understands your data and the underlying data structures. Clearly, the need for data is only going to grow. So, I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire someone with data analysis and scripting expertise. To find out if your candidate has data literacy, ask about the importance of ACID compliance, and in which cases it does or does not matter.
- Business Savvy: Top candidates should also possess the business skills that underlie any successful technology project: communication, change management and collaboration. The lines between IT, data and business are blurring, and the best candidates will have the skills to navigate this change, communicate it clearly, and collaborate to ensure project success. I like to ask candidates about a great data insight they’ve uncovered, how they helped translate that into business change, and where it worked and did not work.
- Strategic Thinking: This one should go without saying. It’s no longer enough for your employees to execute a project well. They must also be able to think strategically when it comes to applying data to the project at hand. The best candidates will know how to uncover the hidden insights in data that drive innovation and give your business competitive edge. A good question to ask is how they go about data prioritization.
While there are job seekers who possess these traits, I also think there is a need for further training and education. In fact, some — myself included — predict that these educational opportunities will explode in 2017. I certainly hope they do, because what companies need today are employees with that unique blend of tech, business, and data know-how, with a strong emphasis on data.
How are you aligning your hiring plans to the growing need for data-savvy people on your team?
This post originally appeared in Forbes.
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