Analytics Blog

Telling a Story vs. Selling a Story: The Soft Skills That Data Scientists Often Overlook

Sade - Smooth Operator
Hiring Data Scientists at a small Analytics software company is a bit of a balancing act.  We are fundamentally a software company and not in the business of delivering services.  That being said, we have found value in having Data Scientists on staff to assist customers in adopting Alpine, our advanced predictive analytics solution, into their production and development environments.  Alpine empowers our clients to perform analytics on a scale that was not possible before.   This empowerment gives our clients new opportunities for insight and our Data Scientists are our final line to facilitate our customers’ initial realization of these opportunities.

 There are many articles that have defined what a data scientists is or how to build a data science team.   While our candidates are becoming increasingly more sophisticated with respect to the hard-skills, on average they have not developed as much with respect to their soft-skills.  The primary soft-skills that we are looking for are the ability to consult and coach.  As Data Scientists, we cannot be effective in relaying knowledge and transforming behavior if we cannot develop a trusting relationship with our customers.  To put it more succinctly, we look for Data Scientists who are confident and who have the ability to quickly put others at ease.

 As many have stressed, communication is important but the ability to teach others to communicate the value of predictive analytics is understated.  It is not enough to tell a story, our Data Scientists have to know how to sell a story and to teach others to sell that story as well.  For example, a ROC curve can be hugely valuable for conveying the value of a modeling effort, but it takes extra effort to teach the utility of a ROC curve to a business audience such that they can get buy in from their internal stakeholders.  The Data Scientist who knows their stuff and is capable of coaching others on how to convey this information internally is incredibly powerful.

Other skills such as time management, planning, and scheduling arrangements on short notice are helpful as well.  It is not uncommon for our sales team to schedule meetings for our Data Scientist’s with short notice. The general ability to deal with ambiguity and dynamic situations is very helpful.

As a small company, we do not have the luxury to send a large team to each client site.  We like to send out small strategic teams.  To fulfill our data science needs, we ask our Data Scientists to be knowledgeable, trustworthy, persuasive, and agile.  We hope that Data Scientists, particularly those interested in working here at Alpine, will take a second look at the value of developing their soft-skill as well as their more traditional technical chops.

If you’re interested in meeting our team, join us for our Weekly Office Hours via Google+ Hangouts every Friday at 11am PST.