Promote Your Own Data Geeks

In analytics, there has been a huge boom lately in trying to find data scientists, who like a superhero, can do everything well and swoop in and take a company’s analytics to a whole new level. They are called unicorns as in creatures that really don’t exist.

One thing that has always amazed me about the culture of so many businesses is the belief that bringing in someone from the outside when there are good people on the inside.

Occasionally I come across the argument that its better to build a data science team from within as opposed to looking for a data scientist who can code, analyze, build models, understand higher math, communicate with non-technical leaders and understand the business.

In many cases the sum of the parts can give you a great solution that in the long run is better for the business then finding someone who is all the parts in one.

To do that, you need to understand your people and what they can do. You have to then understand what skills they need to add to be awesome at analytics. Generally, it’s just a matter of training and empowerment to push the envelope.

I look for people who have these 3 qualities before assessing technical skill and job fit.

First I assess their work ethic based on job experience, educational achievement and reasons behind their transitions in life. Note that internal hires already have a track record to assess work ethic.

Second I assess their curiosity based on assessment responses and problem solving during the interview process. Again, people who have been with you most likely have routinely demonstrated the curiosity.

Third I ask them to analyze something. Looking for how they approach data, how they analyze it and how they report it. Again, compare what data you have on hand versus the data of what might or not be valid.

After that, just about anything can be added via training, mentoring, coaching and self-empowerment.

It’s a lot easier for me to work with a known quality and build them up then it is to take in someone who is largely unknown and roll the dice that things will work out.

But don’t take my opinion. Look at your data.


What % of new hires succeed. What % of promotion succeed? I’ll be shocked if you find that new hires add more value to your organization then veterans who are rewarded with new challenges.

So before you go out in the hyper competitive job market for a data geek, make sure you don’t have some people already on your payroll who can rise up and do the job.

If you need help assessing the inner data geek of your current staff, let me know. I can help you come up with roadmaps towards data geekdom that you can use to build a kick ass analytics team better than just about any data scientist aka unicorn you hire off the street.

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