5 Qualities You Don’t Know to Look for in Your Data Scientists

on November 2nd, 2016
Big data

When looking for a data scientist, are you merely looking for someone with the right degrees to hang on the wall and the right pedigree of experience? If that’s all you’re asking for, you may be missing out on tons of candidates that have tremendous potential, but not necessarily a master’s from the University of California-Berkeley and 10.5 years experience at Google.

As long as the candidate has a strong understanding and proficiency with statistics and technology, primarily in the realms of database design and coding or scripting languages, they have the prerequisites to become a good data scientist. But, as with many heavily technical professions, it isn’t necessarily the STEM skills you need to look for, but rather those softer skills that mean the difference between a so-so employee and a masterful data scientist. Here are those intangible qualities you need in a data scientist.

1. Look for Innate Curiosity

The data doesn’t just spill its secrets. It must be finessed. Great data scientists have natural curiosity. If the candidate asks tons of questions at the interview, this is a good sign. However, it’s also easy to become distracted by all of the little pebbles you find in the analytics, and lose sight of the big picture. Don’t go with the candidate whose curiosity gets the better of them.

2. Look for Some Tenacity

Again, data analytics is often about coaxing out the answers you need. Data scientists need to be somewhat tenacious, willing to delve into the analytics and refuse to come up until they get the answers they need. It often takes many tries before the data scientist comes up with the right combination of data, algorithms, and such, so go with a candidate who has the determination it takes to keep on working when things get tough.

3. Look for Cleverness

Data analytics is not following a set pattern or formula to get the right answers. It requires many tries from many angles, and often a unique new way of approaching the analysis. Clever data scientists think of intriguing ways to approach their data sets. Cleverness isn’t something that’s learned in an educational setting. It’s inborn. Find a candidate with natural cleverness.

4. Look for Some Humility

Once every hundred or so queries, the data reveals something astounding, making the data scientist look utterly brilliant. The other 99 times, the data analytics reveals … a whole lot of nothing. It takes some humility to admit the analysis was useless and get back to it after the 15th failure and the 55th failure and the 79th failure. Find a data scientist with the humility to be okay with the 99 so they’ll hang in there for the 100th.

5. Don’t Look for a Perfectionist

Related to humility is a lack of perfectionism. Perfectionists often overlook the good stuff, looking only for the great, the excellent, the mind-boggling. Most of the data analytics conducted merely proves what was already suspected or, as mentioned, reveals nothing at all. A perfectionist won’t deliver business intelligence or insight until it’s fabulous. You can’t wait that long. Find someone who’s perfectly okay with delivering timely information, even if it isn’t earth-shattering.

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