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How to hire for the right big data skill set

Sarah K. White | June 23, 2016
Hiring the right data scientists, analysts and engineers can be a daunting task. But with the right strategy, you'll be able to find the great candidates in no time.

"Companies building modern data science capabilities should look for employees with programming abilities in Python, deep learning libraries and who can work with big data tools and infrastructure such as Spark, Hadoop and Hive apart from the traditional tools such as SQL," says Thusoo.

Part of hiring the right person to assist in data analysis also includes determining how high-level you want your data analysis. For example, Mustafa says for companies interested in a high-level interpretation, one that looks at user activity and engagement, or to predict trends, you might want someone with a broader knowledge of data science. However, for businesses that want to hone in on large amounts of data, or focus on predictions, you'll want to hire people with more specific skills. Mustafa says candidates with knowledge of optimization theory and machine learning will help build sound prediction models. Meanwhile, businesses that are tackling large amounts of data, you'll want people well versed in tools like Hadoop and Apache Spark.

Data transformation

The impact of data on businesses has been huge, and it's ushered in the age of digital transformation, and companies are scrambling to keep up with the rapid pace of technology. Part of that digital transformation revolves around data and properly integrating it into the day-to-day business. It's something that requires not only a solid foundation in technology, but also a deep understanding of the business side of the company.

Transformation is about how data can help shape the future of the business and keep the company modern and innovative. That means, you'll want to hire people who can show their ability to assess a complex data situation, oftentimes from multiple sources, and determine important, says Thusoo.

"Moreover, a data scientist must be able to visualize data in an informationally compact way. Visualization skill is the key to telling a story with data, which is the single most important skill for a data scientist. Telling a story with data, or communicating what the data is saying, is how data scientists ultimately add value for their employers," says Mustafa.

Soft skills

While most of the skills mentioned are, for the most part, technical, it's important not to overlook soft skills. The people you hire who are tasked with collecting, housing and interpreting that data are also going to be responsible for communicating it effectively to business executives. You'll want to hire someone with strong communication skills to help balance out the more technical side, especially as big data is an emerging trend in businesses -- not everyone in the company will be up to speed.

You want people with the right technical skills, of course, but it's just as important to make sure you have employees that are willing to challenge the status quo in data, and push boundaries.


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