Lets assume that you’re in a third party analytics services/ consulting organization. I assume that your organization started with a core of like minded people with the relevant analytics credentials. And I would like to assume one of the following two things – that you’ve grown somewhat, or are planning to scale soon.
You must have hired or are planning to hire fresh talent. Recent undergrads and graduates. When you hire them, do you put them on a project on day 1? If not, do you train them? What is the nature of this training? The duration? What did you assume about their knowledge base when you started training them? Do you conduct the training internally using consultants’ time? Or, do you bring in trainers? What about the continuing education – understanding Digital in 2010, for instance?
Now, some more assumptions. You assumed that the quants have the knowledge or appreciation of strong technical and statistical principles behind analytic problems. You also assumed that the engineers are good programmers and problem solvers. And lastly, you assumed that the MBAs will be able to manage projects, learn enough technical stuff, support pre-sales and sales activities, etc. Somewhere, you also assumed that each of these groups will acquire the skill-sets of the other groups.
Pan the camera towards India analytics talent now. There are three distinct talent sources right now. Quants (Masters in Statistics/ Economics/ Computational Mathematics), Engineers/ Problem Solvers (just smart B.Techs), and Managers (MBAs). Think about the questions for these three groups separately.
More questions now.
- Did you train them on a mix of SAS/R, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, SQL? Something about messaging, charts, dashboards?
- Did you spend 2-4+ weeks training these smart professionals?
- After you trained them, were you satisfied (completely) with where they are? Were they really ready to become independent analytics professionals?
- Did you question your training methods? Assuming, they are not delivering over and over?
- Did you ever question the foundational assumptions made? That a quant is not really appreciative of what goes into all this? Or, a manager who is not quant enough to start with, can never really manage?
Here is what I am thinking –
- Can the same level of satisfaction with training be achieved in just 3-5 days? Can the remaining training duration be used for cutting edge?
- What if you have two different sets of training? One that equips you for delivering projects, and another for turning you into a data scientist? Is there a preference for one over the other?
Chances are that you are too busy or have too many things going on. Based on several senior folks in the industry that I have met recerntly, and over the years, this is an industry wide problem. An analyst with three years into the industry may not know anything beyond basic programming methods – not analytic thinking, not methodology depth, and not the ability to have an engaging conversation. By itself, it may seem OK, since you’re focusing on the core programming skills in the earlier years. However, what if you’ve damaged the raw material that you started with? That out of 100 people that you hired, in the hope of creating those data scientists, only about 1 or 2 really set on the path of becoming one? What I fear for is the quintessential mediocrity that we bring to a particular field of work. IT is a great example of how we’ve treated talent. Politics is another one.
Like in almost everything else, the dependence on the aptitude of the new hire, and their given interest in the field of work is what everyone is depending on. It’s the model that has been used by strategy consulting. And by being so myopic towards project delivery, the industry is missing the knowledge component of this knowledge economy. The recent curriculum innovation in certain universities, such as NYU Stern, Northwestern, UNC, etc. gives me hope. India needs to move on that track too.
P.S. a question – have you every wondered why the core team’s talent/ skillset is a lot higher/superior than the people you hire when you’re scaling? Is it OK to be like that?
Note: The reason I did not talk about the in-house analytics teams – they rarely have a culture of training their analytics professionals. They usually just deploy them. While I am a fan of BYOL (bring your own learning), I don’t think its applicable everywhere.