November 29, 2016 | Marin Hitch
Insights from Business Analytics Career Expo
One of WCAI’s continual goals is to strengthen the bridge between academia and industry. We host an annual business analytics career expo to bring together students and industry practitioners who have a specific interest in hiring for business analytics roles. This year, we facilitated a discussion to capture candid dialogue from both sides about the current state of talent recruitment.
Hiring for analytics positions can be particularly challenging because analytics is a broad umbrella. It can serve many different purposes within the same organization. It’s common for a company host an analytics role in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Operation, and/or HR. As a result, the job descriptions and requirements look drastically different.
To gain some insight on the current practices and trends in hiring, we invited industry practitioners, research assistants, and MBAs to a roundtable discussion. As a collective group, we asked and discussed the following questions.
- What skills are companies looking for in an analytics position?
- What is the typical analytics career path within a company?
- What kinds of analytics roles are most appealing?
Of course, there are a lot of specifics to consider from industry to industry. And often, the answer was, “It depends” followed by qualifying statements. Below are the common themes and poignant takeaways from the conversation.
A few companies talked about how analytics positions across the organization become compartmentalized from each other which result in gaps and inconsistencies among best practices and protocols. It was also noted that companies find themselves in a perpetual reactive state as they troubleshoot solutions to unify analytics operations while remaining productive in their respective functions.
What every candidate needs
There will always be a job or project that calls for a hardcore SaS programmer who also has a background in statistics and marketing; romantic and programming languages. Yet, most representatives listed these qualities as “must haves” when they described the ideal candidate:
- Effective communication
- Common sense
- High learning agility
- Good problem solver
- Intellectually curious / passionate
- Possess Technical skills
It’s important to note that some companies didn’t view a lack of technical skills as a deal breaker as long as the interviewee could demonstrate the ability to learn a language quickly. That said, it is still helpful to have proficiency in a programming language.
What are the most appealing analytics jobs?
For one student, the most appealing organizations are those that offer positions that stay away from limiting their employees with small roles that don’t make a difference in the organization. Students seek positions that stand to provide meaningful insights and help the company prosper.
Students also look at organizations that boast high-level analytics titles as a way to measure how far this particular firm can take them in a career. It’s helpful for students to see positions that they can aspire to.
Analytics is no longer binary
Analytics doesn’t live in the sales and marketing departments anymore; it’s a necessary function of every department within the firm. And within those departments, it is a spectrum of functionality. One end of the spectrum is the hardcore coder who can write R packages backwards and forwards. On the other end is a person who effectively communicates the insights from the R package to decision makers.
Interviews are becoming more applied
In a more applied approach, interviewers walk candidates through a realistic, but hypothetical situation and ask them how they’d apply their knowledge to this problem. The goal is to identify self-awareness, effective communication, and to evaluate skill sets.
Apparent need for a CAO
As many analytics arms become the norm for companies, there is a growing need for senior positions to oversee them. Thus, Chief Analytics Officers are becoming more mainstream.
Analytics positions are evolving and companies are trying to stay competitive when it comes to finding the best talent. WCAI’s Career Expo is just one way to help fortify the bridge between academia and industry. For other insights about hiring, check out a recent graduate’s perspective.