Bringing fresh data talent into the industry

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ

Recent graduates wanting to enter the data industry face the barrier of having to apply for entry-level positions for which they are underqualified. Often, the jobs require one to two years of experience in SQL and Python, the first of which is not commonly used in academia. This was the experience of Tom Walkington, a senior consultant at Kubrick Group. He said: “To find an entry-level job where they're prepared to take you on and give you the time and resources to give you the skills is actually quite rare.”

"We are doing better - there is still a long way to go."

Kubrick Group trains junior professionals in data skills for two years, while hiring them out to companies as skilled associates and retained on a permanent contract. After that, the company is able to hire the new consultant on a no-fee basis. Walkington said this model is helping to bridge the data talent gap, but there a lot more to be done. “We are doing better with training people in some skills, but there's still a long way to go before there is an obvious route from zero to the ground floor.”

Handshake job acceptanceHowever, Samantha Hughes, analytics systems developer at Sainsbury’s, has decided to find another route to bring young people into the data industry. She recently started taking on students who are on their industrial placement year at university and is very pleased with the progress of one of her interns, especially with their ability to use new tools.

She said: “Eighteen days after she started, she became Alteryx-certified and I am absolutely thrilled because it is just a good start in her career to pick up that tool so well and run with it.”

To find the right people, Hughes approached universities and put out a call, also connecting with the grocery retailer’s internship programme. She added that the advert that went out used gender-neutral language and “phenomenally” a lot of the applicants were women. The applicants were also of a very high quality and there was not a high drop-out rate.

"We bring in people and use them to train our colleagues."

Nicholas Bignell, director at UBS, said that he prefers to use consultancies such as Kubrick Group and The Information Lab to bring in new talent, but he makes sure the new recruits share their skills and understanding of data with other members of staff.

Bignell explained that UBS has been taking on resources in lower-cost locations so they have staff in places that do not have strong skill sets. He said: “We use consultancies to bring in people who have been through training courses then we utilise them, not just within our projects but also to train our colleagues. Ultimately, we have success in doing that.”

Partner at Kubrick Group, Nick Allen, said that unfortunately experience being required for entry-level roles is a chicken-and-egg situation. Companies like his were set up to fill that gap.

The panellists were speaking at a customer roundtable at Alteryx Inspire Europe 2018.

Knowledge-based content manager, DataIQ
Toni is the senior features editor responsible for the origination of DataIQ's interviews, articles and blogs.