Over dinner at the IQ Talent Awards night last week, Clive Humby told an interesting tale about the staff in his new business. The company took on five new analysts and gave them that job title to begin with. As it became obvious the task of exploring social media data was much more complex and required new approaches, he took the decision to start calling them “data scientists”.
That was when the interesting thing happened - approaches to those practitioners via LinkedIn not only proliferated significantly, but the posts they were being offered came with an additional £30,000 in salary compared to what was available when they were merely analysts.
I mentioned something very similar when chairing the DataIQ NOW! conference back in May. Somebody tweeted my comment about the salary hike on offer to anybody who can claim to be a data scientist which has continued to be retweeted to this day. That raises a number of questions: when is an analyst truly a data scientist (and vice-versa), is the task really worth that much more in pay, and where will recruiters find the talent they are so urgently looking for?
To help answer some of those questions, Nesta has been carrying out research among the Datavores which it identified last year. At an upcoming event, it will be reporting on what interviews with 45 of those leading-edge users of data and analytics have to say about the analytical skills which they need, where they are finding the talent and - perhaps most significantly in the long term - how policy and education need to change to build that flow of people. That is the part the Government, which is backing the research, is really interested in. Juan Mateos-Garcia of Nesta will be giving a full insight into the research, including how data talent ties in with company performance, at the DataIQ Future Summit on 15th October.
Things are really hotting up in the data analyst/data scientist space, especially around where the two crossover and how to find or develop the talent (other than by simply buying them in). Wiley has just published a book, “Developing Analytic Talent: Becoming a Data Scientist” by Vincent Granville, which is aimed at helping readers to develop their skills for this new realm (and perhaps achieve one of those eye-watering salary hikes).
What is starting to concern many, including the recruiters in this space, is that the employment marketplace is actually getting overheated. Roles that really need conventional data analysts are being described as data scientists. Analysts who have been happily ploughing that classic furrow for years are busily rebadging themselves. And genuine data scientists are being overwhelmed with offers and showered with cash. It might be good for the industry’s profile in the short-term, but it can only mean trouble in the long-term.