Whether you are an experienced or novice employee, or an employer looking to build your data management (DMT) department, the broader economy and several industry-specific developments have combined to make the question of what makes a good DMT professional more pertinent than ever before.
The current employment climate is marked by an historically-rare coincidence in high levels of both supply and demand. Within data management and other professions, there is a tendency for employers to ask for a lot: often, a single job requisition stipulates skills typically associated with two, three or more different individuals. With 2.5 million people unemployed, why should a firm not insist on getting exactly what it wants?
This tendency is noticeable within the data industry where growth and dynamism rather than stability is the defining trait. As this vertical evolves, however, the range of jobs is becoming gradually more defined. There is an increasing clarification of duties among the more specialist roles, such as data quality managers and ETL developers, and the more generalist roles, such as data governance managers and data management consultants.
Still, the data management sector is esoteric and complex and a small number of specialist recruitment consultancies have become critical to tlinking up the needs of businesses with the potential of jobseekers. The new IDM qualification looks like a sensible response to the sector’s expansion and its complexities.
There are already a number of qualifications that involve elements of data management, but they herald from and focus on other disciplines, such as accounting, marketing, HR and IT. There would seem to be a gap in the market.
While a dedicated qualification should help all parties involved in the sector, qualifications per se should not be misunderstood in the contribution they make to organisations’ hiring processes. Both academic and professional qualifications have a role to play when selecting new hires. But they are not as decisive or prevalent as many believe.
Where qualifications do feature in selection - which is by no means in every case - they currently tend to include the need for a degree. At their most influential, they only constitute the minimum requirement to get through the door for interview - they are necessary for applicants to be invited in, but seldom, if ever, sufficient for them to get offered the job.
Experience tends to carry more weight: what individuals have achieved in their professional lives, along with the hard and soft skills used along the way, feature much more consistently among the priorities of job requirement lists. Clearly, the common sense, commercial awareness and technical proficiency that would be evidenced by several years’ worth of delivering complex data quality assignments are going to reassure an employer far more than a bit of paper with some letters on it.
But experience is not enough. Employers seldom get every single skill they ask for in a job description. When employers hire data management professionals, the decisive factors tend to be personal and attitudinal. Some of these are subjective and leave little room for candidates to prepare in advance - whether two people really hit it off, for example. There are, however, further traits that mark out most data managementspecialists and employers will deliberately focus on these in interview. This helps employers judge individual suitability for data management jobs, which can be critical when experience is missing.
So what are the traits that good data management professionals share? They tend to have very strong attention to detail. In fact, they are often labelled “anal retentive” by friends and colleagues. They tend to enjoy mathematics and logical problem-solving. They generally have no difficulty in switching between tangible, technical issues, and sometimes more ephemeral commercial concerns. And, most of all, the best ones love what they do - they love numbers and they have a passion for how data can benefit business.
There will always be exceptions to gainsay any attempt to synthesise the question of what makes an individual employable. Contractors, for example, would be well advised to prioritise their skill sets, keeping them current and highly developed - some firms and industries are known for insisting on professional qualifications and levels of academic attainment.
But on the whole my advice for permanent data management specialists is to start with your attitude, work on your skills and address the professional qualifications when you have the time or when and if it becomes a more decisive influence on your future.