3 things you should look at when hiring big data team members

Data

You can’t rely entirely on a predetermined set of criteria when hiring members of your data team. That’s what makes it so difficult.

On the other hand, you have a much wider group of potential candidates. The options are limitless. Of course, that in and of itself represents a challenge.

So how can managers find the right people for their data teams when potential candidates can rise from anywhere?

The Diversity Dilemma

On our data team, we have data management industry veterans of all levels. Our team consists of highly experienced business and data management consultants, as well as early frontier data management tool developers. They came from different backgrounds: supply chain management, financial analysis, engineering, product development, computer science, and so on.

But they all have one thing in common, and identifying it in your candidates is an important first step. They all have a personal data story; something in their work or personal lives where data management — or a lack thereof — affected them. Those experiences quickly helped them shed that outdated view of data management as a mere IT function all about ones and zeros.

Where to Search for Multifaceted Data Managers

Best said by Lauri Skelly from Datascope, “Data science is a promising field for anyone … because it’s great for generalists.” When it’s possible to look everywhere, knowing where to start is the biggest hurdle. If you’re looking to grow your data governance team, the following fields are known for delivering quality candidates.

Business Management: A management background demonstrates an ability to strategize and execute across multiple channels. With access to so many varying teams, candidates with business management experience can be expected to understand the necessity and complexity of data and its implications throughout a company.

Computer Science: In addition to in-depth knowledge of technical data support, computer science candidates have exceptionally sharp minds, honed for identifying problems and solutions. Their contributions will be thoughtful and backed with technical knowledge.

Supply chain management: Data governance requires the ability to readily define objectives for an overarching strategy. This is where supply chain managers can really shine. With their experience in coordinating across multiple teams with an output in mind, they are excellent candidates for creating and executing on data management strategy.

The Skills Big Data Needs

While all candidates may share an affinity for data, not all are equipped with the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed. For my team, it isn’t until the group interview that I can truly determine who’s a good fit.

If you’re looking to fill a data management role, look for the following qualities before committing:

1. Communication skills for the layman

Good communicators can have tremendous effects on the enterprise, but they’re few and far between. Ask the hard questions, but expect simple answers; their ability to communicate will make or break the success of your team.

2. Solution-focused management

The nature of a data management role is to work in the midst of intersecting processes and constantly evolving problems. It’s essential that data team members have the ability to inquire, listen, and remain focused on finding a solution.

3. Team-centric attitude

I have found that people who have competed in team sports have a natural understanding of setting goals as a team. They know what it means to focus on individual performance and improvement, as well how to pass tasks to other team members for the benefit of the whole.

In our organization, we have a simple concept that boils down the attitude we expect every team member to embrace. We call it “leading from the middle.”

We know everyone in the organization has someone to answer to, and developing a comfort level with being in the middle provides a productive zone of clear communication and collaboration. Data management relies heavily on teamwork across functions, and the ability to work in a team is what, in many cases, makes the team tick. Therefore, we expect everyone to demonstrate initiative no matter how small the task.

Hiring data governance team members is an exciting endeavor. But just as you shouldn’t rely on checking off boxes from some pre-made list of criteria, don’t let the sheer volume of possibilities overwhelm you, either. Remember what to look for, consider tried-and-true career fields, and make sure you hire someone who knows how to work on a team.

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