Proper care and feeding of data scientists

Blog Posts:Mu Sigma
Published On: 06 June 2012
Views: 140

A lot has been written about the paucity of data scientists – but no one talks much about how to retain them. This was a key topic of discussion at our recent Customer Summit.

General consensus was that there are two main elements to the proper care and feeding of data scientists (beyond the usual monetary incentives): fostering collaboration and allowing them to satisfy their natural curiosity.

“Collaboration is important to data scientists,” said Summit speaker Bill Coughran, former SVP of Engineering at Google and now a partner at VC firm Sequoia Capital. “They like to be able to talk and brainstorm with one another, and challenge each other. That’s why small data groups don’t work.”

Many Mu Sigma clients agreed, including one executive from a well-known social media company, who noted, “We can find people with technical skills – the hard part is finding people with the intellectual curiosity. We can’t teach that. So when we find someone who has it, we want to do everything we can to keep them.”

A key strategy that particular client employs is to ensure all data scientists have the opportunity to do discovery-driven work (seeing where the analytics lead them), rather than just problem-driven work (where they are asked to solve a particular problem). We explored this approach in a recent blog post.

What is your company doing to ensure it keeps its data scientists engaged and excited?

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