Growth and change are natural parts of the professional lifecycle. The demand for professionals in the field of Data Analysis & Data Science is current at an all-time high. Recruiting is a costly process, and with so much demand the best talent has many opportunities.
As a former business owner (who’s still very much an entrepreneur at heart), I’m always fascinated by the strategy needed to attract and maintain the best talent your budget can buy. As a former career data analyst who has transitioned into a product management role, I would like to share some insights that might help professionals navigate professional life, as well as for team managers who are interested in retaining talent.
It’s normal for a data analyst or a data scientist to become a key part of the business operations. We help optimize businesses, add structure to products, and help numerous other colleagues bridge the gap between data and insights and transform them into action.
Most companies have progression ladders, career frameworks for analysts. I’m critical of these because the most important thing is to create an environment where the person is growing. These frameworks more often than not take away the focus from the growth aspect and tend to pit your talent against each other. While some internal competition is good, creating situations where individuals don’t feel their work is recognized is a surefire way to have them leave for greener pastures.
“Growing” should be understood as increasing value to the company, there are a few ways of achieving this:
- Maximizing skills
- Coaching others
- Transferring knowledge
Coaching data teams
This is probably the most common “path to growth”. You start as a newbie, you learn and become a valuable collaborator, you increase your confidence and responsibilities, and start mentoring other team members and seeking team management responsibilities. Unfortunately, this process works a bit like a pyramid, where someone very experienced manages many others who are less experienced. There will be a good number of people who will “fall through the cracks”, one of the archetypes who will fall through the cracks is the “ultimate specialist”. And other companies are always ready to make some offer to these very experienced individuals.
This is probably the hardest person to retain in the long term with conventional methods. Their hours are extremely valuable but eventually will hit a ceiling. They get the most value out of working on innovative challenges. Hopefully, they engage in informal mentorship for other team members, but for this person business’ problems are more interesting than people’s problems.
Being able to retain this type of talent requires a tactful mixture of understanding what drives them, maintaining a great culture where there’s psychological safety.
Being able to transfer knowledge to other parts of the organisation by taking on a new role is one of the most underrated career paths. A mature organisation should be able to take advantage of having collaborators that understand the ins and outs of the business, take on new roles.
The best managers find purpose in growing individuals to the best of their ability. Sometimes, someone’s path lies outside the organization but having had a great professional experience creates ambassadors that will recommend people.