Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Why Data Analytics Professionals Need to be Good Storytellers

Kellogg Insights has a good article this week, in which they feature comments from various executives about hiring data analytics professionals. It's a hot field, making it a tough fight for great talent. Still, companies have to find the right talent. That means more than hiring folks who can crunch the numbers. Leslie Hampel, Director of Global Strategies at Starbucks, explains: 

What I am looking for is someone who can bridge the gap. Can you do the math? That’s important, but can you pull the story out of the math? Particularly for the next 10 years or so, as we work our way through this current generation of CEOs who don’t understand algorithms for the most part. They are making decisions from a very different place. How do you show them that you have applied the analytic rigor, then help tell the story so that they feel comfortable investing millions, if not billions, of dollars in this idea? It really becomes about storytelling. 

I concur wholeheartedly.  When I was a graduate student, I taught introductory economics at Harvard.   I also participated in the interviewing and training process for new teaching fellows in this course.  Plenty of talented doctoral students in economics applied for these positions.  Some of them could not tell a story though. They could draw the graphs and write the equations on the board, but they could not explain the intuition and the logic in a way that others could understand easily.   The same logic applies with data analytics professionals.  They have to be able to persuade others, some of whom are not able to digest the math easily.   Telling a story with the numbers is crucial.  

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