Next week, I’ll be at Think 2018 in Las Vegas. As I share this, several of my clients are deciding if they should make larger investments in data science and machine learning over the next 6-18 months. I believe data science and machine learning are the dynamic duo that are going to transform how we do business and how we lead our lives. I’ll talk about machine learning after I attend the IBM Think 2018 conference.
As an external technology advisor, I’m paid to help my clients better understand where they should invest, sometimes how much, and, in several cases, who should lead their pilot programs. I also serve as an executive coach for their data science team during the initial program rollout. I’ve always enjoyed coaching and developing high performing teams.
I see data science as a transformational capability. That’s Tripp talk for an organization’s ability to transform into a market leader exponentially, not incrementally. Let me see if I can help you see why I believe that data science is going to be very disruptive. It requires different leadership skills and teams than many of the early adopters expect.
Today, I share the leadership capabilities you look for in the leader of your data science team. When I return from Las Vegas next week, I’ll have talked to many of the early adopter leaders in data science and machine learning. To let you in on a little secret, I started building a list last year when I attended the Chief Data Officer Strategy Summit in Boston.
What skills are required to manage and lead your data science efforts effectively? I have spent a lifetime working with clients on these kinds of special programs. Last year’s CDO Summit confirmed for me something that I already thought.
To be successful in data science programs, you must find a leader who is more talented with people than they are with advanced algorithms. This person must be able to build bridges to different parts of the organization and know how to manage a group of people who have high emotional intelligence, can master new technologies, and are the best business people on your teams.
I believe the best data science experts possess several of these skills, but not all. I’m sure they might argue, but they’re wrong today. It will change as technology and training become a larger part of your growth budget. I also believe it will change even more as we begin to bring more millennials onto your teams.
The second capability I want is a person who can nurture others on the most ambiguous, stressful projects. I believe that data science is both a science and an art. It’s a silver bullet that everyone wants, but it may still be years before this comes to pass.
When working in times of uncertainty, I believe it’s the leader’s role to help remove barriers and shield their team members from too much corporate oversight. Without this, many of the breakthroughs you’re looking for can’t be achieved. I’ve had to many executive clients who want a miracle out of their data science teams. More accurately, they got caught in a technology hype cycle that we all are part of.
The third skill I’m looking for is a data team leader who is good at managing high potential talent across the organization. Not only must she be good at spotting talent she must know how to recruit them to her team. I believe that at this stage in the data science revolution, you may find some of your best data science candidates residing in marketing, corporate finance, or maybe even, operations. Successful data science leadership requires a multi-disciplinary capability that few other roles required.
Finally, I want an individual who is a master influencer and facilitator. This individual is responsible for working up and down the organization. He must have the ability to tell a good story or ask a great question of their stakeholders. They must be able to communicate in a way that makes people act on what they hear. She must be able to share how what they’ve learned fits into the vision and strategy of they organization.
Now before you hang me out to dry. What about their technical capabilities? This is where It gets interesting. As data science continues to evolve and change the technical parts of the job will become easier. I believe that much of the technical part of the job can be outsourced to other members of your data science team. Not only do they help you do the crap work, but more join my team see the world of business in a different way than you do now. Data and what data will be requires creativity and insights that can help this individual contribute to the data science team’s success.
I suggest that the members of your team go through a rotational training program that integrates both business skills with technical capabilities. The people you want during the early stages of a data science program should be your best and brightest millennials and GenXs.
Now that I’ve shared what kind of people you want on your data science team, I hope you’re thinking of some people in your organization that could help you with this project. Later, I’ll share several questions I’ll be looking to have answered as I spend my week at IBM Think 2018 with many of the best and brightest people in data science from around the world. I should be able to bring you examples of the results people have received from their early data science efforts.
See you in a couple weeks, if I don’t see you in Vegas next week!