Assembling the Ultimate Data Team...

Learn Data Science
Teradata Employee

I am asked by many customers about what skills should I look for when assembling the data analytic team.  The usual subjects come up: data analyst, DBA, and Data Scientist.  Those are roles and titles but something was missing from my thought process.  So I looked back in my career and started to think about what makes a successful team.  What I came up with was a set of qualities that made the projects I was on successful.  These qualities are "The Pioneer," "The Cattle Herder," "The Muscle," and "The Story Teller."  Crazy, I know, but give me a chance!  Many questions come up: "I can't go to HR and ask for these roles?"  "How do I use this?"  You may have people that exhibit these qualities, one person might have several of them.  Lets dig a little deeper into each one of these types.


THE PIONEER:  This quality can see a challenge, think it through, and come up with a high level plan to turn that challenge into a vision.  This quality can look at a problem and quickly assess whether or not it is real.  By real I mean, can we monetize the solution to the problem if we solve it, can we 'operationalize' the problem if we have the business on board.  This person can solve problems and is not afraid to introduce it to the organization.  They are a little bit 'STUPID COWBOY' rooted in serious intellect.  They are not afraid to take risks and they want to make a difference in the business.  They are also strong relationship builders.  They sometimes leap without looking but usually land on their feet.

THE CATTLE HERDER:  This quality is very critical.  They can wrangle the people together across different disciplines.  They can speak both the language of business and the language of technology.   They understand business process and business process optimization.  They know that an analytic is only as good at the people and process that it impacts.  They understand the business systems and how they are used.  They also know the people that use them.  They can bridge the gap between a project that is pure science experiment and turn it into value.  They are the implementer and the business negotiator.  They know how to bring people together to solve problems and keep people honest and on track.

THE MUSCLE:  This quality is the do or die of the technology and business world.  They are highly intelligent, practical, and have this one thing that most don't have.  They never let 'It' win.  By 'It' I mean the problem.  They are not only intelligent but they work the long hours, put the research in, try and fail, try and fail, try and succeed.  They never give up.  They are not afraid of new technology, new analytic approaches, new ideas, and are smart enough to understand the limitations of the world around them.  They are very creative and have intense imagination. 

THE STORY TELLER:  The story teller can take a challenge or a solution and talk to people all over the organization about it.  They can speak to just about anyone and about almost anything.  They have excellent 'arts and crafts' skills.  They can walk into a room and can go deep both technically and from the business side.  They can paint the vision so anyone can understand it and see it's value.  They demonstrate the day in the life of a solution without putting people to sleep.  They know stories are more important than statistics.  Their power comes in the ability to talk about statistics by telling stories.

Okay, Okay... "John, you just described the 4 unicorns."  Naaa... You have these people in your organization, you just arent looking for it.  Or you are not bringing it out of them.  You need to find these people, or you need to quickly assess who can gain or develop these qualities.  In part two of this article we will discuss the 4 qualities to avoid:  The Bully, The Sloth, The Zealot, and The Clown.