Linda Burtch, Managing Director at Burtch Works | 30+ years’ experience in quantitative recruiting
From the phenomenal increase in the number of calls that analytics professionals are getting from recruiters, to the fact that nearly every quantitative team is planning to hire this year, it is overwhelmingly clear that there has never been a better time to be a Quant. Occasionally, you may still come across someone with the unfortunate attitude that “Big Data is just a fad”, but for the most part that belief has given way to “the terminology may be a fad, but the practice of being data-driven is here to stay”.
Between the fact that nearly every organization is now compelled to be data-driven to keep up with their competition, and the increasingly complex knowledge required to run a global company, I would argue that in 10-20 years, quantitative professionals will be uniquely equipped to be CEOs.
Nowadays, one doesn’t need to look very far to find companies using data analytics to adopt a more data-driven approach, whether to inform their marketing strategy or otherwise. According to a recent survey by KPMG, 92% of C-level executives report using data and analytics for marketing insights, and 81% of enterprises rely on analytics to strengthen their understanding of their customers.
Particularly interesting is the article’s rundown of which areas currently lead analytics investment, as well as the areas of planned investment, as it is a preview of the data-driven future that we’re headed for. Some companies have always been data-driven, but now the practice of using data analytics is far more widespread, and is only increasing.
Although previous leaders may have traditionally risen through the ranks of marketing or finance, with educational backgrounds in economics or business, it is becoming more common to see leaders with backgrounds in engineering or computer science, such as Satya Nadella and Jeff Bezos. For a leader to have the technical depth to know the possibilities that data holds, and what new questions to ask will be crucial in the coming data age. The analytical mind that is required to successfully helm a company will become even more critical to a leader’s success, and quantitative professionals are uniquely suited to be adept at this aspect of leadership.
As the data-driven future is ushered in, the brass ring is there, but in order to grasp it you can’t just rest on your quantitative laurels. Being a strong leader requires that you learn to think more strategically, which may be an adjustment from being a detail-oriented analytics professional or data scientist. It is also wise to develop your communication skills, learn to develop strong business relationships, and keep an open mindset focused towards business objectives, not just interesting problems.
Leadership qualities need to be developed just like any other technical skill, which means learning, talking to people, taking classes, thinking beyond the numbers, having a curiosity about business or the industry you’re in, and trying not to get too caught up in the minutiae.
It is not for everybody, as some quantitative professionals may prefer to stay close to the data rather than pursue a position which requires more strategic thinking and less data-crunching. Even if you don’t covet a leadership position, in an age where analytics professionals and data scientists lead companies the likelihood that you’ll be working under a fellow Quant – one that understands data’s potential and values analytics and your contributions – is much stronger. Whether you choose to pursue leadership or not, the future is looking pretty rosy for Quants.
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