Industry Insights

Background image of user typing on a calculator with floating interface elements surrounding them

Flash Survey: How do Quants Rank Their Communication Skills?

September 23, 2014

When it comes to the quantitative fields, having strong technical skills is an obvious must for securing a position. However, as data-driven decision making becomes more prevalent at companies in every industry, many companies also require “soft skills” as analytics moves from the back room to the board room.Communication skills have become such a hot button topic in today’s analytics environment that we were curious to see what everyone’s perception of their own communication skills was, and decided to take another “flash survey” of our network. So I asked:How would you describe your communication skills?

  1. Very Strong – I can translate technical findings to a non-techie audience with the greatest of ease!
  2. Good – I haven’t confused anyone yet, but there’s always room for improvement.
  3. Okay – They’re not bad, but they’re probably not my greatest strength either.
  4. Could Be Better – Hey, I’m a numbers person!

As with any survey, these results are self-reported. Our purpose was not necessarily to discern which group has the best communication skills, but more to illustrate how analytics professionals perceive their communication skills depending on certain factors. Over 250 quantitative professionals responded to our flash survey, and so we are able to show the results by gender, residency status, and region.

communication skills overall

Overall, analytics professionals categorized their communication skills positively – over half reported “very strong” communication skills and another third reported themselves as “good".

communication skills region

Analytics professionals who live in the Southeast seemed to believe they had the strongest communication skills, with 97% rating themselves as very strong or good communicators. This was followed by those in the Mountain region (94%). The Midwest and West Coast professionals were the most modest, with 91% reporting they had very strong or good skills.

communication skills residency

95% of U.S. Citizens rated themselves as very strong or good, while only 68% of H-1B candidates rated themselves at those levels. Permanent residents rated themselves similarly to U.S. Citizens.

communication skills gender

More women rated themselves as “very strong” communicators (61% vs. 55% for men), but overall men had higher perceptions of themselves when looking at who rated themselves either very strong or good (93% for men vs. 89% for women).I was also interested to know if everyone’s boss would agree with their communication skills self-assessment, and knowing that some of the best insights don’t necessarily come from answers to multiple choice questions, I asked an open-ended question, and have included some of their answers here:Would your boss rate you the same way?

  • My VP at my previous employment didn't like me to explain things with graphs and charts, but instead with numbers and percentages. He told me that I gave him data when he wanted information. Initially I assumed giving him data findings to make the decisions was enough. Something that I have been improving on is translating the results to the questions given.
  • Boss thinks I'm strong, but not very strong, because most internal clients are not very strong in understanding advanced analytics.
  • I'd rate mine very strong, my bosses very strong, and all my reports very strong. It really is key in building a great analytics team.
  • My colleagues have always described my communication skills as strong. Some even use patronizing language without being aware of it: "He's a techie, but he eats with a knife and fork." It's hard sometimes to think of such things as compliments.

Now more than ever, the analytics roles of today require individuals with strong communication skills who can translate results to their managers, marketing team, or even CEO, and deliver actionable insights that are easily understood, even by someone with a non-technical background. Not sure what I mean by “actionable insights”? This article has some great examples of what executives are looking for when they say they want to hire individuals with “strong communication skills/storytelling ability”.As I’ve mentioned before, my prediction is that analytics professionals are headed for the C-Suite. With the abundance of available data necessitating both strategy and deep comprehension, the executive in the boardroom needs to have a solid quantitative foundation, and for that to happen communication skills will become even more important. According to a recent study by Time Inc.’s Fortune Knowledge Group, over 60% of senior-level executives said they still trust their intuition (over data), and that “real-world insight tops hard analytics when making decisions”. I suspect that over the next 5-10 years those numbers will decrease, as analytics professionals make an increasingly stronger impact on the decision making process.Thanks to all who took part in our flash survey, and keep your eyes on your inbox for more opportunities to participate!