Industry Insights

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Soft Skills: How to Navigate Success in Data Science

July 28, 2022

As the field of data science has evolved over the past 15 years, the importance of communication in roles has only grown. Many clients have asked that candidates not only have a variety of technical skills but robust communication skills. A candidate may have an impressive understanding and set of experience to work on a project, however, it is imperative that they have the ability act as a liaison to other less or non-technical teams. Clients have several requirements when looking to add a data scientist to their team, but we have also heard that candidates should be able to ‘explain regression to their grandmother’. Ultimately, having the ability to explain highly technical situations and problems clearly and concisely, provides a large advantage to progress in your career.It is important to be comfortable translating technical needs with a team outside of your own. Utilizing clear communication skills and understanding the concerns and needs of other teams makes an impressive candidate. Not only is this a helpful tool for data scientists to work with internal teams, but a debate can also be made asking for business leaders to not being afraid to expand their data literacy to help build the communication and knowledge ‘bridge’ between tech and business. Having great communication skills is notably important at any level and there are a variety of ways to improve and expand as one progresses in their career.Early-Career Data ScientistsFor early-career data scientists, we heavily encourage use of the many resources around you! If you are still attending university, it can be immensely helpful to work with professors and classmates to gain feedback on how to handle specific situations in the workplace. Most universities also have a robust career center that is not only available to undergraduate students but is also open to working with alumnus.Once hired, we always encourage early-career data scientists to join in on client presentations to observe and learn from established professionals. It can also be beneficial to be present in the office to work closely with others on the team.Mid-Level Data ScientistsFor mid-level data scientists, it is always beneficial to take the lead! Asking to take on more opportunities to present and work with other teams can be the best way to build soft skills. Gaining chances to practice is always the best way to gain experience while also having the ability to get feedback from others with more experience on the team. Being open to receiving constructive feedback to improve your communication goes a long way. This is a skill that takes working practice to learn what works and what doesn’t while cooperating with non-technical teams.What else can help? Managing your data science career is a balancing act that requires spotting the right opportunities from both a mentorship and management point of view. If you’re still in the first few years of your career, being given the opportunity to connect with senior members on the team and form valuable relationships can enable both personal and professional growth. Any management experience gained on the job can also enhance your skillset and propel future advancement.As mentioned, communication skills are vital and can always be improved over time. Employers love data scientists who love to learn and are passionate about their work, and who are always looking for new questions to ask. We always encourage candidates to be open to gaining as much experience in the workplace as possible.Burtch Works will continue to monitor these important skills in the market, stay tuned for our upcoming research and observations!