Sheeba Rajam speaks on the trends in analytics and the hiring scenario surrounding this field. Sheeba, who heads the Customer Advocacy, Operations and Talent Acquisition division at TEG Analytics, talked to Analytics India Magazine about various aspects that are important in hiring the right talent in analytics. Here are the excerpts:
Analytics India Magazine: There is a lot of buzz about analytics, big data and AI around the industry. Do you think these are mere buzzwords or are we actually seeing an analytics revolution in the IT industry?
Sheeba Rajam: I wouldn’t say it’s a buzzword, and I think the answer is somewhere in between. There’s a revolution that’s been happening, which did not start yesterday or even half a decade ago. It’s been in the making for a couple of years now. We started with basic computing when the technologies evolved — the way mathematics itself was growing, compared to what we were learning as kids to what people are learning now, it is definitely evolved.
AIM: Do you think Data Scientists are expensive and difficult to find?
SR: Yes, I say that because finding a true-blue data scientist is very difficult — they need to have the right business acumen, know their technologies very well and need to be go-getters. A combination of all that is what makes a real true-blue data scientist. A person like that is difficult to find and is expensive.
AIM: How does the analytics hiring scenario in Indian companies look like?
SR: Analytics professionals are in high demand. Every industry today is trying to gain a competitive advantage. Everybody wants to make profit, and stand out from the competition they reach out to the analytics folks. They want to know how they are doing or what their strategy should be, so there is a huge demand. Hiring is going to rise even though it is at the peak right now, and looks that way in the next couple of years.
AIM: Do you think there is an imbalance between the available talent and required skill set in the analytics industry?
SR: Yes, there is, because a lot of people do some basic courses and come into the industry hoping that it will do. But, that is not enough. We need people who have business acumen, but if they have one or two components like new-age technologies which are constantly evolving, that would definitely help in work.
What’s happening today is we have to train and impart skills in the talent so that they fit into our requirements and deliver it to the clients.
AIM: We see institutes advertising that their students get five or then times their current salaries by switching to a career in analytics. Do you think that’s just an advertising gimmick or does industry appreciates the analytics talent more?
SR: Industry definitely appreciates the analytics talent. Maybe in five or ten years we could see tenfold increase in salaries but not as soon as you complete a course and get into the industry. Everything takes time. In any profession that you go to, it comes with experience and learning. But, analytics is a beautiful industry to get into. You are dealing with huge amounts of data and you do problem-solving. This is as real as it can get. So, if you want to get into the analytics industry, you should be passionate about it.
AIM: What are the skill sets that companies are mostly looking at while hiring analytics talent?
SR: If it is technical skills, there is a huge lineup right there. It’s great to have technical skill sets but you also need to understand that technology is constantly evolving.
For me personally, for our organisation, we are going to look at people who have some kind of domain experience irrespective of what industry they come from. Secondly, they need to understand technology very well. Thirdly, they need to have a passion for analytics.
AIM: Do you think a postgraduate degree or a specialization course provides an advantage for getting hired?
SR: Yes, it does. Any knowledge is good knowledge. I think what companies need is people with some basic knowledge before they come into the industry. If there are courses that help you understand ML/AI and if they are statistics-based, they are an advantage. We would be happy to hire people on this aspect.
AIM: What are the various initiatives that companies and educational institutions can take to set right the analytics talent flow?
SR: I would advise educational institutes to tie up with corporates. Because, academic learning alone is not sufficient for a candidate to become ready for the industry. So tying up with organisations, working on real-life scenarios, understanding what stakeholders are looking for and digging deeper would help learning correctly. Practical experience is very important. If institutes are not doing it right now, they should start doing it. That would help bridge the gap.
AIM: What are the three skills that you look for while hiring a candidate?
SR: 1. Go-getter attitude
2.Passion for learning and a curiosity to solve problems
3. Understand technology really well — being one step ahead
Your attitude really matters at the workplace.
AIM: What would you advise freshers who are looking to start a career in analytics?
SR: There is a lot of public information available today. There are various courses that you can do. Take part in competitions, build your portfolio so that you stand out from your competition. Keep yourself updated that’s the only you stand out. There are hundreds of data scientists out there, and if somebody has to look at your resume,there has to be something special about it. Go ahead and keep upskilling. There is no end to learning
AIM: What is your advice to experienced professionals who are now looking to transition into analytics.
SR: Understand the industry. Understand what your prospective clients are looking for. It’s great that you already have a business domain knowledge. This will now help you understand what problems businesses face and how you can go developing innovative solutions for them. It’s not just about tools and techniques, but it’s about connecting the dots and resolving your client(s)’ problems.
AIM: Would you like to share any interesting experience you have had during interviewing an analytics professional?
SR: There are quite a few, but I would like to talk about this one person. As I was saying earlier, we need people who are passion for analytics but we also look at people who have passion for other things as well. One of the things we saw in a particular candidate — who gave impromptu speeches, we got him out of the interview room, asked him to pick a topic and speak about it.
Next thing we know, he gave an impromptu speech which lasted for five whole minutes. We had the entire office looking at him. That just did it for us. Somebody who has that kind of passion, they’ll take that passion in anything they do.
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I research and cover latest happenings in data science. My fervent interests are in latest technology and humor/comedy (an odd combination!). When I'm not busy reading on these subjects, you'll find me watching movies or playing badminton.