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Why Companies can’t find analytic talent

Source | analyticbridge

There are some interesting facts. A few of the top companies never contact me (even though I have the perfect experience and I live a few miles away, though I’ve heard they like to relocate people rather than hire locals, as they believe that relocated people make for more committed employees). Others like GE, IBM, British Petroleum, Starbucks, Capital One, Deloitte do contact me, though if you look at my resume (accessible from the resume section below), you would think it’s a bit surprising. This can also have to do with corporate culture, with some having aversion to hiring disruptive people.

Evidently there are some biases: I blog a lot and occasionally criticize some companies or publish proprietary material (from my own data science research lab), and some companies just don’t like that. I also look more like a start-up guy, so I receive far more interest from start-ups. Still, a few (minority) of the biggest companies have never shown interest in me (despite my numerous LinkedIn connections with them). Maybe they never heard about me (I don’t think so), or they believe I can’t bring value to them, or believe that my experience is not a good fit, or believe that I am too expensive.

Solution to data scientists being too expensive

Regarding “too expensive”, with income now above $400k/year (since I changed from “employee” to full-time “co-founder/owner”) , that’s true, I’m too expensive, but they don’t know about that. Actually in my last “employee” positions back in 2012, I was making $150k-$170k, which is not high by Bay Area standards. I worked mostly in California (it has a 10% income tax on such salaries)  although I was physically in Washington state (Washington has no income tax). So I could ask a salary $15,000 below what local candidates would ask. I mention this because for California or New Jersey or New York employers, this is one way to reduce your costs: hire  telecommuting employees located in states with no income taxes (plenty of great talent can be found in Austin, Texas, as well as near Seattle, Washington – both places with no income tax). Real estate is also well below California or East Coast in these locations. A guy like me probably has a $5,000 monthly mortgage in the Bay Area, mine is $2,500, with a beautiful house, though I was lucky: I sold my house in the Bay Area and then moved to Seattle at the right time (2006). All in all, I could ask a salary $50,000 below what a Bay Area applicant would ask, and still have a better quality of life with no financial stress. This was true until 2012, now this window of opportunity (for employers) is closed, especially since not only my income was boosted by a factor 3, but my job security is also much better now (Note: I don’t recommend you to switch from employee to founder; most fail; you should test the waters first, make sure you don’t have financial stress, and that you love “doing business” more than you love doing statistics; and that you are good at managing finances, finding the right partners, outsourcing, delegating, business hacking, “lean start-ups”, marketing, product, vendor selection, market understanding, and a bunch of other things, and most importantly passion-driven and focused on generating both value and profits).

But I’m sure there are plenty other people who did the same move as I did (probably located in Austin, Texas, or Seattle now). Identifying them might be worthwhile, as they need lower salaries. Or people who benefited from the spectacular stock market recovery might also be happy with lower salaries – a weapon that they can use to compete with other data scientists. Of course, if you need a top gun, it might be worth paying him $500k/year, but then you might need to provide him with the right job title and responsibilities (possibly external consultant or chief scientist, if you don’t already have one), otherwise it could create jealousy and bad team spirit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a job and probably will never again, so not contacting me is a smart decision, but employers don’t know that either. Also, I don’t fit well as an employee, but again these companies don’t know that until I’ve worked 2 years for them. Also some of the companies interested in discussing a job opportunity with me might just want to spend a day with me, at no cost, and steal as much IP (intellectual property, ideas) as they can from me, with no intention of hiring me in the first place.

Some companies – including one that I regularly criticize, publicly posting solutions to improve their revenue using better data science – keep contacting me regularly though I’m not a good fit (for instance, they are consistently looking for developers with some statistical knowledge, but I am not a developer). I’m sure that this company I’m talking about has boosted its revenue by many, many million dollars thanks to reading and applying my solutions, so at least they benefit from me (so do all their competitors who also read my postings).

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