Big Data Talent Strategies: The Academy

Published By : Big Data

For some people, the solution to the shortage of talent skill in big data analytics is to have the world’s colleges expand their analytics programs.

However, companies that are growing their workforce by 33 percent this year don’t have the luxury of waiting two, three, or four years for the education system to churn out a fresh crop of data scientists.

Fractal analytics — offering global consulting services and products focused on customer engagement, price optimization, and data harmonization — recently received a $25 million investment from TA Associates to support its growth. The company, based in San Mateo, Calif., but with significant operations in India and offices in New Jersey, Singapore, the UAE, and London, expects to grow its workforce from 600 people to 800 before the end of 2013. That should keep the paper pushers in HR busy.

Someone has to guide those new employees into the world of big data analytics and the way Fractal does business. That’s where Fractal Analytics Academy comes in.

This summer, 120 new college grads will join the company, and will go through a six-week introductory training program. Other employees will participate in more advanced and specialized programs.

“We recognized a long time back that there simply isn’t enough trained talent in this space, and we knew there would be a shortage,” said co-founder Pranay Agrawal, who is executive vice president for global client development at Fractal. In a telephone interview, Agrawal said that when the company hires people for all types of jobs — even roles such as sales — recruiters look for several core traits, not necessarily experience in analytics. Then everyone goes through the academy.

The core traits that the 13-year-old company looks for include an ability to solve problems, a natural curiosity, high desire to excel in a field, and a client service orientation.

Holistic understanding

The academy has been operating in Mumbai and Delhi, but is due to be replicated in the US and other regions. The logic behind having all new employees go through the academy, even if they aren’t going to be doing heavy analytics work themselves, is that everyone needs to understand what the company does, the methodologies it employs, and the company values.

So, the introductory program is loaded with classroom training and practical exercises focused on problem solving, visualization, and communication.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on presentation, the whole dimension of communication, oral communications and written communications, because a lot of the value in what we do is explaining what has been done,” said Agrawal.

Problem-solving exercises focus on using the company’s internal methodologies, utilizing issue trees that identify possible issues and possible solutions.

The academy is all about getting employees ready to work with clients and excel in the shortest possible period of time.

Looking forward, the program will have to grow in terms of keeping pace with developments in the software sector and how use of data is exploding. In addition, company officials are looking at ways to integrate open-source training programs such as Coursera into their offerings.

Facing the talent challenge

So, that’s how one company is moving to ensure that it has the big data expertise that it needs. We want to keep the discussion about big data talent moving forward.

What is your company doing to bring big data talent and data scientists on board? What have you seen working — or not working — in other companies? Are companies doing their own training programs? Are there cash bounties for the hiring of data scientists? Or, can your company wait until the colleges move the next generation of data scientists down the pipeline? Share a comment, and let’s talk about the possibilities. Or, if you know of an interesting approach to the big data analytics talent crunch, drop me an email.