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Blog Recap — Hiring & Retaining Data Talents in 2022

With a tumultuous hiring market in 2022, recruiting and retaining data talent has never been more important and challenging. Meenal Iyer and Glenn Hofmann described the landscape for building data teams and offered tips to compete with FAANG in the talent wars.
Aug 2022  · 5 min read

With the onset of the great resignation, precarious economic conditions, and the rise of flexible work, hiring and retaining data teams has never been more challenging and important.

As a part of the DataCamp Radar Conference, we hosted a panel on Hiring & Retaining Data Talent in 2022 with Meenal Iyer, VP of Data Science at Momentive.ai, and Glenn Hofmann, Chief Analytics Officer at New York Life Insurance. The panel addressed hot-button issues that are top of mind for many hiring managers today. In this blog post, we provide the key takeaways from the session. 

Hiring & Retaining Data Talent in 2022

Watch the full session here

Organizations face a tough landscape for building data teams this year. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the great resignation, and the economic downturn, organizations face difficulties in building data teams amidst intense competition for a limited supply of data professionals. 

Today’s markets favor data employees rather than employers, Meenal quipped. In-demand data professionals can afford to be selective in their job search. As such, companies looking to build a data team should build delightful and challenging employee experiences to attract the best talent. 

Often, applicants are attracted to market-rate compensation, ample benefits, flexibility for remote work, and a healthy work-life balance. Not only that, data professionals are looking for a good fit of the company culture, job scope, and the value that they bring to their customers. Thus, a company must have good employer branding to secure data talents. 

“With the options that data professionals have, the nature of the company, the nature of the position, and the group culture matter a lot more. When I interview candidates today, I get a lot more questions on “How will my work be used? What does the company do for its customers? How does the work fit in with my values?” There’s a lot more focus on that today.” – Glenn Hofmann, Chief Analytics Officer at New York Life Insurance

 

Glenn HofmannChief Analytics Officer at New York Life Insurance

Meenal also emphasized the importance of retaining existing employees. To do so, companies should balance the compensations of existing and new employees. Further, they should also reskill, upskill and cross-train existing employees to keep their skillsets up-to-date. 

In face of the tough market, data teams should also be open to hiring junior employees. Meenal advised hiring managers to consider them fairly based on their analytical and thinking skills instead of their years of experience. The prerequisite for hiring junior employees, Meenal said, is to have sufficient existing data practitioners to guide the newcomer through the steep learning curve.

Competing with FAANG for Data Talent

It is no secret that data professionals are constantly vying for roles in FAANG companies. Knowing that, how can a company attract data talents? The panel offered a few practical tips for retaining employees who are looking for roles in Big Tech.

Glenn’s team at New York Life Insurance remains unfazed by the competition from FAANG. This is because the team has technical infrastructure and tools comparable to those of FAANG companies. With that, the data team can work on technically complex projects that contribute to their career growth.  

Glenn cautioned data professionals against blindly interviewing for FAANG without considering person-organizational fit. Data professionals in FAANG often focus on one specific problem, which might not fit one’s idea of an ideal job. For example, data scientists at Meta might have a laser focus on advertisement optimization but not have the opportunity to explore other areas. Job seekers should be cognizant of such a trade-off when interviewing for FAANG companies.

“Go in and be the big fish in the small pond. Learn everything. The fun thing about joining smaller teams is the ability to look across functions, which might make you a much more efficient engineer or data scientist than if you go into FAANG.” — Meenal Iyer, VP of Data at Momentive.ai

Meenal IyerVP of Data at Momentive.ai

Meenal likened the experience of a data professional in a non-FAANG company to “being a big fish in a small pond”. In non-FAANG, employees are more likely to work in cross-functional teams to drive impactful projects. This would, in turn, accelerate an employee’s learning and career growth.

Hiring and Retaining Data Talent in 2022

Before closing, the panel emphasized some key best practices for hiring and retaining data talent in 2022. 

Apart from offering market-rate compensation, Meenal emphasized the importance of reskilling, upskilling, and cross-training existing employees to retain employees. Such training can include technical (e.g., coding) and non-technical (e.g., communications) skills. Such an initiative not only fills the skills gap within a team but also offers employees an opportunity to learn skills beyond their existing portfolios. 

Glenn found that meaningful work opportunities are key to job satisfaction. These opportunities can be either long-term projects or ad-hoc gigs. For example, employees who find it meaningful to mentor junior employees should be allowed to do so. Of course, such opportunities must be aligned with the interest of the employee. Thus, the onus is on the data leads to have real career conversations with their team and create relevant opportunities.

“Have real career conversations with them. That is such a great retention measure. What is your next step? What do you want to achieve? How can we plot a path for you? How can we get to the type of work you want to do?“– Glenn Hofmann, Chief Analytics Officer at New York Life Insurance

 

Glenn HofmannChief Analytics Officer at New York Life Insurance

Further, Meenal and Glenn both highlighted the importance of a positive work culture. The work culture should encourage active learning and a growth mindset. Moreover, it should be one where everyone’s contributions are appreciated. To build a positive work culture, Glenn suggested data teams break the monotony of remote work with regular in-person team-bonding sessions. 

Watch the Full Session to Learn More


If you’re interested in further understanding how to retain and build data teams in 2022, check out the full session here. Also, if you’re looking to build out your own data team, check out DataCamp Recruit.

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