Practice Trumps Theory in APAC Data Science Hiring

APAC companies prize practical data skills over data science degrees. The conclusion comes from the recent Data Literacy Project, which surveyed hiring trends.

Commissioned by Qlik, the survey showed that 59% of APAC companies valued job experience or the ability to do well in case study interviews as a testament of data literacy. Case study interviews see candidates solving business problems using their data skills.

Only 15% of companies in APAC saw having a bachelor of science -- let alone data science -- in the same light. Even a master's or doctorate was not a primary hiring consideration for the rest.

In comparison, global companies fared slightly better, at 18%. However, it still showed a general preference for practical data skills and experience.

This offers an opportunity for employees who may not be schooled in data science but demonstrated a knack for it. It allows them to change their careers, shift jobs, or even increase their salaries.

“What we look for are people who are curious and inquisitive, have a passion for doing the right thing, and are open to using data to find insights that support better business outcomes,” said Lee Raybould, chief data officer at Nationwide Building Society.

"The volume and variety of data are constantly growing, and the insights it can unlock to allow firms to be more successful is incredible. But you need people who are prepared to engage with data and to gain an understanding of how to use and interpret it to support decision making no matter what their job role. That’s why, in my view, democratizing data in an easily consumable way and encouraging people in all parts of your firm to upskill and feel comfortable with data will be key to future success,” he added.

This follows a broader trend identified by Glassdoor. It found that an increasing number of technology companies are ditching the degree in favor of these skills.

Companies Are Looking Inward

With companies jostling for practical data skills, many are looking inward to find suitable candidates. In APAC, 57% are actively searching across their organizations, while the number increases to 63% for global companies.

This provides an ideal opportunity for employees to demonstrate their data skills.

“We need our doctors, nurses and hospital managers to all be able to use data to make decisions – and we certainly couldn’t expect them all to have data science degrees on top of their medical qualifications. We’d have no team! Instead, we look for people with previous experience with data, or the desire to understand how using data could help them," said Rishi Muchhala, manager of Enterprise Intelligence at Nemours Children's Health System.

"With our Citizen Developer and Analyst program, including our Data Swagger education sessions, we can support them in developing those skills and applying those skills to their work."

Data Science Chicken and Egg

Among the data science jobs, filling DSA (Data Science and Analytics) vacancies is where companies are struggling the most. The roles include data scientists, data analysts, business analysts, and data-enabled marketing managers. The survey noted that these jobs typically remain open for 45 days on average.

“Organizations are increasingly understanding the value is not in having data, but transforming their data into value to make better decisions – and we’re seeing this increased appreciation translating into greater opportunities for data-literate individuals. We hope these findings will encourage those at every stage of their career to embark upon learning or improving their own data skills so they can start reaping its rewards,” said Jordan Morrow, head of Data Literacy at Qlik and chair of the Data Literacy Project.

Yet, companies are not doing enough to drive data science knowledge and experience. Half of the companies globally do not provide data literacy training to their employees. Only 34% of decision-makers globally and 36% in APAC stated that they have such programs in place. This is despite 78% of global employees and 72% of APAC employees saying they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skill sets.

To support those individuals that want to expand and evidence their data literacy skills, Qlik offers an Academic Program to drive data literacy amongst students before they enter the workplace. Qlik also recently launched a first-of-its-kind e-learning program for non-experts that awards a certification in data literacy.

Qlik has made key elements of this program available free of charge via the Data Literacy Project.