By Tyler McCabe, Director of Operations, Analytics Guild
The accelerating pace of technological advancement today creates a unique challenge for the modern professional—and especially the modern analytics professional or the executive with a team of analysts at her disposal. In the World Economic Forum’s January 2016 insight report, “The Future of Jobs,” it’s noted that skill requirements for many jobs are dramatically shifting as computers take over increasingly complex processes, shrinking the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets. As a result:
Overall, social skills—such as persuasion, emotional intelligence, and teaching others—will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. Content skills (which include ICT [information and communication technology] literacy and active learning), cognitive abilities (such as creativity and mathematical reasoning), and process skills (such as active listening and critical thinking) will be a growing part of the core skills requirements for many industries.
As the tools we use for analytics evolve and multiply, workplaces will increasingly demand skills that are much harder to truly master than, for instance, creating elegant data pipelines or using proper Big Data sampling techniques. To be truly vital in our workplaces, we’ll need to hone abilities like cognitive flexibility, logical reasoning, problem sensitivity, visualization, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, and more:
Many of these are challenging to master—to use and experience robustly in ways that advance our business and profit—because they are abilities that flow from the core of who we are, how we think, and how we relate to others.
But before we all start wringing our hands and tearing our clothes, let me approach this another way: at Analytics Guild, we are excited by this news. Accelerating technology is finally allowing data professionals the opportunity to become much more than skillful operators, bright analysts, or adaptable engineers. This is an opportunity to build out our hard skills in tandem with the softer skills that will not only make our careers future-proof, but create satisfaction and vitality within our work lives.
Tech tools, besides evolving constantly, are often proprietary. They’re subject to economic forces and the politics of corporations. Even within a single business there can be such a diversity of tech expertise that it can feel like our company is the Tower of Babel, everyone speaking different languages. Soft skills, on the other hand, don’t need to be licensed or upgraded; they apply to an infinite number of environments; and they serve to knit expertises together and negotiate common purpose. Mastering soft skills is like unburying a rosetta stone.
The workplace environment of the near-future, which increasingly demands we be more creative, thoughtful, communicative, and collaborative in our data work is not a sign of doom, of tech replacing us; it’s a gift that will allow us to evolve into better people in our business and our lives.
Looking for tips on honing your soft skills? Look no further.