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Open letter to HR Departments looking for Data roles

Dear Recruiters in the Travel Industry:

My very limited experience with corporate employment strategies suggest that whatever request falls down on your desks, it comes from highly paid managers who should know their stuff. Thus, I guess it’s nonsense to expect from you a minimum knowledge about whatever is being thrown in the job ad…
Although I don’t sympathize at all with your applicant tracking systems, I feel sorry for them when it comes to screen CVs for your data science team hiring… if they ever get any CV to screen at all, given the absurd application requirements seen these days. I don’t simpathize very much with recruiters either, but considering I might be needing one of you some day (if age discrimination is ever erradicated), I am willing to give you a helping hand for your close-to-impossible task. Not by telling you how to do your job, obviously, but by signaling out what you cannot have the slightest chance to find. Like, ever. Unless you settle down with a bright impostor.

I’m going to start with exhibit A, a huge vertically integrated travel company which, overnight, decided to build up a Corporate Data Department from scratch. To that avail, they’re looking to hire a “Corporate Head Data Scientist”, as well as a “Junior Data Architect” and two “Junior Data Scientists”. Nothing wrong there, makes sense… until you find out that the Juniors must meet these minimum requirements:
3 years experience
• Degree in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering or any related fields i.e. Statistics, applied Mathematics, Computational Neuroscience (A bit of Psychohistory might be handy, too)
Also, they’ll must demonstrate experience with the following:
• Machine learning and statistical approaches, and experience applying them.
• Deep learning, machine learning and/or big data. (And/or Klingon, maybe?)
• Program languages such as Python.
• Significant experience in large-scale data analytics

Now, check this out! Key responsibilities include:
• Help implement processes that improve and lead to greater data quality.
• Conduct statistical analyses to develop strategies. (Then run with the money)
Build new algorithms and model training. (For a fashion show, probably)
• Support and execute projects involving analytics. (Thank the gods)
• Identify data patterns and trends. (But dismiss the others)
• Analyze data to develop predictive models. (Or the other way around?)
Note anomaly detection and running diagnostics. (…and shutting the duck)
• Perform graphical model analysis. (As opposed as textual model?)

Don’t you see anything weird here? Really? This bloody “Junior” could be running the whole corporation singled-handedly, so I’m too curious about what they expect from the Data Architect and, more to the point, the Head Data Scientist… Turns out the Architect will need -again- 3 years minimum experience under their belt, especially in the following fields:
• Expertise in programming and scripting languages -Java, Python, R, etc.- (Other language types are a no-no, I guess) 
• Understanding of Big Data cloud providers offering -Azure, Google, AWS, IBM,…- (They forgot Alibaba)
• Understanding of data algorithms. (Excuse me?)
Good level proficiency in SQL (medium level proficiency need not apply)
• Understanding Data Modeling, Data Quality, … (leave the cleaning for the Juniors)
• Understanding NoSQL Database: Documental, Graphs, Key-Value, Columnar, … (Yeah, as if they’re going to use all those...)
• Understanding of Big Data technologies: Spark, Hadoop, Hive,…(More name-throwing please!)
• Good understanding of how to visualize information (Like, optic nerve function?)
Relevant data engineering experience and background (Oh! now I get it)

All in all, an awful amount of understandings. Key responsibilities? No peanuts either, man:
• Contributing to the data lake design and data preparation by implementing a solid, robust, extensible design that supports key business flows (sure! piece of cake)
• Performing data transformations (into what?)
• Implementing efficient design and programming patterns (as in patchwork?)
• Designing, integrating and documenting technical components for seamless data extraction and analysis on big data platform. (Er… ok, I guess)
• Providing operational support through root cause analysis and continuous improvement for Big Data technologies and processes. (WTF???)
• Design, build and launch new data extraction, transformation and loading processes in production. (And get rid of the old ones)
• Support existing processes running in production. (Can you please elaborate?)
Build and launch new data models in production, provided by the Data Scientists. (Er, right)
• Work with data infrastructure to triage infra issues and drive to resolution.  (Say whaaah?)

No kidding. One must admire how creative is the IT person who came about with this monstrosity. But wait, we still need to examine the Head DS ad! The poor guy/gal will need at least 5 years of experience in the same supermarket listing for the Juniors, making him a superstar that Silicon Valley wouldn’t deserve. However, he or she will be expected to work out the same responsabilities as the Juniors, plus Deep Learning. Yes, this last one is no joke, it’s actually there in the list. Got a saved screenshot if you don’t believe me! I guess they inferred that DL is what makes a Senior DS….

Let’s finish with exhibit B: a “wedding planner” (seriously) is looking for a “Data Integration & Qlik Sense Specialist” with the following minimum specs: 3 years‘ worth of
Strong experience with data and “Business Intelligence concepts and patterns” (Dashboards, Analytics, Predictive Analytics, Metadata…)
Strong experience with data integration using APIs, WebServices, …
– Strong experience in SQL/Data Modelling, Data Warehousing and Datamarts concepts.
– Strong experience with ETL concepts and tools (kettle, talend, domo, – power BI,…)
– Our international work environment requires fluency in spoken and written English. (How about a few “strong” English lessons for this international HR staff?)

Anything else? Why yes, they would love if the candidates present the following pluses and assets:
– Experience in different reporting applications, web development and Java or Python is an asset
– Understanding of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript to design, develop, and enhance Qlik extensions is a plus
– Experience using Jira or similar ticketing system a plus
– Work with Agile methodology and/or kanban a plus
– Experience in report test automation a plus
– Work with Big Data tools a plus
– Web (SEO/SEM) metrics understanding a plus

Now, in HR you’re not required to “identify patterns”, but… do you see the pattern here?
As I stated more than once, I don’t provide free advice to rich people, but I’ll be nice enough to tell you where these ads went wrong.

In terms easier for you to understand, what these people are looking for is a psychotherapist with a degree in plastic surgery (vaginal reconstruction specialization) and a masters’ in biomechanics, with vast experience in dental prothesis.

(This comes from my Glossary of misused buzzords >>, which you might find useful.)

An extra tip: tell your big boss to get their data strategy right! Or at least to have one. It won’t be enough to hire data wizards, you know? Even if your big enterprise can afford such rainbow unicorns.
You’re welcome.
Best regards and good luck with your hopeless hunting!

Marcello Bresin (with the much appreciated contribution of Mr Favio Vázquez, a world-class DS)

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