How To Lead A Data Team

Peterson Hypolite our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 7/11/2019 9:16 AM
Dream teams from sports to business are an ideal everyone aspires to live up to. But what is it every basketball or football dynasty has which makes them a dream team? What is it that brings individuals together to overcome odds, set examples, find solutions, and create the next best thing? Good management. 

The need for good management is no different in the Data Science world. Yet according to our latest Salary Guide, poor management is one of the top five reasons Data professionals leave companies. So, let’s take a look at what poor management is, what causes it, and how businesses can better retain Data talent.

What’s Your Data Science Strategy?


Most businesses know they need a Data team. They may also assume that a Data Scientist who performed well can lead a Data team. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Managers have to know things like P&L statements, how to build a business case, make market assessments, and how to deal with people. And that’s just for a start. 

The leader of a Data team has a number of other factors to consider as well such as Data Governance, MDM, compliance, legal issues around the use of algorithms, and the list goes on. At the same time, they also need to be managing their team with trust, authenticity, and candor. The list of responsibilities can be daunting and if someone is given too much too soon and without support, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Other businesses might believe that a top performing Data Scientist would make a good manager. Yet these are two different fields. Or you might look at it this way. If you are willing to upskill a top performing Data professional and train them in managerial skills, giving them the education and support they need, that is one solution.

Another solution is to create a Data Science strategy which brings in people with business backgrounds. Data Science is a diverse field and people come from a number of backgrounds not just Computer Science or Biostatistics, for example. 

Now that you’ve seen what might cause a manager to fail, let’s take a look at a few tips to help you succeed.

Seven Tips for Managing a Data Team


Managing a team is about being able to hire, retain, and develop great talent. But if the manager has no management training, well, that’s how things tend to fall apart. Here a few tips to consider to help ensure you and your team work together to become the dream team of your organization:

  1. Build trust by caring about your team. Help define their role within the organization. 
  2. Ensure projects are exciting and that they’re not being asked to do project with vague guidelines or unrealistic timeframes.
  3. Be open and candid. Remember, Data Scientists are trained in how to gather, collect, and analyze information. If anyone can see right through a façade, it will be these Data professionals. Have those “tough” conversations throughout every stage of the hiring, onboarding, and day-to-day, so that no one is caught unaware.
  4. Offer consistent feedback. And ask for it for yourself as well from your team.
  5. Ensure your team understands the business goals behind their projects. Let them in on the bigger picture. 
  6. Think long-term recruitment for a permanent role, not short-term. If you have an urgent project, consider contracting it out
  7. Prioritize diversity to include academic discipline and professional experience. Does the way this person view the world expand the knowledge of your team’s knowledge? Dream teams don’t always have to agree. Sometimes, the best solutions are found when there are other opinions.

Finding the perfect, “Full Stack” Data Scientist or Data Engineer or Analyst is not impossible, and retaining them can be even easier. If you’ve done your job well, your team will trust you, have a balanced skillset, and understand how their work supports the organization and its goals. For more information on how to be a great manager, check out this article from HBR

Ready for the next step?  Check out our current vacancies or contact one of our recruitment consultants to learn more.

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