Most data scientists plan exit in 2020, Women in Data conference hears

Survey shows lack of management support is behind a majority of data scientists planning to change jobs next year

Research unveiled at the Women in Data (WiD) UK conference in London today shows that most data scientists are ready to move on because of a lack of management support.

The WiD conference organisers and consultancies DataTech Analytics and Mango Solutions canvassed 907 UK data science professionals in an online survey in October 2019. 481 were women (53%).

The results show that more than half of the respondents plan to change jobs next year. When asked what is the greatest professional difficulty they face, more than a quarter (29%) cited lack of support from managers and leaders and nearly half (44%) said bureaucracy was a hindrance, while 28% complained of a lack of access to the right tools to carry out data science.

Roisin McCarthy, co-founder of WiD, said in a statement: “We are asking our members, and the wider business community, to help us to demystify perceptions around data science as a way to address the skills gap and appeal to a wider-ranging section of professionals. Data-driven organisations have a massive opportunity to attract and recruit the right talent, growing a data science community that is thriving, challenging and lucrative.”

The survey revealed that data scientists are spending an average of two and a half years in a role, but 56% of respondents said they would be seeking a new job in 2020.

A sense of crisis is evident in the research – no internal science communities predominate, and 51% of those of managerial rank said siloed organisations were a barrier to delivering business value.

The same managers said skills shortages were a real problem, with 86% saying it was hard to hire data scientist talent, and 69% planning to plug the gaps by upskilling.

Other recent research – by travel booking platform Trainline – found that about 60% of respondents expected more women to move into tech roles in 2020. That research also indicated itchy feet, with 67% of people in tech planning to move jobs next year.

Almost 90% of respondents said the purpose of a brand, and the ethics of a company, would factor into where they next chose to work. That sentiment was strong among younger people, with 40% of those aged between 18 and 24 seeking to work for an environmentally friendly brand in their next role.

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In the WiD survey, machine learning (57%), big data storage and database technologies (44%), and data analytics technologies (44%) were revealed as the top three areas in which respondents intended to hone their skills.

Rich Pugh, chief data scientist and co-founder of Mango, said: “Due to the dynamic and growing nature of data science, creating a data science team with the optimum blend of analytic and ‘soft’ business skills is costly and complex. There is a scarcity of resources and a lack of common understanding around existing analytic skillsets and job descriptions. 

“As more organisations embrace data-driven transformation, there has never been a more urgent need to upskill and resource data science teams across a wide range of sectors and departments. Data science should be considered a team sport, with the combined skills of each member contributing to success.

“If organisations cannot hire people with all the skills required, I would urge them to look at what skills are in existence internally and create a team of people with complementary skillsets. That way, as a collective team, firms can create a solid foundation for driving data-driven transformation.”

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