There is no substitute for the hard skills required for careers in data science like coding, modeling, creating visualizations and managing frameworks. Still, employment and advancement now need mastery of so-called “soft skills” to complement technical expertise.
As machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) automate repetitive, data-driven business operations, companies can take finance, marketing, production, data management and other activities out of siloes by integrating operations with strategic, multidisciplinary teams.
The efficiency and success of cross-functional teams requires soft skills. That requirement is driving demand for data scientists who are technically proficient and can communicate with team members at all levels. The need for non-technical, mission-critical skills is becoming so prevalent that many industry leaders believe calling non-technical abilities “soft skills” is inaccurate.
“Critical thinking, persuasive writing, communications, and teamwork are not fluffy, nice-to-have value-adds,” Forbes notes. “They’re hard-won and rigorously maintained abilities that are better referred to as ‘power skills.'”
What Are Necessary “Power Skills” for Data Scientists?
The World Economic Forum reports that global demand for data scientists — including analysts, AI, ML and Cloud computing specialists and software and application developers — far exceeds the supply of qualified candidates.
Moreover, it adds, business leaders place a premium on data scientists with non-technical skills such as:
- Critical thinking and complex problem-solving: Making evidence-based decisions
- Active learning: Demonstrating an essential element of motivation and self-management
- Creativity and originality: Coming up with fresh, innovative solutions
- Leadership and social influence: Inspiring teammates and subordinates
- Resilience and stress management: Adapting to and managing workplace challenges
- Emotional intelligence: Identifying, understanding and expressing emotions productively
- Persuasion and negotiation: Advocating successfully on behalf of new ideas and solutions
SmartBrief, an online business publisher, calls those skills the “new currency” in global business, noting they are “worth a lot because those are the types of skills that are most difficult to automate. As a result, people who have a hybrid of technical know-how and social skills are in demand.”
Whatever we call them — soft skills, power skills or, as one corporate training company calls them, “durable skills” — they are critical to individual, team and corporate success.
The Washington Post reported that a Google survey of its employees that found coaching, active listening and empathy all ranked ahead of STEM expertise among its most successful staffers.
“STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone … is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational,” the Washington Post said.
How Are Data Professionals Preparing for Leadership Roles?
The multidisciplinary curriculum of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Data Science program prepares business professionals for leadership roles that require not only expertise in data science but also the skills to use data in strategic management.
A cross-functional course of study, such as the online program offered by Henderson State University, enriches data professionals’ technical skills and prepares them for success by building high-demand, non-technical aptitudes such as:
- Communication to promote creativity and originality
- Ethical reasoning to support social influence
- Strategic decision-making based on persuasion and negotiation
- Leadership founded on emotional intelligence, resilience and stress management