Why data modeling skills are not enough

Of those surveyed, 78% cited “personality” as the most desirable quality in employees, followed in importance by “cultural alignment,” and then finally “skill-set”. — Hyper Island Study – Personality Trumps Skill in Search for Talent

This sentence comes from the survey results of over 500 communications, technology and business development industry leaders. Hyper Island, a digital technology training company, examined the skills and qualities needed by digital professionals to meet future challenges. You can read more about their “Tomorrow’s Most Wanted” study here.

Being a tech guy, I found what the survey said quite interesting. Tech folks spend their career building their hardware and software portfolios and becoming a technocrat. Techies often fail to see past this shortsighted vision thinking technical knowledge alone will land them their next job.

Technical competency found itself in third place behind being personable and fitting into corporate culture. Words common to the data profession gives us a hint on how this trend applies to our community. Agility, collaborative, team player, and flexibility accompany data modeling, metadata management and business intelligence in many job postings.

It is clear that data professionals cannot rest on the laurels of 10, 20 or 30 years of work in the data and database administration arenas. I have to admit that during the interview process I look more favorably on candidates that have extended their skills into these softer collaborative and communicative areas.

I am speaking about this very topic this coming week at Enterprise Data World in Austin, Texas. A well rounded data modeler must possess a wide range of technical and social skills. In my session, I chose to dig into the four key skills I find most beneficial. Here is a summary of those four social skills.

  1. Relationship Builder – The data modeler cannot stand alone in a project tem. They need to build relationships that cross the IT and business communities. Data modeling is a profession where the modeler must gain consensus on a design that may touch a very diverse cross section of the enterprise. Being skilled in forging and growing relationships makes for success.
  2. Team Player – Beyond building relationships, the data modeler must be a team player. Hopefully, you received the golden star in playing well with others in your early school years. It reaps benefits here. Being considerate to others concerns and work makes for a collaborative environment. Teamwork grows stronger with compassion for the struggles and issues facing other team members.
  3. Person of Integrity — Integrity is not an optional trait when striving for success and acceptance. The words from sworn testimony “…shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” echo how we must live in our workplace. Your reputation as a fair and unbiased person paves the way to building better relationships and being integrated on the team.
  4. Trust Builder – Trust and integrity go hand-in-hand. Integrity is an internalized and personal trait. It is how the person lives their morals, values and ethics. Trust is the degree to which a person can be relied on to follow through and do what they said they will do. Trust is what ties these four traits together. Relationships, team building and integrity are only effective when you can be trusted to perform the work you are assigned and follow through as agreed.

The Hyper Island survey results should not surprise us. The culture that is evolving today is much more social. Technology is driving workers to be more cognizant of technology. The economy is changing the workforce through multi-dimensional roles and responsibilities. All of these require us to move outside of our comfort zones. For most data folks, it is the touchy feely soft skills. The time is now to stretch your personal boundaries and grow.


I am presenting at Enterprise Data World 2014 in Austin, Texas.  I hope that you will join me in my session: And Other Duties as Assigned – Embracing New Roles to Grow in Your Enterprise. #EDW14

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