We have plenty of advice to share. Links to archived Skills Gap articles are at the end of this blog.
Today's profile is of Kimberly Holmes, who is Senior Vice President, Strategic Analytics at XL Group, a global insurance company offering property, casualty, professional and specialty insurance products. Kimberly is responsible for the development of leading-edge analytical tools across the organization. SAS's Trent Smith interviewed her on behalf of All Analytics.
Find out how Holmes entices analytics experts, what she considers the essential skills, and why it is good to contradict conventional wisdom (like she did when she named her dog)!
What does the analytics skills gap mean to you and XL Group? Whenever you are on the forefront of innovation in your space there are very few people who have the exact experience and skill set you need. We do is two things. First, we identify what types of experience and skills are transferable and, second, we hire people that have them and invest in their professional development.
What can organizations do to attract, retain, or foster more analytics talent? What is your “pitch” when hiring new analysts for XL Group? We have found that three factors are key to enticing top analytics talent to join an insurance company like XL.
- First, there is a real opportunity to make a difference. We haven’t even seen the "tip of the iceberg" of how analytics can impact our business, especially the commercial insurance business.
- Second, the work that we are doing is creative and innovative. New risks are emerging all the time, along with more and more information to work with.
- And lastly, we have executive support for the analytics team. Supportive leadership validates the value analytics brings to the table.
XL Group checks all three of these boxes. In addition, we have a team of people who are enthusiastic and know how to have fun with their work. That’s a big selling point to potential candidates. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that kind of team?
What role do you think analytics companies should play in helping to close the gap? Through internships, training opportunities and programs like SAS Analytics U, we as an industry can develop new talent and create career opportunities in analytics.
What advice would you give students or adult learners interested in pursuing an analytics career? My main advice for anyone wanting to pursue a career in analytics is to not forget the soft skills, or what I call essential skills. The technical skills are necessary but what will differentiate you and make you more effective are communication skills, a focus on business problems, and an ability to build trusting relationships with business partners. Technical skills are useless to a company unless you can translate them into business value.
How should organizations keep analysts challenged and engaged? Analysts are creative and want to be challenged. The keys to keeping them engaged are to give them a variety of interesting work that pushes their skills, and to provide them opportunities to work with business leaders. Working with business leaders will make analysts more effective through better understanding of what business problems they are trying to solve. It also gives them the ability to influence how their solutions will create business value.
What’s the coolest or most impactful thing you’ve done or seen done, using analytics? The coolest thing about using analytics is seeing peoples’ minds open up about what is possible. The surprise and excitement of seeing how new data and new analytical methods help businesses is exhilarating for both the business and analytics teams. For instance, when we identify a new risk factor for one of our underwriting businesses it means that the underwriters are more effective at risk selection than they were before. This improved segmentation of risks also means that pricing for insureds is fairer. It’s great to be constantly and pleasantly surprised.
What cultural changes are essential for analytics thinking to take hold in an organization? Cultural change has to start with the CEO and top executives. Decisions need to be made based on what we know, not what we think, so executives need to ask colleagues for data to back up opinions. Analytics also has to be a part of the everyday conversations as it won’t be successful if it is done “on the side.”
You have 4.5 lb Yorkshire terrier named Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is awesome, and ironic. Can you think of a time where analytics results surprised you, contradicting what was accepted to be true? There have been quite a few times when analytics results have contradicted common wisdom. I call this the holy grail of analytics because these findings are the ones that will give us the most competitive advantage.
Previous Dashboard Posts on the Analytics Skills Gap
- Steve Doig, investigative reporter and educator at Arizona State University
- Jeremy TerBush, vice president of global analytics for Wyndham Exchange & Rentals
- MaryAnne DePesquo, a health analytics manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona
- Mark Malchiodi, a SAS programmer for a large insurance carrier
- Tao Hong, lead of the Energy Analytics Research Laboratory within the Energy Production Infrastructure Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- Allison Jones-Farmer, a professor at Miami University of Ohio
- John Taylor, data analyst for the Inland Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife