Skip to main content

Over the last few years, we have seen many start-ups and scale-ups recognise the importance of data and its potential benefits for an organisation. With this in mind, data leaders are tasked with creating teams, and one of the biggest challenges they face is where to begin and what the reporting structure will look like.

As you embark on the journey of building a data and analytics team, the initial hire sets the tone for the entire business. When considering the characteristics needed for this position, three attributes stand out: collaboration, visualisation, and foundational expertise.

To achieve success with your data team, the initial phases involve bridging the gap between data and business stakeholders across the organisation. Finding someone who can effectively communicate with different departments will enable them to understand strategic objectives and identify what data requirements should be met. Additionally, looking at future prospects is essential for data and analytics. Clear roadmaps need to be set to guide a team in delivering tangible business value.

Lastly, the technical aspect also comes into play as this is where the foundations are met. The first hire should have a solid understanding of data architecture, data management, and experience in creating a strong data infrastructure.

“I would choose to hire a Data Architect. By hiring a Data Architect as the first member of the data team, organisations can ensure they have a solid foundation for their data initiatives. This sets the stage for future hires, such as Data Engineers, Data Analysts, and Data Scientists, to leverage data effectively and drive actionable insights for the business,” explains Nishanth Brahmsandra Nanjundaiah, Data Analyst, FEI Studios.

A successful Data & Analytics team is built with a foundation of data engineers, data analysts, data architects and data scientists, amongst others.

We conducted a poll to understand your thoughts on who this initial hire should be and why. Here are the results:

– Data Engineer – 52%

– Data Analyst – 30%

– Data Scientist – 5%

– Other – 13%

The results show a diverse range of views regarding the ideal candidate. Notably, 13% opted for ‘Other,’ pinpointing the importance of identifying these particular individuals and who they could be. Some data leaders may expect the recruitment of a ‘data science unicorn’ to inspire collaboration, vision, and foundational expertise from the start.

Ben Steele, the Head of Data & Analytics at BMS Group said “I’ve built out a couple of new data teams, in my humble opinion, the first hire is always a data unicorn. No one skill on its own is that useful at the start, so hire one of two very strong all-rounders that can get the team moving (and proving value) quickly. This is my tried and tested method, and it has never let me down.”

This could be seen as a great first hire, due to ‘unicorns’ being able to adapt to cross-functional teams, bridging communication gaps and beneficial for saving costs, however, they may lack the depth of expertise found in specialised professionals.

Another perspective suggests that a Business Analyst should be the first hire. According to David Smith, Tableau and Alteryx Developer, “You’re going to need a good BA who can articulate what data and how it’s structured so the business can make their decisions on.”

This aligns with the concept of a Data Unicorn due to their technical, business, and stakeholder engagement skills. Business analysts play a pivotal role in an organisation as they can translate data insights into business outcomes.

Ultimately, 52% of voters favoured Data Engineers as the initial hire.

Why could this be?

Data Engineers play a foundational role in setting up a successful data and analytics function. Their experience in cross-functional collaboration and ensuring data accessibility positions the team to make data-driven decisions.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each role, and every organisation will take a different approach based on its development stage and specific needs.

Do you agree with these results?

About the Author

Natalia Kurasinki

Talent Partner

Natalia is a highly skilled talent partner. With a passion for identifying top talent and a strong commitment to customer service, she has established herself as a valuable resource to both clients and candidates in the data & analytics industry.

Read more.

Signup to Our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields