The field of data science has continued to trend into an upward trajectory despite the impacts of COVID-19. As more and more businesses look for ways to increase efficiency and drive revenue, they often turn towards data science leaders to make more informed (often business-saving) decisions. 

Entrusting a Chief Data Scientist to oversee the numerous high-stakes analytics & data initiatives is a massive undertaking for most businesses, especially in a competitive market.

Not only are these professionals hard to find, but it’s also equally challenging to separate average Chief Data Scientists from the ones who can usher in seven, eight, or even nine-figure outcomes. 

As a business that has consistently recruited exceptional Chief Data Scientists for several decades, we’ve uncovered numerous skills/factors that truly separate high-performing Chief Data Scientists from the rest. 

They Can Answer Business Questions with Data

If you boil down any high-level data science job description to a mere sentence, you will likely get something like, “applicant must answer business-critical questions with data.” In a nutshell, that’s precisely what experienced data scientist leaders do; they answer challenging business questions with data that ultimately drives better outcomes. Chief Data Scientists are good at answering these questions but the top-performing ones ask the right questions (while also solving them). To give you a better perspective, here are a few high-level questions exceptional Chief Data Scientists might ask:

  • “How can we leverage consumer spending reports to generate more business?”
  • “Can we save money by pricing different products better?”
  •  “Is my marketing team targeting and offering the right products and information to the right people?”

High Emotional IQ

Leveraging the technical skill and expertise to manipulate data is only a small portion of what genuinely makes a Chief Data Scientist a game-changer; the other half is having a high emotional IQ. This is someone who can take highly technical, nebulous data and explain it in a non-technical way to a board of directors and other executive team members to achieve strategic results. Ultimately, the best data science executives can think like a business person, not like a researcher. 

For example, the top five percent of Chief Data Scientists will often identify and solve low hanging fruit challenges at the beginning of their tenure to build trust with their executive team. Once these smaller projects are complete and met with success, they will continue to leverage their high emotional IQ to earn respect and trust from the executive team so they can tackle more significant challenges. 


Ability to Access & Manipulate Quality Data

Back in 2016, it was estimated that the average company manages around 163TB of data, with enterprise organizations sitting around 347TB. Today, those numbers are estimated to be MUCH higher. With hundreds (if not thousands) of terabytes of data floating around any given company, having a data science leader who can access that data and uncover quality information is extraordinarily important for businesses to succeed. 

Robust Set of Data Engineering Skills

Data Science is still a very new field. Your next Chief Data Scientist should have the technical chops to anticipate customer needs, optimize prices, harness complex sets of data algorithms, leverage the latest in machine learning and AI technology, and so much more. When we recruit today’s top data science leadership talent, here are a few technical skills we’re looking for:

  • Understanding of at least two or three programming languages
  • Strong leadership and communications skills (high emotional IQ)
  • Familiarity with data governance and quality control 
  • Background in statistics, mathematics, or technology

Unbeatable Data Scientist Leadership Recruiters


Finding a top-performing Chief Data Scientist is one challenge, finding an executive recruiter with a proven track record of placing the nation’s top data and analytics talent is another. 

If you’re looking to hire an exceptionally gifted Chief Data Scientist, we are here and available to help with your search. For the last 25 years, BrainWorks has placed the nation’s top Analytics, Data Science & Data Governance leadership talent.

Get connected today with your next Data Science leader. 

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