Booz Allen Hamilton

Have What It Takes to Be Data Scientist? Booz Allen Hamilton Survey Results Reveal Key Attributes

August 03, 2015

McLean, VA – Earlier this year, seven graduate students at Ghent University beat out their peers at leading universities and colleges around the world to win the first annual National Data Science Bowl. Through collaboration, team work and innovation these students developed an algorithm capable of doing in minutes what takes ocean researchers multiple lifetimes to achieve manually. It was data science at work.

Like the team at Ghent, Booz Allen Hamilton’s 500+ data science team tackles challenges ranging from improving supply chain readiness to crime prevention and from improving fan engagement in sports stadiums to identifying and mitigating the next medical outbreak. Each individual data scientist brings his/her own unique qualifications to these projects, but there is a recipe for success, and it’s built on perseverance, flexibility, problem solving and technical expertise.

To dig deeper into what it takes to be a data scientist, Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) worked with the Hogan Assessment Systems to validate the critical personality traits needed to thrive in today’s business landscape. This assessment confirmed the findings of the initial job analysis survey Booz Allen conducted, which captured the experiences of its own data science team.

From the nearly 200 responses received by each assessment respectively, the most important attribute to emerge was a data scientist’s flexibility and problem solving capabilities. Based on the personality traits and technical abilities identified in the job analysis survey, Booz Allen developed a Data Science Competency Framework which serves as the foundation for organizations to build customized hiring, recruiting, and training and programs for data scientists.

“Data scientists are inherent problem solvers who thrive on the thrill of the chase and the hint of the possible,” says Angela Zutavern at Booz Allen Hamilton. “What differentiates successful data scientists from any other problem solver is their approach. Data scientists gravitate towards the most difficult challenges, because they understand the power of their craft and are passionate about using it to give back to their communities. They will not stop until they have an answer, and that is what makes them so impactful.”

Other identified drivers of success in data scientists’ roles include: the ability to communicate complex technical processes in layman's terms or to a non-technical audience; the skills to develop innovative solutions to complex problems based on available information; the knowledge to provide actionable recommendations to critical stakeholders based on data analysis and findings; and the tenacity to attack a work problem until it is solved or a solution is found.

As businesses build and expand upon their data science capabilities, it will be critically important that they seek out individuals that demonstrate these skills in order to build teams of complementary backgrounds and passions. For example, Booz Allen’s data science team, while diverse, shares a thread of commonality. Each of its analysts brings quantitative abilities, an analytical mindset, coding skills, etc., to their client work. These shared attributes allow them to be impactful in their work, despite the fact that their backgrounds are so unique -- from a jazz musician to a forestry major, creative writer and an astrophysics expert.

“We often refer to our data science team as a jazz quartet,” says Ezmeralda Khalil at Booz Allen Hamilton. “Each person plays their own instrument, but we’re all singing the same song. That’s the type of team that managers should strive to create within their own organization.”

Booz Allen has also developed a handbook, titled “Tips for Building a Data Science Capability,” that outlines how companies can build a data science team while investing in a culture of analytics. To learn more about the individual surveys or to explore the handbook, visit:  


Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of strategy and technology for more than 100 years. Today, the firm provides management and technology consulting and engineering services to leading Fortune 500 corporations, governments, and not-for-profits across the globe. Booz Allen partners with public and private sector clients to solve their most difficult challenges through a combination of consulting, analytics, mission operations, technology, systems delivery, cybersecurity, engineering, and innovation expertise.

With international headquarters in McLean, Virginia, the firm employs more than 22,500 people globally, and had revenue of $5.27 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015. To learn more, visit (NYSE: BAH)


[email protected]