4/20/2016

Domain Knowledge is Important but not Most Important Skill Required

To work in the data space, you have to have a lot of skills.

Programming.  Databases.  Reporting.  Dashboards.  ETL.  Data Modeling.  SQL.  And an ancillary list of "other" skills.

And we tend to think of Data Scientist as a blend of Math/Science/Logic + Programming/Database/Visualizations/Storytelling + Domain Knowledge.

And people will ask you, so how much experience do you have in X industry?  As in Banking, or Healthcare, or Utilities, or Government.

I've been working in IT since around 1995 or so.  And worked in a variety of sectors.  Including Healthcare, Government, Finance, Timekeeping Software, Credit Card Processing, Homeowner Insurance, Marketing, Education, Utilities, Lighting company, Taxi Software company, Travel company, Banking and Retail.

Guess what.  Each industry has specific business rules.  Guess what else.  You can learn the business rules rather quickly.  Guess what else.  Lots of industry processes overlap.

When you get to a new project, you get onboarded.  And in doing so, you dig into the business rules.  And soon you become the expert in those business rules.  And sometimes you find holes in the business rules.  And sometimes you know ALL the business rules of an org.  They may have people that know bits and pieces of the entire picture, but the BI person, who touches every part of the org, knows ALL the rules and how each affects the other.  And how the information flows throughout the org.

I once worked in a place where the business rules were hidden. Actually, there are many orgs that have people who purposely hide the business rules in their head for job security.  And that one place, the owner or gatekeeper of the big picture got super promoted.  And in many instances, those people who hold the info hostage for personal gain, are very difficult to extract out of the picture.  They truly have job security.

But as a BI consultant, it may take a day, or a week, or years, but eventually, you learn the logic also.  A person who does this for a living is able to extract that knowledge.  So to say that a person needs 10 years business experience in a specific domain, that may very well be true.  But then again, if a consultant learns how to learn the business rules,  Domain Knowledge isn't really the most important skill required.

I will say though, if you can take a specific domain and make that your specialty, well, that would give you a leg up.

And there you have it~!

Root Cause Analysis