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What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent

Chief analytics technology officer Upendra Belhe says that technical skills are only a component of a great insurance data scientist.

Analytics may be a technology discipline on the surface, but the best insurance data scientists require crucial interpersonal skills as well. That's according to Chubb chief analytics technology officer Upendra Belhe, who gave the first presentation of the 2014 Analytics for Insurance USA conference in Chicago March 19.

Because the discipline is still fairly new, there are many different kinds of people who have some amount of the technical skills in things like predictive modeling, statistics machine learning, text mining or Hadoop, Belhe says.

"If there is a lack of tech skill, you can fill that gap, because you can train that person," he continues. "What we want, though, is a team player. There is going to be an actuary and an underwriter at the same table when the data scientist sits there, and they need to listen very carefully to what's being said around them."

[An interview with Chubb chief innovation officer Jon Bidwell]

Listening and communication skills define the best insurance data scientists, Belhe says, because that person must be able to identify and explain clearly what the business can gain from an analytics project.

"How do you present what you've found? Is it that you take a piece of analysis and throw it into a PowerPoint?" he asks. "Taking an insight, however small it is, and telling that story is a skill that needs to be nurtured."

To do that, the data scientist must possess empathy for the business partners at the same time that they are challenging traditional thinking.

"I think it is very important that your data scientist questions established theory. If they are told: 'Here are the indicators,' when the data scientist pushes back, it's important that business partners take it the right way," Belhe says. "There have been a couple of situations when we came across business individuals that were hard to work with. But we need to understand first before we can be understood."

[Budgets and technology specifications are only part of an technology leader's responsibilities. Managing an IT workforce might be the most challenging aspect of any executive's job. Attend the Humans Aren't Computers: Effective Management Strategies for IT Leaders session at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4 to learn new management techniques.
You can also REGISTER FOR INTEROP HERE.]

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/28/2014 | 2:11:43 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
True - it would also help to have an tech candidate that is a good communicator as business and IT departments are starting to work more closely together. They'll need to know how to explain tech issues to other employees throughout the organization.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2014 | 8:25:09 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
Finding these soft skills is really the holy grail of IT recruitment. The perfect candidate will have the hard skills (data analytics), soft skills (communication and leadership), and industry knowledge (knowing about a particular business, or product) that can help ties everything togegher. While many techies and data experts have great analytical skills, they very often fail in the communication area.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 7:33:25 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
I thought about the conversation we had regarding trends in capital markets firms' data scientist hirings during this presentation. Like you've noticed in your coverage area, insurers are looking outside standard tech disciplines in order to find the best analytics employees.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 7:31:20 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
This was largely Upendra's point Gă÷ he seeks data scientists that can tell a relatable story in order to break through the inertia of insurance operations.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 6:53:55 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
This reminds me of the classic IT department communication conundrum where IT has, essentially, their own language, and only in recent years have there been focus on bridging communication between IT departments and the business leaders. Now we have the data scientist, trained in their discipline with an exact vocabulary trying to vocalize and internalize issues of external departments - the bar for the perfect data scientist keeps going higher!
The Doctor
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The Doctor,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/24/2014 | 6:47:14 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
You need to humanize the data. The combination of soft skills and data analysis are critical to pulling actionable conclusions from the forest of numbers.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 7:37:17 PM
re: What Chubb Looks For in Analytics Talent
These aren't the typical tech skills you hear about in data science, but they're just as important to getting the job done. Most tech professionals can pick up new skills (or they should be able to, at the rate today's technology changes), but it's harder to teach someone how to be a team player or a good communicator.
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