Big Data Summit 2014: It’s easier to learn to code than to learn soft skills, says eBay’s head of EU analytics

By Sooraj Shah
28 Mar 2014 View Comments

It is easier to learn code than to learn soft skills that enable employees to address senior executives appropriately, according to eBay's head of EU analytics, Davide Cervellin.

Cervellin was speaking at Computing's Big Data Summit, held yesterday at the Hilton Tower Bridge in London.

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In a panel discussion, which centred on the future of big data, Cervellin claimed that when he looks to hire an analyst for his team, he looks for more than just the "hard" technical skills.

"I look for the ability to tell a story, not just to pull out data because when you receive a request from a business partner it can be very vague, and the ability to understand the problem that needs fixing isn't always there, so the only way to make this efficient is for an analyst to understand what they are doing," he said.

"It can't be something you're detached from; I hate people who are all about numbers only, and so I look for people with strong soft skills - they need to be able to maintain a good level of conversation with executives, telling them what the constraints are, but also helping them to understand what the end product is going to look like before they start working," he added.

And he went on to say that the communication skills necessary could be learnt, but that it would be easier to learn some of the technical skills necessary.

"It's easier for someone to learn code than vice versa," he said.

James Robbins, CIO of Northumbrian Water, told delegates during the same panel session that business and technical skills don't always have to be combined for any one team member, and that rather a team can be built with each member specialising in different areas.

"We've tried to blend a team together; it is about looking at the whole team to see if you have the relevant skills.

You could have one person who specialises in the technical area, another who specialises in the business area, and another who has expertise elsewhere, and they can work together," he argued.

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