Focus on the crucial role of Soft Skills in the Data and Gen(AI) world

Being experts in data-driven and (Gen)AI senior functions, we at Uman Partners believe that in today’s worldwide  job economy, building and maintaining a solid foundation of technical skills is undoubtedly crucial. Candidates need to be equipped with the right technical skills and must possess data literacy in this age of (Gen)AI, big data and automation – and candidates must be ready to continuously learn as the market is moving quickly.


However, it is equally (and sometimes even more) important to recognise that impressive soft skills are an indispensable complement to candidate’s technical expertise.

This is particularly important as the path to data leadership starts with soft skills (e.g. in a recent survey, 70% of Gen Z employees reported an eager desire to land in the C-suite). Soft skills play a vital role in supporting and enhancing a candidate’s overall professional competence and is a key requirement across a wide range of Uman Partners’ worldwide mandates.

Data leaders need to lead their organization from data to insight, generate tangible business results which involves the use of soft skills along the full data process to be successful (e.g. locate and gain access to relevant data, navigating the intricacies of data governance across the organisation, presenting results and outcomes, being an agent of change, convince stakeholders, collaboration and team work, etc.). We believe that these softer skills will become even more critical for success as the nature of work evolves, and as machines take on more of the easily automated aspects of work. 

A few (non-exhaustive) examples of relevant soft skills in the data world highlighted by Uman Partners during Executive Searches are: (1) Emotional Intelligence, (2) Interpersonal skills, (3) Creative problem-solving, (4) Embrace change.

A Data Leader needs to sense her/his environment to be impactful. This is where Emotional Intelligence (or emotional IQ) comes into play: emotional intelligence describes a person’s ability to be aware of, control, and express their own emotions – and be aware of the emotions of others. Someone with a high EQ shows empathy and works well with others – machines and robots will have a hard time to replicate human’s ability to connect with other human. So as a consequence, these skills will be in even bigger demand in the workplace.

A Data Leader needs to work with others to be impactful. Excellent interpersonal skills will enable to successfully exchange information between people, internal/external stakeholders, business units, and markets and is a vital skill. Candidates must hone their ability to communicate effectively – using the right tone of voice and body language in order to deliver their message clearly. And this in an ever changing workplace of the future (project-based agile teams, remote teams, diversity of team members, inclusion, etc.).

A Data Leader also needs creative thinking to crack the hardest and toughest business problems. While machines and robots can do many things, they struggle to compete with humans when it comes to our ability to create, imagine, invent, and dream. Candidates with critical thinking skills can coem up with innovative ideas, solve complex problems and weigh up the pros and cons of various solutions – all using logic and reasoning rather than relying on gut feeling. Or like Einstein said: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.

Finally, embracing change is another important soft skill for Data Leaders. The world is in constant change and the pace of change right now is startling, particularly when it comes to Gen(AI). Candidates need to be agile, flexible and cultivate the ability to embrace – and even celebrate – change. Adapting to shifting workplaces, expectations, priorities as well as required skillsets is a must. Candidates will need to see these changes as an opportunity to grow and not as a burden.

At Uman Partners, we do understand the importance of soft skills in a data world and can rely on our own methodology to measure and predict the success of a candidate into a data role: Evidence-based Interview (EBI) which allows us to map about 42 soft skills with underlying criteria in a true data & AI-driven world!

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