BAI Interview Series: Davy Cielen On Data Science Skills

BAI Interview Series: Davy Cielen On Data Science Skills


The Business Analytics Institute is conducting a survey through a series of interviews to explore the essential data science skills needed by managers. In our second interview in the series, we talked to Davy Cielen, a Data Science consultant and Senior Lecturer in Data Analytics. Here’s what he had to say;

Tell us a bit about what you do.

I am a senior university lecturer in Data Analytics. In additiion, I am an entrepreneur in Business Analytics. I have had several analysis roles in various industries including the retail industry and I am always striving to expand my knowledge and  networks.

Which technical skills, in referring to data science and management; do you feel a management candidate should have? 

A manager running a data science team should have architectural knowledge of all the tools that their team utilises,  for example Hadoop,Python, and R. They should also know how these tools work together, as well as their features and limitations. As manager, they should be capable of implementating data project fromdefining the strategy and collecting data to disseminating the results in either a data report, an insight report with actionable outcomes, or into an automated process. A good candidate would also be familiar with major data algorithms of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This doesn't mean that they should be able to do the mathematics or implementation of it. he or she should none-the-lesshave adequate knowledge to understand technical problems that arise with the tools.

Trade skills refer to an understanding of the business logic, organisation, and monetisation of company resources in each market. Which specific skills do you feel an entry-level manager should have today?

A major trade skill is understanding the context of the business as well as how  the inner working processes of the company work. A manager with good trade skills should also have a good grasp of the business metrics. These will be learned over time on the job but he  or she should be able to identify them so to ensure that the team's goals are aligned to the objectives of the business.

Cognitive skills refer to an understanding of how people interpret the data they see, as well as how they use data to incite action. Which specific skills do you feel an entry-level manager should have today?

Although managers will not have to perform the analytics themselves, they should be able to think about how the data was collected, the modelling techniques used and what business processes generated the data. This has important consequences because for every process that generates data, there are steps of the process that are not recorded and so cannot be seen. Cognitive skills, they can identify patterns in the model results data and explain the errors that may arise. 

In your opinion, how should organizations or HR agencies, evaluate these skills before and during employment? 

This would depend on the size of the business. A large business with in-house employees skilled on data science should involve them in the HR recruitment process to assess the candidates technical skills. For a smaller company, who perhaps do not have such skilled personnel, I would recommend using certification agencies that carry out an evaluation of the management skills and fit of the candidate.

Can you offer examples of companies, or HR agencies, that are particularly good in identifying data science skills and competencies today? 

My best example is KBC, a Belgian bank. The recruitment team is very proficient in both technical and management skills. The recruitment process involves a practical data analysis test including  designing a credit score model. The potential candidates are required to submit a report of their analysis. The next step is a follow up telephone interview to assess the candidate’s technical skills. To make the right choice, it is important to have a recruitment team that is proficient in both data science and management as well us using practical analytical tests to assess technical knowledge. 


Davy Cielen is a Managing Partner at Maiton, a Principal at Business Analytics Institute(BAI) and a Data Analytics Senior Lecturer. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at