Chris Pearson is a partner at Big Cloud. Big Cloud is a talent search firm focusing on all things Big Data. We talked to him about Big Cloud’s unique position in Big Data recruitment, and what he looks for in a data scientist.
Could you tell me a little about yourself and your role at Big Cloud?
My name is Chris Pearson and I’m a partner at Big Cloud. We are a global Big Data recruitment business and our aim is to grow a global network of the right people in Big Data, and connect them to the businesses that need them the most.
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My Dad’s always been a proud IT geek and fortunately it’s all been passed down in the gene pool. My background in recruitment has been spent in niche IT and technical markets, and I’ve always had a passion for the latest trends and happenings in IT, so Big Data as an industry really appealed to me and my partners.
I was a co-founder of the business at the end of 2013, with my colleagues Matt Reaney and Kit Feber. I’ve always had an ambition to be part of something from the beginning. So helping to set up Big Cloud is kind of a dream come true, really.
We’re relatively new to Big Data and it seems we’ve come along at the right time – a lot of people seems to be relatively new to the subject too.
What does your role as partner and co-founder entail? What are the challenges you’ve experienced?
My role is to help successfully develop Big Cloud, both internally and externally. I’m responsible for developing new and existing relationships with professionals in the field and the companies that want to hire them. I’m also enjoying taking an active role in the growth of our business, whether that’s our own internal recruitment, helping to design the new website, or talking with the guys about where our next offices should be!
The biggest challenge we faced was to learn in weeks and months what it is that the people in our new industry have sometimes been doing for years. We started the business with a combined 25 years’ of experience in recruitment, and a copy of the “Dummies’ Guide to Big Data” – that was it. We started from scratch, a real standing-start. We started by building relationships with the right people and companies in the industry, trying to get a granular understanding of what’s happening in Big Data and to try to be at the forefront of industry news and happenings, because that’s really fundamental to our business.
Where did the idea of Big Cloud come from?
Matt, Kit and I all worked together previously at a bigger and more established recruitment business, so we’ve known each for a long time. We decided at the end of last year that it was time to try and do something new and different.
We wanted to start a new business that focused on something new. Big Data ticked a lot of our boxes. A fast-growing, highly technical industry, filled with very intelligent people! We also were attracted by the fact that the industry is filled with start-up companies. As we’re a start-up too, so we can fully understand the pains and headaches of what they’re going through!
How do you plan on staying unique and ahead of the competition?
We’re big Breaking Bad fans here at Big Cloud, so I guess I could use Walter White as a good analogy! There are a lot of recruitment businesses out there that are a lot like the great Heisenberg. Although they start off with the best of intentions, they tend to lose sight of who they really are and then spend all their time and attention trying to dominate and take over the world! We don’t want to be like Heisenberg.
We really want to develop a business that is built upon the strongest possible relationships with a smaller number of businesses, to ensure the quality of our work remains high. We don’t want to sacrifice this by diluting the quality through rapid and excessive growth.
As a smaller business, we can also be as agile as our clients and candidates need us to be. We’re quite comfortable filling data scientist vacancies for businesses with less than 10 employees, as we are for businesses with over 100,000 employees. We will also work with people across the globe.
Also, the fact we only do Big Data means we’re not distracted by anything else. We don’t have the mentality of bigger agencies that have lots of different specialities and everyone working like chickens in separate coops! While we were doing our research of different recruitment company’s websites we kept seeing the same service, the same company values and the same stock business photos of people with huge white smiles in pinstripe suits shaking hands. We just wanted to get away from all that.
We understand recruitment has had a bad reputation for quite some time; there’s this perception it’s full of sharky sales-types who’ll do anything for a quick sale. If we can demonstrate our service and let the quality of our work and our candidates do the talking, we’re quite happy not spinning the usual cheesy recruitment lines.
Are there any particular case studies you’d like to share with our readers?
We were approached by a successful US dot-com company based in a very tricky part of Asia – what I mean by that is, it’s not really a part of Asia that you would initially think “Yes, I’m going to move to that location!”. In other businesses in the past, we probably would’ve been encouraged to let that work go, but because of the brand and their ambitions around Big Data, it was just too appealing to say no to.
So we took on the assignment to hire their big data architecture, their development and data science teams. There wasn’t a lot of local talent available, as that part of the world is slightly behind the curve in terms of the experience of the technology the company was asking for.
So as you can imagine, the recruitment process involved a lot of late nights, time differences and networking, searching to find not only people who had the right skill set, but who would also be willing to live in this part of the world.
We were able to come back to them with interview-ready candidates the week we took the first brief, and now we’ve got candidates from the UK and the Ukraine joining them next month. We’ve also got candidates from Europe, North America and South America that are interviewing with them as well as we speak.
What trends are you seeing in recruitment and talent search at the moment?
In the article I wrote for you guys last month, I said that what we’re seeing now is greater awareness by businesses, about the recruitment process. Gone are the days where you sign up for a job board, you get your CV search allocation, you get your advertising allocation, and you rely on one source of candidates.
Now, every forum, blog or group creates abilities for finding new people. We’re far more connected than we’ve ever been, which makes recruitment a lot better, a lot more varied, and the option of finding higher quality of candidates, a lot easier as well. We find a lot of the work that we do has to be social, has to be around crowdsourcing, has to be around being ahead of the curve and speaking to influential people within industry. It creates a globalisation of the talent and we see it every day. Last week, I made an introduction to a company in South Korea who then Skype interviewed a Data Scientist from the Netherlands, on that same day. 10-20 years ago that would have blown some people’s minds!
The advancement of technology means that the world is becoming a smaller place. Similarly there’s a generational mind set shift, which means that global workforces are becoming more mobile. I read somewhere that 90% of Millenials see themselves working abroad and I can definitely believe that. What we’re seeing, is that if the project is exciting enough, people in Big Data are prepared to move anywhere in the world to be a part of it.
Are there any specific attributes that you look for in data scientists?
It really is completely dependent on what the client is asking looking for. If there’s a specific data science related methodology that they want, whether it’s predictive modelling or machine learning or something completely different, we have to be as agile as possible for the client, but also be consultative when what they’re asking for is unrealistic or in some cases, doesn’t exist!
We’re recruiting Data Scientists for an US internet company at the moment. They’ve got a specific toolkit which includes R, Python and MATLAB but they’re actually looking for people who come from a similar industry rather than someone with that specific skill set. Point being, if their recruits understand their environment and what they want to do with the data, everything else can be taught.
On the flip side of this, we deal with some Big Data service providers who are only interested in the technology stack experience and their domain background afterwards. Every requirement can be different!
What is universal is the type of person our clients want. Data Scientists are typically a passionate bunch, who are always looking to further themselves through the enhancements they are able to make in the businesses they work in. I’m yet to meet a Data Scientist who bucks that trend.
What is your business model at BigCloud? How would you get these big corporations or companies to come to you to find their talent?
Our business model is simply built on finding the right fit. If a company wants a Hadoop Engineer who speaks Hungarian, we’ll try to find that fit. If a candidate wants to work for a mining company in Australia, again, we will try and find that fit!
So far, the feedback we have had from the big corporations that we are working with, is that we are able to find them talent that others aren’t. We’re coming up against some very big recruitment companies that have been around for 20, 30, 40 years. We’re not in that position, but what we can offer is a smaller team of hardworking, passionate and most importantly, collaboratively working people that truly understand the industry they want to recruit from.
Our ambition in 1 to 5 to 10 years and beyond, is to be the first recruitment company that Big Data people think about, when looking for a new job or a new employee for their business.
Does BigCloud look for junior-level, mid-level or senior candidates in particular, or more of a range?
All of the above! We just look for people who are involved in the world of Big Data, whether that’s someone with entry-level experience or someone sat in the boardroom. As an example, I’ve just recruited an analyst for one of the top London universities, and I’ve just placed a Director of Data Science for a world-leading service provider. So there is no exclusion in the level of position of people we work with, as long as people have an involvement in the world of Big Data.
Big Cloud is a big thinking search firm focusing on all things Big Data. We enjoy speaking to great people, working with great companies and having fun whilst we do it.