In my last post I promised to divulge where I would look for an analyst if I were recruiting. As a reminder the attributes I said I look for are:
So apart from the usual statistics, mathematics and economics backgrounds that people look to I would suggest a couple of others.
First, psychology - my eyes have been opened on this one by my wife, who has been studying psych at Macquarie Uni. I have been impressed by the amount of statistics she has been required to learn as part of the course, and it has been accompanied by a good amount of training in critical thinking. Now I don't know whether all universities include as much of these things in their courses as Macquarie, but I am now much more open to the idea of a psychology major being a very good analyst than I may have been previously. Usually you can find people with these skills in market research roles.
Next, philosophy - this one was not my idea but was suggested by someone else, but for much the same reason. Philosophy (as explained to me) teaches you logical and critical thinking and problem solving skills - the core ingredients we have discussed.
Generally speaking if you are looking for likely candidates within your own organisation I would suggest looking in the function that has the widest "span of visibility", by which I mean which function has the most visibility of what is happening across the company and a mandate to stick their noses in and ask questions and potentially change how things are done. People with curiosity are attracted to this! In some companies this will be in Finance, in others Category Management, Supply Chain, Marketing or in cases where there is a dedicated Strategy group they will often be there as well.
One last comment - while people with Accounting or Computer Science skills can make good analysts, you need to ensure the individual is comfortable dealing with the ambiguity and uncertainty that is the lot of an analyst. Sometimes people from these backgrounds have a desire to be too structured or precise.