“Fear not the future,” said Edwin Booz, co-founder of Booz Allen Hamilton.
For more than a century, Booz’s namesake consulting firm has lived by these words. Driven by innovation, the company is committed to imagining, inventing, and delivering new ways to better serve clients and the world.
Of course, achieving that mission wouldn't be possible without the right people. As part of their hiring strategy, Booz Allen partners with 2U, Inc. to identify top tech talent in communities across the country.
We sat down with Andrew Samuelson, associate software developer and data analyst at Booz Allen, to discuss how 2U-powered boot camps help the firm source skilled candidates—and accelerate innovation on a global scale.
What does Booz Allen look for in a strategic talent partner? What makes 2U a good fit?
We’re looking for new avenues to recruit talent and get a constant pipeline of skilled candidates. Right now, Booz Allen is really committed to growing our data science and software development teams, and 2U provides access to lots of boot camp graduates across the country. Our organization is very spread out, and we’re constantly hiring across multiple geographic locations. Being able to reach so many people really helps our recruiting efforts.
Toward the end of last year, Booz Allen hosted a webinar for 2U-powered boot camp students and alumni. Data scientists and talent acquisition team members shared what it’s like to work at Booz Allen, including the company culture and career opportunities. What were your goals in hosting an event in partnership with 2U?
We wanted to get the word out about what we look for in candidates, and to explain what we do as a company. Booz Allen has gone through lots of changes in the last decade—shifting away from old-fashioned, suit-and-tie consulting to more modern, technology-based consulting. We’re looking to change the way our clients see things while ushering people into the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Even if students had heard of Booz Allen before, we wanted to let them know about our current vision and mission. The event went well, with lots of attendees following up afterward.
Describe Booz Allen’s tech hiring strategy. What goals do you have for the firm?
We definitely want to hire developers, since software is becoming more and more important to Booz Allen. Many clients have a need for customized software, beyond Tableau and Power BI—they want to integrate data in completely customized dashboards. Another goal of ours is to hire 5,000 data scientists across the firm. It’s very important that our organization continues developing avenues for exploration and innovation, through everything from data engineering to data visualization.
Can you describe how data visualization helps you better serve clients?
The numbers might look great when you’re doing data analysis. But if all you have is a series of numbers, it’s hard for the client to understand what that really means—a graph would make much more sense. As you get into complicated topics in the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s important to identify what different numbers actually mean so clients can conceptualize what’s going on and trust the process. Otherwise, it can be difficult to have faith in such large-scale projects.
There’s a lot of talk in the industry about hard skills versus soft skills. What does Booz Allen look for in tech talent?
Hard skills are very nice to have, but candidates need a good mix of both. When it comes to soft skills, we really care about teamwork, time management, and leadership potential. Initiative and drive are extremely important, too. We want to see that spark in your eye when you talk about a side project you’re passionate about. It really comes across as genuine. I rarely see someone not get an offer after one of those conversations. We also look for people that are well-rounded. Our clients won’t say, “You’re only a data analyst. You’ll do nothing else.” You need to be able to pivot and willing to work cross-functionally.
What kinds of positions do 2U-powered boot camp graduates fill at Booz Allen?
We’re filling lots of data science and software engineering roles. Boot camp grads show that you don’t need a four-year degree to be a software developer. Lots of times, what students learn as computer science majors is well above what they need on the job. Boot camp is more than enough to get you started.
Can you elaborate on Booz Allen’s mission to “infuse an intentional culture of innovation” throughout the firm? How do 2U hires help with this?
We’re moving away from that traditional, suit-and-tie ideology: the idea that clients pay for someone in a suit, rather than someone who’s there to get the job done. Boot camp hires help with that mission, because they often come from non-traditional backgrounds. Many don’t have a computer science degree. They come to Booz Allen willing to learn additional skills beyond those they had initially studied in the boot camp. Clients need people like that, who have strong work ethics and are willing to pursue new areas of knowledge to find solutions.
How do you see 2U benefiting Booz Allen long term?
I’m hoping that we can pipeline more 2U-powered boot camp grads into Booz Allen—especially in places where we’re constantly looking to grow, like St. Louis. We want to continue building the relationship with 2U to help expand our data science capabilities over the next few years.
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