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Jóvenes 01 Oct 2018

Young talent helps drive data science at BBVA

Twenty-six young people have joined the ‘Young Professionals Data’ in Spain and Argentina program, a BBVA initiative to recruit and develop the best talent in advanced analytics. The selection process to take on another 21 young people in Mexico has started and in the following months Colombia, Peru the U.S. and Turkey will join the project.

Teresa Alameda (BBVA Creative)

There are smiles all around as they cross the threshold of BBVA’s headquarters for the first time. “I’m very proud”, says one of them. “I’m going to give it everything”, another says. “It’s as if I had won the lottery”, says 23-year-old Jorge Fuertes, who recently completed a Master’s degree in data science after having graduated in business administration. It’s his first day and the look on his face says everything: “I want to learn to be the best possible, help out in everything I can and take advantage of this opportunity to be at BBVA”.

Jorge is one of the 19 young people that make up the initial group to emerge from the ‘Young Professionals Data’ program in Spain, after a selection process involving more than 500 candidates. Last week, they began their professional adventure in the Group with a clear goal: develop themselves professionally within the organization and unfold all their technical knowledge to help the bank win its bet on advanced analytics.

“As part of our process of becoming a completely  data-driven company, the challenge not only falls on technology; the most important thing is always people”, explains Alejandro Valladares, Discipline Head of Advanced Analytics at BBVA.

The core idea of the program is to combine the technical skills of new graduates with the deep knowledge of the business of their mentors.

An outside catalyst

The young-talent program is only one aspect of BBVA’s global strategy to achieve its goal of enhancing its data science capabilities. On the one hand, with its Data University initiative, BBVA has set its sights on developing the skills of intra-Group collaborators to broaden their knowledge of new tools and technics through different programs. On the other, the emphasis has been placed on gathering talent. “We thought we also needed to throw an outside catalyst into the mix to change the way of doing things”, says José Martín Huelves, Global Head of Corporate Areas in Talent & Culture.

This “catalyst” has arrived in the form of a group of young people with an average age of 24.7 years with an academic background in engineering (59 percent), economics and business administration (24 percent) and mathematics and physics (17 percent). Some 86 percent of the group has studied for a Masters, more than half in areas related to big data and data science. Another seven young people have been taken on board in Argentina and 21 people in Mexico will be on the way in January.


The program ‘Young Professionals Data’ celebrates its opening session in Madrid.

“We want the new data scientists at BBVA to immerse themselves in the work culture and quickly get to know everything BBVA can offer them. We want to offer them a real opportunity for professional development”, says Ophelie Richard, responsible of the Talent Acquisition Discipline at BBVA.

To achieve this, the program has been structured into various stages that includes periods of training in transversal subjects relevant to the transformation of the Group such as agile methodologies and ‘design thinking’; followed by more specific training to acquire business knowledge and take part in advanced analytics projects.

“Their role is key because they can develop predictive models to solve issues in any area of business”

Finally, these young people will be progressively embedded in one of the business departments they have requested and assigned on the basis of their training. “Each one of them can count on the support of a mentor with wide experience assigned to them from the outset to guide them through the process. "The recruits will also be expected to pose challenges and bring a fresh way at looking at the challenges facing the business", says Marco Bonilla, head of the program and executive director of the advanced analytics practice community at BBVA.


Young data scientist at BBVA share their first impressions with their mentors after the opening event.

The sexiest job of the century

In the labor market, data scientist is one of the professions most in demand and one that is in the shortest supply. According to a report by Capgemini and LinkedIn, over half (54 percent) of the organizations surveyed agree the lack of digital talent –specifically in areas that have to do with the advanced science and analysis of data– is holding back their digital transformation. IBM estimates that demand for this sort of profile will increase by 39 percent between now and 2020. Already in 2012, the Harvard Business Review magazine called the job of data scientist as the “sexiest of the 21st Century”.

These profiles are much sought-after in all digitized sectors. “Their role is key because they can develop predictive models to solve issues in any area of business”, explains Martín. These models are not only needed to extract value from data (such as insurance, markets and business intelligence). The trend is now broader and includes areas such as Talent & Culture, Auditing and Compliance which see the future in advanced analytics.

BBVA has identified a number of business areas where the application of these tools and a focus based on them would be of value. However, at times, the development of these new models is “at the frontier of analytical knowledge”, according to Martín. This is where bringing on board people trained in such specific areas as machine learning or deep learning is a "key element" in "making the leap" in the transformation process and in preparing the ground for the future.

But technical knowledge isn’t everything. The core idea of the program is to combine the technical skills of new graduates with the deep knowledge of the business of their mentors and other specialists at BBVA to create a “perfect tandem” of theoretical knowledge and practice that serves to find solutions to the problems of today, and even more important, those of tomorrow.

Such high expectations do not seem to daunt the newly arrived. Among themselves are already onto “what’s next” and swap information on their mentors and the areas they have been assigned to. Rosalía Salas, 28, will work at Fraud Engineering. Mathematics graduate Helena Palenzuela, 28, will join the Internal Auditing team: “I won’t let anyone down. I came here to learn the most I can and to keep on dreaming”.

Stay tuned in!

BBVA shortly will open a new recruitment drive. If you want to be BBVA’s next data scientist, fill in this form and we will keep you in the know.