Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Art of Building Relationships

It’s been a remarkable year at Burtch Works. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe it has been just a little over a year that we’ve been together in this new, flexible practice. Working nationwide, we have strengthened our many long-standing relationships and established some new ones. Here among the staff, we have welcomed a few new faces and welcomed back some long-time friends and colleagues. The depth and breadth of experience represented is second to none, and we continue to grow and build our relationships.

I strongly believe that these relationships are what set Burtch Works apart. Making a placement — finding the right candidate for the right client — that’s what we do. But building relationships is who we are, and our relationships allow us to do what we do better than anyone else.

For our candidates, building a long-term relationship means that we get to know who you really are — not just for a single interview for a particular job, but across the course of your career. As you grow, as your personal life changes, as you look toward your future, we can help you map out strategic moves, develop your professional network and create long-term business relationships that will allow you to manage your career to fit the needs of your life at every stage along the way. We want to know your hopes and dreams, not just your salary requirements and technical experience (although we want to know those, too).

For our clients, building a long-term relationship means we can help you hire the best and brightest quantitative professionals — the people you need to navigate the ever-widening river of data. As far back as 1943, Winston Churchill observed that the empires of the future would be empires of the mind. That future is now, and the battle for talent is fierce. We have the experience and resources to help you win that battle.

In less than a month, we will ring in the New Year, and we’re excited to be celebrating with you. Let us hear from you about your plans — big and small — for next month, next year and into the next decade. And warmest wishes to you and your family for a bright and happy holiday season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Compensation Update 2010

Compensation for Quantitative Professionals:
What to Expect in the Near Term

The last two years have seen the job market for quantitative professionals bungee from robust down to the weakest level in 70 years and, just recently, back to relative health. Now that things are getting back on track, at least for our industry, the topic on the minds of clients and candidates alike is compensation.

Author Robert Heinlein once wrote: “There is no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe” While it’s good to know where you stand in the current market, it’s just as important to stay abreast of the outlook for more senior level positions to plan your career path. Here are some observations and guidelines about the patterns we are seeing in this new economic cycle:

Vice President/Director
$150,000 to $250,000

Within corporations, a director or VP typically manages multiple layers with upwards of 20 staffers. At this level, it is important to have well-honed leadership skills and to provide strategic vision. In consulting firms, the ability to develop new business becomes important at this level and will usually require heavy travel.

$120,000 to $170,000

This level usually offers the first significant opportunity to develop managerial skills. A solidly performing senior analyst who demonstrates mentoring and leadership abilities, in addition to business acumen and initiative, could be promoted into this role. It is highly unusual for a senior analyst to change companies and move up to manager level simultaneously, as most firms prefer to hire people with demonstrated management experience or to promote from within.

Senior Analytical Specialist
$80,000 to $180,000

As data-driven decision making becomes ubiquitous in business, statisticians as individual contributors have been able to command greater salaries. This is especially true if their programming skills (SAS or R) are well honed and their statistical know-how is exceptional. There are many technology based firms that are driving these salaries up. It is important to take on direct reports and/or business development responsibilities to ensure career advancement.

Senior Analyst/Analyst
$65,000 to $90,000

Even in this recovering market, there is strong demand for quantitative specialists with one-to-five years’ experience. The stronger the candidate’s background with software like SAS or R, and the larger the datasets, the more sought after the analyst will be. Now is the time to develop your communication skills, as every employer expects their analysts — especially senior analysts — to be able to deliver quantitative information to a nontechnical audience. Candidates at this level are now receiving multiple offers if they are conducting an active job search.

Entry-level Masters
$55,000 to $70,000

As the market strengthens and companies struggle to find candidates with one-to-two years’ experience, the entry-level market for quants will continue to improve. It has been a gloomy couple of years, but we are now seeing signs that the new grads of December 2010 and June 2011 will be a hot commodity.

Let us know if we can help you figure out how best to prepare for the next move in your statistical universe. I welcome your questions and comments — please join in an on-line salary discussion and share your experiences here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

This week we celebrated the first anniversary of Burtch Works — one year of working together, but many years of combined expertise as executive recruiters for the quantitative and market research disciplines. By most standards, starting a new enterprise in the middle of a recession would seem like a shaky idea, but I believed then and still believe that we are in the right place at the right time. It’s the right place because we serve an industry that holds the bold promise of growth and stability for the foreseeable future. It’s the right time because we are poised to help our candidates and clients negotiate a new and changing environment as we move forward through economic recovery.

One year ago I talked about Burtch Works being my own personal vision. It’s been a joy to see my vision transform into a reality. Thank you to all the people at Burtch Works who have shared that vision and helped shape it into a living, working enterprise. And thank you to all of you for your feedback and support. We’re looking forward to year two!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stepping Out of the Box

Mongolia, August 2010

Ger Tents in the Gobi
It turns out that when you travel somewhere exotic and foreign,you’ll discover that things are, well, exotic and foreign. During our family summer adventure in Mongolia, we experienced the full yin and yang of foreign and exotic — from fantastic to absurd, from interesting to alien, from simple to simply awful. At 6,100 some miles from home, we took a giant step out of our box.

Me, contemplating the US economy
in the Gobi Dessert
Stepping out of your box is an eye-opening experience. You learn to appreciate the little things, like plumbing and roads. Potholes don’t seem so bad when you’re in a country where, outside of the capital city Ulaan Baatar, roads are a rarity, and the natives and guides tend to regard even rudimentary paths as optional. Bring extra Dramamine.

Becky and me, freezing at our
campsite in Lake Khovsgol,
northern Mongolia
We found that you must expect the unexpected, like a hailstorm with freezing rain while horseback riding; or a fierce sandstorm that keeps you grounded in your ger tent. You discover hidden talents you didn’t know you had, like the ability to communicate in a country where few people speak English. And you come to understand that even in the most unfamiliar environment, there are universal joys, like playing cards or chess late into the night around a campfire, where the common language does not have to be a spoken one.

Jay (l.) and Jackson (r.) enjoying a game of chess
Lake Khovsgol, northern Mongolia
Mongolia is going through a momentous cultural shift. Having emerged from communism a short 20 years ago, it is struggling with growing pains as it embraces democracy and capitalism. Ulaan Baatar moves at a frenetic pace, constructing modern offices and condo high rises, while more than half the population clings to the centuries-old nomadic lifestyle. Urban teens flock to internet spots with their gadget-laden Asian cell phones, while older generations continue to herd sheep, goats and cattle, moving three times a year in search of better grazing. It will be interesting to see what Mongolia is like in another 20 years.

Tourism is booming (we encountered an amazing number of Americans) as Mongolia’s reputation for unspoiled wilderness spreads. Foreign investors are also descending in a quest for mining rights over recently discovered rich deposits of gold and copper. It is estimated Mongolia’s GDP could triple over the next 10 years. Let’s hope the government is up for the challenge of managing these opportunities – protecting their country’s breathtaking landscape from the potentially negative impact that both tourism and mining could have.

Doug and a feathered friend in western Mongolia
Camping is not really my thing, but Doug and the kids had a blast, reveling in the outdoors — horseback riding, kayaking and hiking under vast blue skies with the whitest clouds I’ve ever seen. We were totally unplugged, as “no signal” seems to be understood in any language. And that was the best part, being together, uninterrupted by the routine of daily life — experiencing as a family the highs and lows of foreign and exotic.

Jay on the famous
Flaming Cliffs
Gobi Dessert, Mongolia
It occurs to me that stepping out of your box is good preparation for the inevitable changes we face in our lives and careers. Starting a new job often means expecting the unexpected, breaking into a different corporate culture, and learning the language of a new company. It also brings exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth, not to mention a keen appreciation for welcoming coworkers, a decent lunch and good old American plumbing. Chances are you won’t even have to bring your own toilet paper (although I’m glad I did).

We found that a good guide makes all the difference. If you need guidance along your career path, Burtch Works is here for you. (See more pictures below.)

The family (that's a reindeer in the middle)
What do you thing of this as our holiday card?
Lake Khovsgol, Mongolia

In the Gobi Dessert
Lake Khovsgol, Mongolia

Ger tents — sans plumbing

Western Mongolia

Beer — the universal language!

In Beijing on our way home.
That's the "Birds Nest" from the 2008 Summer Olympics

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mongolia Pop Quiz - Prize Involved!

Up for a quiz?? Try your hand at these (mostly easy) fun facts about Mongolia. Don’t sweat it – this is “open book”. Anyone who gets all the answers right will get a sweet treat from Burtch Works!

Click here to take survey

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Double Dip?

Not on my radar, unless you are talking about ice cream.

I will admit that the job market in general has slowed since my last post. I would describe the first quarter of 2010 as frothy: lots of companies actively and aggressively recruiting, and lots of candidates anxious to rev up their careers after a couple of stagnant years. It was a heady combination. Then in early May, there was a pull back almost across the board. Companies became more hesitant to extend offers, and candidates began to balk at moves that could make them vulnerable. Overall, we’re still experiencing a much, much healthier market than in 2009, but the frothy head has settled down quite a bit.

Here in Chicago we have a saying: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Seems like you could say the same thing about the job market these days. Along with the soaring summer temperatures, I am seeing evidence that things are heating up again in the marketplace. The number of analytics openings is climbing quickly, with consulting firms and retailers leading the way. Digital agencies are also resuming recruiting efforts. While these firms are just in the beginning stage of their searches, my prediction is that there will be another big wave of movement in the analytics community this fall.

So, I think this is a great time for a vacation. This year, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I are headed to Mongolia. As my teenage daughter Becky said, “that’s pretty random, Mom”. We have always been inclined to get off the beaten track – although this is stretching it a bit for me. My husband Doug is the prime mover on this adventure – camping, boiled mutton, vodka and wilderness bathrooms are all in his wheelhouse. I agreed to go, on the condition that we spend four days in Beijing’s Peninsula Hotel on the way home. Stay tuned for messages from Mongolia!

In the meantime, Lauren Eck and the rest of our staff here at Burtch Works will be here to cover in my absence. In contrast to me, they will have air conditioning, easy access to Whole Foods, a fast internet connection, and a comfortable pillow to go home to.

I hope you are enjoying your summer. If your summer plans include an exciting travel vacation, keep us posted. If, on the other hand, you’re sticking closer to home, then be sure to ask for two scoops at your favorite ice cream parlor.

Monday, May 10, 2010

They're Ba-ack!

As predicted, jobs have returned — especially for highly-skilled quantitative and marketing research professionals. Business is up and big companies, consulting firms, advertising agencies, research groups, even start ups are scrambling to build and rebuild staff. This is creating an uptick in turnover not seen in nearly two years, and the momentum is growing …

Raises and bonuses have resurfaced. Early in the year, we saw cut backs and salary freezes began to lift, and, as you may have read in the 5/3/10 issue of the Wall Street Journal, many companies are now going even further in an effort to stem the rising tide of attrition. In addition to restored salaries, the Journal cited an acceleration of raises and even special bonuses being awarded to retain key employees. Also, I am hearing that 401K match benefits are being restored.

Candidates are testing the market. Understandably, over the last two years most people were reluctant to jeopardize secure employment and put any thoughts of a job change on hold. As the economic outlook has begun to stabilize, there is a pent up sense of career stagnation that analysts believe (and we know) will result in a surge of job changes over the next 12 months.

Disconnect between hiring authorities and candidates. Dire headlines around a sluggish recovery and continued general unemployment have given hiring authorities an unrealistic sense of negotiating advantage. It is important to note that the unemployment rate for professionals topped out at 5.0% and is headed down — nowhere near the rate suffered by the general population. Our professional candidates, on the other hand, are hoping to make up for lost time in career progression, and are expecting significant increases as sign-on incentives.

Hiring is speeding up and candidates are getting multiple offers. Savvy hiring managers have been quick to note the increased pace of the recruiting cycle. No longer do they have the luxury of a prolonged interviewing schedule. Top professionals are again receiving multiple offers and it is critical for companies to manage their recruiting efforts efficiently to attract the best candidates.

Typical post-recession recovery. We’ve seen it before. This pattern of a hiring burst and rapid acceleration in employee attrition is very much the norm after a recessionary period. And because this recession was particularly sharp and deep, I expect we will experience an upward recovery in the job market for professionals greater even than what we saw in 1991 and 2002.

Negotiating the rushing waters of economic recovery takes a cool head and a steady hand. The executive recruiters at Burtch Works are ready to assist you, with an experienced, knowledgeable staff who have the tools and contacts to address your needs. Our reach is nationwide – we know the best and the brightest in the field and have a client roster that is second to none. Please stay in touch!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You’ve Come a Long Way, Barbie

Maybe Barbie and her manufacturer, Mattel, have caught wind of the news that math-based jobs are now considered sexy. Or maybe it’s that at 50 years old and having tried more than 120 other careers, Barbie is going for something a little more fulfilling than achieving the perfect Malibu tan. Whatever the reason, the latest version of the Barbie® I Can Be™ dolls is … wait for it … a computer engineer.

Perhaps even more interesting is how this latest iteration of the Barbie brand came to be. It seems Mattel ran a poll on its Website asking girls to vote for Barbie’s next career and, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, adult female computer engineers “launched a viral campaign on the Internet to get out the vote and ensure Barbie would join their ranks.” Talk about life imitating consumerism. The rallying cry that brought in the votes? “Help Barbie get her Geek on!”

This wasn’t just a whim or a Twitter phenomenon. Many heavy-hitting organizations backed the campaign, including the National Academy of Engineers and the Chicago-based Society of Women Engineers. It seems the industry as a whole is eager to recreate its image.

According to a follow-up WSJ article, despite the fact the computer engineering is a well-paid, fast growing career, only half as many women are graduating in the field today than did so 20 years ago. Ann Zimmerman wrote: “Other research suggests that young people in general, and especially girls, often don’t know exactly what a computer-science career entails.” Can a Barbie doll turn the tide and encourage young girls to pursue a career in math and science? Only time will tell.

For those of you who are interested in pushing for a Statistician Barbie or a Mathematician Barbie or maybe even a Marketing Research Barbie, you may want to contact the American Statistical Association to get a jump start on next year’s vote. In the meantime, if you’re more concerned with your own career outlook than Barbie’s, you should be feeling pretty good these days. According to 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of mathematicians is expected to increase by 22 percent during the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations.” We concur, and would be happy to talk to you about how to plan your next career move.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In the Swim of Things

Jay taking a dip in a saltwater oasis near the Libyan border.

Like many families with school-aged children, we recently returned from a spring break vacation. We needed a break from the long Chicago winter — a little bit of warmth and relaxation and, of course, some swimming.

What is it about swimming that makes kids so happy? It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s an Olympic pool at a luxury resort, a small spring-fed lake in Wisconsin, or one of the great oceans of the world — if you can swim in it, my kids are in their element.

This trip, I chose to lounge by the pool as Jackson (12), Jay and Becky (14), and our Japanese exchange student Yuichi (17) splashed their way through our vacation. They are all good swimmers, so my main priority was to make sure they didn’t disturb the other guests. Watching them swim and play, I thought about the wonder of water and how water recreation is such a global phenomenon — for kids of all ages.

Those of you who know our family, know that we are seasoned travelers. After a four-year hiatus prompted by a very unpleasant plane ride when the twins were two and Jackson was an infant, my husband Doug and I were eager to hit the road again. And the kids are happy to tag along — as long as there is the promise of swimming.

Over the years, those swimming experiences have taken many turns. We have played in local public pools in Japan, where it was easy to spot my American children in a sea of black-haired Asian swimmers. We’ve been doused by a waterfall and a simultaneously drenching monsoon rain in Chang Mai, Thailand. Once, we jumped off a fishing boat into the muddy Amazon shortly after catching piranha, and we have even squeezed in a quick dip at the Heathrow airport hotel pool during a six-hour layover on our way to Africa.

In Egypt, we were forced to make a beeline for the pier after spotting a giant stingray while snorkeling at Sharm el Sheik. Still in Egypt, Becky and I were the only girls in sight jumping off the masonry edge of Cleopatra’s pool in Siwa, among several dozen school-aged boys, all taking a break from the 110° heat. While swimming in the Nile was discouraged, the kids spent every afternoon joyfully doing cannonballs into the cruise boat’s postage-stamp-sized pool. In Morocco, each riad (or courtyard home) had a beautiful pool, which I suspect were designed more for aesthetic purposes than natatory ones, but which provided us with a wonderful place to relax after a busy morning of touring. And closer to home, our northern Wisconsin farm has an 80-acre lake where no amount of algae bloom will prove too daunting to prevent my kids from taking the plunge.

Along the way, we’ve learned always to pack a swimsuit, because you never know when a perfect little swimming hole may present a temptation too great to resist. This year, our travel destination is Mongolia. We’re not sure how many swimming opportunities we’ll find, but we’ll be prepared. Like many of you, we’ve discovered the joys of swimming in global waters — both figuratively and literally. Have you dipped your toes into an exotic pool, or are you looking for ways to expand your horizons? We’re always interested in hearing about your goals and experiences.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Statisticians Leading NBA Teams to Victory

While centers and point guards may still get all the glory, for half the teams in the NBA, the hottest player may just be the team statistician. According to a March 12 article in the Wall Street Journal, writer David Biderman outlines how the winningest teams in basketball have “all invested heavily in statistics” and have earned a combined win average of 59.3%. The 15 teams who do not have a dedicated data analyst on board have won just 40.7% of their games. Coincidence? You know analytical professionals don’t believe in coincidence.

Neither do I. For example, it’s no coincidence that here at Burtch Works we are seeing the job market for statisticians break wide open. Industries that have never counted on data analysts before — high profile, exciting markets like the NBA — are now seeing the value that highly trained, professional statisticians can bring to the team. In fact, most of our strong candidates are receiving multiple offers, even as the economy in general is just getting up off the bench.

Are you ready to take your game to the next level?

(photo courtesy of

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 Forecast: Partly Sunny and Clearing

John Kenneth Galbraith once said: “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” It seems the media agrees, as they are having a hard time these days deciding whether the economy is recovering, stagnant or still on a downward slide. New numbers released almost daily can seem contradictory and confusing, so let me try to shed some light on the trends I’m seeing in the quantitative job markets.

While our industry was not hit with the same force and immediacy that struck many other fields during this recession, like the economy as a whole, we have experienced long months of layoffs and hiring freezes. The tail end of this recession seems to be following the same pattern of the 1991 downturn — a V-shaped model with a prolonged period of layoffs and hiring freezes, followed by a robust hiring recovery. This is in contrast to the 2001 recession, where hiring was slow to recover and increased only gradually over several months.

We first began to see an increase in the hiring of analytical professionals this past September, just a trickle at the time, but definitely trending upward throughout November and December — typically slow hiring periods. I’m happy to report that since the first of the year, we have been seeing widespread hiring increases throughout the country.

In many ways the layoffs in analytics, while certainly painful to those affected, were shorter and not nearly as widespread as in most disciplines. Even at the low point of the recession, most organizations understood that quantitative talent is scarce and that they would face significant challenges if they had to replace lost employees. Though bonuses may have been eliminated and salaries frozen, the vast majority of quantitative professionals kept their jobs, and most who were laid off last year have already found new positions.

The prevailing sentiment among hiring authorities is that there is an abundance of talented, qualified candidates available and eager to accept positions. This is simply not the case in analytics. Even in these early moments of the recovery, competition for the premier candidates is, as always, fierce. We are seeing multiple offers and counteroffers for the top talent in analytics.

Human resource and quantitative group heads who have been congratulating themselves on low attrition rates should take heed — pent up demand is going to whip up the recovery froth. Many analytical employees knowingly set aside growth plans for the last 18 months – choosing instead to play it safe with companies where their value was recognized, rather than risking moves where they would have short tenure, no proven history, and no established mentors. The common recessionary tactic of salary freezes or worse — pay cuts — means that those who have put career plans on hold are eager to look for growth opportunities in the recovering economy. Small or nonexistent annual bonuses (usually paid in the spring) mean that many will not wait until later in the year to look for new, more lucrative positions, creating a wave of applicants looking to jump-start their careers.

Of course, all this movement creates more openings and brings significant churn to the job market. The tsunami is coming, and I suspect it may go on for a year or more before things settle back into a normal hiring pattern.

There are certainly still challenges in some sectors. The continued weak housing market means many people are anchored to an area because they are unable to sell their homes and relocate. The area of credit analytics, while somewhat improved, will continue to offer limited growth for years to come. We have seen that salary increases as an enticement to move are still generally modest, but I suspect that will change soon. While there are some virtual positions for consultants who are willing to travel extensively, most companies are still not willing to consider corporate managers or directors who want to maintain a remote home office. Globally, we are seeing increased interest in US-trained analytics professionals, but salaries for equivalent positions in other parts of the world are much lower, so most candidates are not willing to make an international move.

Despite these lingering concerns, the outlook for the analytical job market, even at this early stage of the recovery, is very positive. Here at Burtch Works, we are busy, and when we’re busy that means clients are looking to hire and candidates are looking for new positions. Our level of activity is one of the clearest indicators that the economy — at least our part of the economy — is moving ahead at a steady pace. But please know we are never too busy to hear from you. Just give us a call or drop us an email and let us know how we can help you with your own recovery plan.