Ross Sparkman

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photo of Ross SparkmanHead of Strategic Workforce Planning, Facebook

Career Path

Sparkman began using data in human resources while serving in the Navy. From there he joined Deloitte, where he served as a consultant in human resources.

He believes a successful data analyst must have business bona fides, communication skills and statistical training, and that not a lot of people have all three. Sparkman has both an MBA and a master’s degree in human resources, and consulting work has helped bolster his communication skills.

“You have to be able to go articulate your findings with senior leaders,” he says.

By 2013, Sparkman had parlayed his experience and training into a position at GE Aviation in Cincinnati as leader of global strategic workforce planning and analytics. To augment his quantitative skills, he went back to school for a master’s in predictive analytics from Northwestern University. That program vaulted his career and capabilities, he says, by teaching him programming and how to work with “big data.”

He has been at Facebook since May 2015.

‘Aha’ Moments

Sparkman spends his time with his head buried in data, but it’s the “aha” look on others’ faces that he really loves when he applies big data to predict the company’s workforce needs.

“I find it interesting to be able to use data to drive insight,” he says. “I see the look on people’s faces: ‘Wow, I didn’t know that.’ ”

Defining Projects

One of the projects Sparkman worked on analyzed employee attrition so that costs could be budgeted to backfill jobs or interventions could be undertaken to reduce turnover. He has also combed through HR databases to discover what variables are associated with turnover, such as how far employees live from work; whether they were passed over for promotion; and their age, tenure and geographic region.

Data analysis is increasingly important in a competitive global economy, Sparkman says.

“[Given] the competitive nature of business, the dynamic nature of business, organizations have to be able to make changes now or they are going to be left irrelevant. Data is one of the links in doing that.”

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