How to Become a Data Analyst

July 26, 2011

How to be a Data Analysts 300x252 photo (business intelligence jobs)

Author: Linda Rosencrance
Spotfire Blogging Team

How to be a Data Analysts 300x252 photo (business intelligence jobs)

Author: Linda Rosencrance
Spotfire Blogging Team

So you breezed (or perhaps stumbled) through your stats classes. Now you’re looking to develop a career in data analytics and business intelligence. A wise and lofty ambition. I admire people who love numbers, statistics and data. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people. Probably why I majored in English in college. However,  I can still offer you some tips on how to develop a career in this explosive industry. Let’s check in with some experts like Eduardas Valaitis, a consultant in Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s national economics and statistics practice.

One of the things Valaitis recommends is improving your software proficiency and programming skills. As technology improves and the industry grows, statistics software packages are becoming easier to use. They’re so friendly, in fact, that they include point-and-click interfaces so you don’t really have to know any of the programming language that’s under the hood. However, Valaitis “strongly recommends”  learning a few programming languages to ensure you develop critical programming/logic skills.

You should also focus on the fundamentals, said Karl Haberl, senior principal consultant, Brightlight Consulting, and an instructor for the UW PCE Certificate in Business Intelligence.

Haberl said there are lots of jobs out there for business analysts but many of them revolve around proprietary platforms from “mega-vendors.” The problem is it usually takes about four or five years to become proficient in those platforms—a bit of a Catch 22. Another problem, raised by Sandra Gittlen in yesterday’s post, is “complex and costly platforms that require hardware, software, licensing and special skills are beyond the budgets and in-house IT talent pools of most midsize companies.” The industry is now moving towards self-service and cloud based BI which means becoming an expert solely in a proprietary platform may be a dead end in the long run.

But Haberl said learning the fundamentals like SQL (structured query language) will help you even if you’re not extremely technical. Haberl thinks that people who work in traditional industries, or even in pseudo-technical industries or IT industries, will have to learn to consume, interpret, translate and communicate data.

BI expert Jason Dove also recommends learning SQL because it’s the programming language used exclusively to extract the data from the databases. And because SQL doesn’t change a whole lot from one database to the next, you really only have to learn one version.

Dove admitted that it’s possible to have a successful career in BI without knowing how to write a line of SQL, but knowing SQL will really make things easier when you try to solve problems that are more complex.

You should also be skilled in data visualization and reporting software. Dove said it doesn’t really matter which reporting software you learn because it’s more about understanding the theory.

Finally, Valaitis said you should develop your oral and written communication skills, or “soft skills.” So subscribe to The Economist or Bloomberg Businessweek and learn from their written communication styles.  And enroll in an English writing class to boost your writing skills.

Now you’re talking my language.