Key Skills for a Successful Analytics Career

Analytics Specialist
Sarita Digumarti


February 6th, 2011

Companies worldwide are dealing with huge volumes of data, and as companies get more adept at data acquisition they are relying increasingly on analytics professionals to help them mine the data for business insights and to drive strategic growth. Qualified analytics professionals are in great demand, and can command high salaries for specialized skills.

While there are academic courses that teach common analytical tools and techniques to students looking to build a career in analytics, there are some fundamental behaviours that are critical to those looking to build a successful analytics career, including:

  • A high sense of intellectual curiosity:
    People that tend to do well with analytics careers typically have a high sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness. They want to know the whys and hows of any situation, and that is very useful in a professional environment dealing with business challenges. There has to be an interest in understanding the business issue and working out the specifics of the solution, and especially the curiosity to challenge any assumptions.
  • Mathematically oriented:

    To do well in analytics, you need to be comfortable with mathematical concepts, and not be afraid to use mathematical tools. This is not the career for you if the word Mathematics strikes fear in your heart!

  • Big picture vision:
    It is important to always remember the larger business issue that is being addressed through the process of working with data and dealing with minutae.
  • Detail oriented:
    While it is important to remember the big picture, it is critical to pay attention to the details. While working with large volumes of data it is very easy to lose sight of the specifics that add insight and understanding to solving business issues.
  • Ability to differentiate between tools and methods:
    This is a common issue – confusing a tool with a solution. SAS and Excel are “dumb” tools in the sense that the output produced is meaningless unless thought has been applied to the methodology and techniques applied to get at results. Analytics is not SAS; it is using SAS to arrive at results applying analytical thinking and methodology.
  • Communication
    Being able to communicate your insights to the decision makers is another crucial skill data analysts need to have. One needs to have good verbal and written language skills, so as to convince the stake holders of the positive impact your findings could have on the profitability of the organization.
  •  Show initiative
    Data scientists can succeed far greater,  if they are able to be confident and show initiative while working. Often the most surprising and useful insights come out of thinking outside the box and taking on tasks that need not necessarily be part of your usual job profile.
  • Team work

    The role of a data scientist is never solitary. To be able to truly understand the business problem at hand, they need to be able to work closely with colleagues from other divisions and get inputs and clarifications from them, that will enable them to find the most useful insights.

  • Interpretation skills:
    Ultimately, every hoop that an analyst jumps through is to enable solving a business problem. Numbers by themselves mean nothing. Experience and domain understanding give one the ability to interpret the results in the business context, assess usefulness of results, and allow the building of strategies based on the outcomes.

Related articles:

Interested in a career in Data Science?
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Data Science with SAS Course – click here.
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Data Science with R Course – click here.
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Big Data Course – click here.

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