Any Data Analysts?

Hacking employment, improving work, professional development
alex123711
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri May 15, 2020 8:33 pm

Any Data Analysts?

Post by alex123711 »

Is data analyst a good career? anyone able to share their thoughts/ experiences? Is it possible to get into without a degree?

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1889
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

It has pros and cons like any job. Some pros are it's physically easy office work, can be interesting, often pays fairly well. Cons can be there's often not a very defined career path or way to move up, fewer positions than some other jobs, it can be frustrating producing reports or other products that are skimmed once and then thrown away, it can be frustrating sometimes not feeling like you are having a direct impact on anything, there's often not a clear "right" right way to do things or right answer the way there might be with other roles.

Lots of overlap with "data scientist", "research analyst" etc. Don't get too hung up on the title.

In my opinion it seems to be still possible to get a job without a degree or with an unrelated degree but it seems to be much more competitive due to the data scientist hype from a few years ago. Lots of accountants, engineers, people with random phds, etc looking for that really cool data scientist job now. A boot camp/ cert / online classes/ experience may still get you the job though

I saw in one of your other posts you make $120k per year? It is probably going to be hard to hit that as a data analyst unless you work somewhere high end like faang. I could be wrong though.

Any other questions? Full disclosure: I have done data analyst /data scientist type work but my roles have been wide ranging with other titles. I'm not a "data analyst" exactly but I'm also not NOT a data analyst.

WFJ
Posts: 356
Joined: Sat Apr 24, 2021 11:32 am

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by WFJ »

Off and on for 20 years in a wide range of roles, careers and industries. If you are looking for a 9 to 5, 40-hour, 10+ year career, I would not pursue data analyst positions as most devolve into some kind of meaningless monthly report generation which are painfully boring and monotonous (Sisyphus pushing a rock). Another issue has been interacting with "humans" who have little to know knowledge of math who are making complex decisions with data, this is a nightmare. The most egregious example was a manager two levels above my pay grade once saying "Can't we do this analysis without using standard deviation" and I burst into laughter and made some off-hand remark, "they" were not joking. In the past (20 years ago) data analysts had significant barriers to entry reducing the interactions with marginal people. Now that almost all tools for analysis can be taught to a low IQ HR rep (the corporate belief that anyone with a good attitude can be trained), interactions in these departments has deteriorated significantly. If I were to do it again (and if I work again) it will be a short-term fixed term assignments where complex problems are presented with solutions and nothing else.

Degree helps get jobs as there are countless PhDs with marginal data skills but beautiful CVs from elite Universities (expert witnesses have been polluted by these hacks). There are endless "analysts" who will say anything they are paid to and use mindlessly bad analysis which is frustrating to deal with.

I have never heard anyone say "I wasted a lot of time improving my data analyst skills" but depending on your career goals, it might not be a good career path. How many CEO's in the S&P 3000, come from a data analyst background (my estimate would not be significantly different from Zero). If you want to get paid, work few hours, be left alone, it can be a good career if you are flexible, not really a great job for long stable careers.

ertyu
Posts: 2207
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by ertyu »

get paid, work few hours and be left alone sounds wonderful tbh. especially if there are remote opportunities. i've been tempted to do a £7-10k data analysis MA.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 14470
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by jacob »

You can either [make your life's focus about] being someone, doing something, or having something/someone. Which one are you?

Any type of analyst job risks feeling like writing reports and tossing them into the waste paper basket only to repeat the exercise over and over. This likely only works for you if you picked "have something/someone" ... getting paid while not caring much about whether what you do is important to anyone or whether it makes any difference whatsoever. It's the curse of any analyst #Cassandra

Unlike administration jobs, analysis will require some creative brain input, which means you can never leave your work at work. So the question is whether you consider that a feature or a bug? It's great if whatever you're analyzing is your passion and you just can't help yourself. Your job will provide the tools, etc. It's absolutely terrible if you lose interest and would rather think about something else.

User avatar
Lemur
Posts: 1390
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2016 1:40 am
Location: USA

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Lemur »

I'm a data analyst and will say that his thread is extremely accurate. Double that because I'm in the government.

Contrasting viewpoint FWIW - certain personality types (like mine) flourish just fine being Sisyphus. I used to joke with my buddies when I was in the military doing post-typhoon cleanup overseas, if I could just sweep buildings all day then I could easily do it for 20 years to hit the pension. I love the fact that I can compartmentalize my current work with "life" and generally keep these separate. Its also really nice to be just left alone at work. I hardly have any meetings in this position. I'm left to do what I need to do because the people above me don't know how to code and have managerial type stuff to deal with.

However, I can also attest to sometimes laying in bed at night thinking about code...I'm never really "off" when this happens. Sometimes this raises cortisol. Often times it does not; especially when the project you're working on is just slightly above your skillset. Hard enough to push you to learn more but not so hard that you're stressed out. And not too easy where you're bored. There are other factors such as how close the deadline is or if big wigs are pushing for it. In these perfect flow cases, I almost weirdly enough look forward to the challenge. Sort of counter to the idea of trying to retire early. I consider myself lucky here.

I've learned over time that the reason I can't seem motivated to learn other things outside of work (and often times I've to force myself to) is that I'm mentally exhausted from my work even if I did not have a particularly hard day. Its the creative projects that drain you whether you realize it or not. Kind of like the brain has RAM and I'm always running at full capacity.

This phenomenon occurs where I can't get much done for days...I sorta putz around and just plan my script out but then once I'm charged up, I'm coding for 12 hours straight and knocking it out. I like to think in the former I'm just "compiling" the information.

I've my mix of monthly reports I've to do. I've become more efficient by just having them run on auto-scripts. The report goes straight to the recipients and I don't hear about it again until something breaks.

I'm not sure if this line of work is possible without a degree...Its possible for small business employers if you can prove tech skills or something. Maybe have a unique list of projects or something on your CV.

guitarplayer
Posts: 715
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2020 6:43 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by guitarplayer »

Hey, thank you! I am learning from this thread too, having embarked on a essentially data analyst path about two months ago.

Re OP, not sure if possible without a degree, where I am at there is actually quite a high degree of PhD degrees (some of them probably the ones @WFJ writes about, at least a few from Russel Group Unis).

If it is good or not, I second @Lemur that my experience is to be left alone to do my work, this is just such a bliss as I have been discovering recently. Generally I also see a tendency to micromanage as little as possible, might differ from place to place but thinking of it, the idea is to have people who can shape the numbers and while there are perhaps good practices, there certainly are few, if any, best practices. So yes, yesterday I had a first day like what @Lemur described where I was just pottering around and couldn't really get myself to produce anything, and it was okay. Probably down to personality, I also have this mental exhaustion and difficulty learning new stuff after work sometimes. But so far this is no problem as I intentionally aimed for the job to learn stuff at it.

The original reason I came to this thread now is that I was eyeing it over the last few days and wanted to write that the creative process associated with dealing with data can give intrinsic joy. Like carving, or any other art or trade. If you manage to learn difficult things fast compared to your local environment, then working in data can create a moat that lets you work at your own pace. This is possible because 'data' is now the big thing, but people are generally not numerate and have difficulties with operating formal logic. But productivity does not equal impact, hence those reports written for the office bin.

Still, could be seen from the point of view of gaining skills. Think exercising vs. actually having to load a truck with sacks of potatoes. @zbigi wrote elsewhere that getting a software development job at a big corporation is like joining a training scheme to then become a consultant. Same could go for data, and one can then consult for a lot of money or for oneself to deal with whatever topics one wishes.

The 'working at your own pace' - this I like very much at the moment.

ertyu
Posts: 2207
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by ertyu »

Would you guys say it's better to do a MA in stats or specifically in Data Analysis?

guitarplayer
Posts: 715
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2020 6:43 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by guitarplayer »

These days I feel that it would be MSc rather than an MA, but that being said I think if you have a degree and white collar career history you can find your way in without doing a degree. Again, referring to @zbigi's remark from another thread where he gave an example of an accountant colleague who had made his way to being a software developed in test by being nice and asking for it. Try applying for a few posts first maybe, IIRC you have an MA already so can use this?

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 14470
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by jacob »

ertyu wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 1:28 am
Would you guys say it's better to do a MA in stats or specifically in Data Analysis?
While not knowing the specific degrees---I come from a theoretical physics background---I have read books from both. Data Science, which I presume is a set that includes data analysis as a subset, puts more emphasis on application and especially the presentation of the data. Presentation is very helpful to get your point across, especially to those MBA bosses who can't do math in their head ;-) I've found several times both as a physicist and as a quant that using something different than the standard XY-graph made all the difference: "Well, when you put it like that it sounds really interesting!" ... "Ehh, cool. You know it's the same numbers as before, right?"

Whereas stats puts more emphasis on "theorem--proof"-style arguments, e.g. "Show that the maximum likehood estimator of two independently distributed ...and use that to calculate".

So "data science" has more of an engineering feel, whereas "stats" has more of a science feel.

Tyler9000
Posts: 1741
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:45 pm

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Tyler9000 »

jacob wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 7:12 am
I've found several times both as a physicist and as a quant that using something different than the standard XY-graph made all the difference: "Well, when you put it like that it sounds really interesting!" ... "Ehh, cool. You know it's the same numbers as before, right?"
There's definitely an art to presenting numbers in a format that clicks with different types of people. I've often wondered how many ways I can present the same CAGR numbers. But when done well, the right chart speaks for itself.

I've tinkered with the idea of looking for a data scientist/analyst gig as an evolution of my data visualization skills. While I could see it being an interesting job,I usually get hung up on the realization that I'm just a mechanical engineer who is good with Excel while most of these positions seem to be looking for software guys handling big databases. But hearing Jacob talk about the importance of presentation and Lemur + Guitarplayer talk about the creative flow makes me feel a bit better about my chances with the right minimum skills. Any suggestions for a handful of tools that would be most useful to learn?

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1889
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

ertyu wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 1:28 am
Would you guys say it's better to do a MA in stats or specifically in Data Analysis?
The few places where I've worked no analyst has had either of those. So far no applicants with those either that I am aware of. Almost all social sciences or economics degrees, probably due to the specific field I work in. Mostly masters or PhD, a few bachelors.

I'm not familiar with either degree but I suspect stats has more wow factor. Stats is mysterious and difficult. Data analysis sounds like making charts.

If you already have masters in something and can do some self taught practice and portfolio building or a certificate I would try that minimal investment to see if it gets you in the door before spending time and money on another degree. I'm biased against school and haven't had much of a career so take my advice w a grain of salt.

Sorry I don't have a more direct answer.

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1889
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

Tyler9000 wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 11:43 am
There are a lot of types of data analysts. Some use excel and paste charts into word. Some use multiple programming languages, hard stats, machine learning models, big data, dashboards, etc. Lots of variation. Don't assume one type is always better than another eithe. Depends on the situation. Many stats people cant communicate.

guitarplayer
Posts: 715
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2020 6:43 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by guitarplayer »

Gilberto de Piento wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 11:47 am
Stats is mysterious and difficult.
I think in fact it is! Outside of running software programmes and when trying to actually grasp the subject. It can also evoke some pretty beautiful mental representations too, like for example bell curves hanging on a bell curve like a Christmas Tree, and again and again and again.

I am not entirely sure though how to make money from stats alone, maybe on some very high level of conteptualisation or when doing modelling, think operational research; there it looks like applied stats in building models for predictions. It sure feels like learning the anatomy of much of contemporary research that ends up communicated to people. Like a surgeon then knows when and how to apply quick fix, what is doomed to fail, how to go about prevention etc.

@Tyler9000, what @GdP writes.

ertyu
Posts: 2207
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by ertyu »

Makes sense. I hear google has a cert in data analysis that's a good baseline and that everyone gets (so it's not that impressive) -- but impressive or not, it will probably be a good low-stakes way to dip my toes into data analysis and see if it's for me. Thanks for the advice, excellent discussion

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 14470
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by jacob »

Tyler9000 wrote:
Wed Nov 23, 2022 11:43 am
Any suggestions for a handful of tools that would be most useful to learn?
I can't give you any specific tools (it's been too long and people probably use something else now). However, separating the data crunching and then using another program to create the graphs saves a lot of time. Even more if the graphing is scripted rather than made manually. It takes a bit longer to program the script but after that, it's much easier to rerun the graph if anything changes in the analysis.

If you want some to play around with, maybe R is still a thing. It used to be free too.

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1889
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

R is still a thing and still free. It is a great way to learn a data analysis language. Also download RStudio.

If I was starting over and only learning one I would probably learn python instead since it seems like more jobs use it. R was easier to get going with though I think.

In some jobs it is also necessary to know sql or similar to pull data from a database.

ertyu
Posts: 2207
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by ertyu »

I will have a low period at work between January 1st, 2023 and Feb 10th, 2023. I am thinking of working intensively on one of the 6 main certifications offered on coursera:

https://www.coursera.org/articles/data- ... tification

Any advice on which one or does it not matter? Personally, my goal would be to be able to collect and visualize economics/finance data to inform my investing, but it would be excellent if I can also use it as a stepping stone to change professions -- to what, unsure. Opportunities for remote, location-independent work are a priority, pay, less so. Preferably no intense deadline pressure also.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 14470
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by jacob »

ertyu wrote:
Sun Nov 27, 2022 4:01 am
Any advice on which one or does it not matter? Personally, my goal would be to be able to collect and visualize economics/finance data to inform my investing, but it would be excellent if I can also use it as a stepping stone to change professions -- to what, unsure. Opportunities for remote, location-independent work are a priority, pay, less so. Preferably no intense deadline pressure also.
I might be dating myself, but knowing knowing R and SQL (and spreadsheets, although doesn't anyone over the age of 12 know how spreadsheets work these days?!) seems to be required rather than just sufficient when it comes to analyzing. The other tools sound more specialized.

If you have a modicum of programming experience (basic, python, fortran, ...) R is very easy to learn. I used to hand R functions for my boss to translate into an OO-language. He didn't know R but was easily able to read it as pseudo-code.

Maybe start with: https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Step-St ... 449357105/ just to see if it's something you actually enjoy?
(Haven't read it O'Reilly's "animal" books are usually pretty good.)

User avatar
Lemur
Posts: 1390
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2016 1:40 am
Location: USA

Re: Any Data Analysts?

Post by Lemur »

@ertyu

I'd go with the first one. When starting in this profession...look for generalized skills that can be applicable just about everywhere like SQL or Python. It looks to me like the "Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate" provides that generalized basis. And also gives your resume a brand name to boot. Employers still grok over things like "AWS" or "Google" or "Python" on a CV.

For instance, when I started my data analysis career, I only worked in Excel and SQL for years (occasional R as well). In my current job, I primarily program in SAS but we're starting Python now as well. I was able to pick up SAS rather quickly due to my prior experience in SQL.

SQL is used just about everywhere in economics/finance because one is pulling transactional or accounting data. Especially transactional data depending on a business process, you'll need to know how to merge/join with other tables quite often. SQL is good for getting a programming base but also helping to mentally visualize how data is transformed.

Post Reply