When it comes to career paths offering
the most potential and opportunity, data and analytics are frequently at the
top of the listings.
The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs Report’ lists these as of significant and increasing importance, with a forecast that over the next three years more than 80% of organisation are likely to adopt big data analytics technologies.
It’s a field that covers a variety of roles, so here’s a quick guide to who’s who in the data world.
1. Data Analyst
These are the people responsible for capturing and organisation data, and then working out what business decisions should happen next such as price changes or how to improve customer retention.
They also tend to have responsibility for data accuracy and quality as measurements, reports and recommendations only work when they’re coming from an accurate baseline.
For candidates without a maths, stats or computer science degree, bootcamp style courses in data analysis can help you get your foot in the front door.
2. Data Scientist
These are the people who create the frameworks that everyone else works with. This includes implementing the statistical models and algorithms and evaluating them to ensure the most accurate conclusions can be drawn from data analysis.
Advanced skills in computer science, maths, statistics or engineering are required for this type of job role.
3. Machine Learning Engineer
These are the programmers who write the code that allow computers to effectively learn and perform functions with minimal intervention. Their role is focussed on translating models developed by data scientists into real production code.
Programming skills such as Java and Python are required for this type of role, alongside data and analytical skills.
4. Business Analyst
These are the people who focus on reading and interpreting data to improve how an organisation performs. Their role focusses on developing understanding and meaning from multiple data sets to inform business strategies and plans.
Business Analysts typically possess business or management qualifications as well as the technical skills required for this role.
Niche roles exist for Systems Analysts performing a similar function with a focus on an organisation’s IT systems and processes, and how the organisation deploys technology for maximum impact.
Similarly, Marketing Analysts perform a similar role with a focus on helping customers better understand their customers and marketplace. Marketing Analysts typically hold a professional marketing certification as well as the technical data skills required for this role.
There are lots of well-paid opportunities, but will I be suited to a career in data and analytics?
To succeed in this field you need to be numbers-driven. It’s a technically complex field you so need to be similarly comfortable with working ideas through in detail before making any judgements.
But you also need to have the translation skills to explain your findings and recommendations to non-technical colleagues and be able to do so with the appropriate level of detail for the work situation.
There’s also a responsibility to ensure that data is used correctly. The old adage ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ comes from the ability to misrepresent numbers to give a false impression or to steer a particular outcome. In the current corporate environment making sure that algorithms aren’t creating any bias that may affect groups of customers or colleagues is similarly important.
This sounds complicated, how should I get started?
If you’re serious about developing a career in data and analytics, look for opportunities within your current job role where data can be used to inform decision making. Getting used to identifying patterns and trends in an environment you’re familiar with can be helpful in spiking your curiosity.
Get used to making full use of everyday work tools such as Microsoft Excel to get a flavour of what’s possible before you commit to learning code and statistical techniques.
When you’ve road tested these easily accessible options, look for intensive Data Analytics programmes that can build the skills sets to launch your new career path. They’ll be much quicker and fit better with your existing lifestyle than taking years away from work to take a university programme.