The 21st century saw massive advancements in technology. This advancement meant higher dependency on machines. Paper was slowly replaced, and every available information was automated for speedier processing.
With the dawn of the era of social media, it became easier to collect information directly from the public. Everything became available at one click, a finger tap/swipe, or voice-activated. This change opened vast opportunities for businesses to understand their consumers’ needs. This ease led to an abundance of data. According to the website, BrainStation, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is generated daily. So who handles all this? Who can understand this high mountain information, screen through it, and filter out useful information?
The World Economic Forum predicted in 2018 that by 2022, 85-96% of the companies would adopt big data and analytics technologies. It was not predicted then that the world was heading into the longest and the worst pandemic humankind has ever seen. But the prediction roughly did come true. It was not just the business ventures and companies that needed big data to make good decisions.
Scientists and healthcare workers were able to study trends and gather information to understand the Coronavirus better. Thanks to the data collected since the outbreak, this understanding helped devise plans to combat it and slow down its spread.
So, pandemic or no pandemic, a data analyst has become a crucial hire for companies who can help businesses wield the power of Data-Based Decision Making (DDDM) effectively, devise well-designed plans and make profitable decisions timely. And this demand is only expected to grow as we continue to digitize everything.
These trends have intrigued many young aspirants in this field. Many colleges and universities now formally offer Data Analytics and Sciences as a separate degree. Other than that, many websites are now offering short courses to teach certain skills that can equip an aspirant with the basics of Data Analytics and the tools used to handle Big Data.
Some specific skills are associated with data analysts. If you are formally pursuing a degree in Data Analytics or intending to enroll yourself in one, this article is for you. In this article, we have focused on what you will do rather than how you will do it. We have listed down some of the most important skills you must have/learn if you wish to progress up this field. Yes, studying the tools and programming languages is equally important, but they vary from company to company, based on their business models and working. On the other hand, the skills are required to effectively use any data analytics tool.
As discussed above, the availability of data now is in huge volumes. The essential duty of a data analyst is researching and collecting relevant data. For example, a clothing company wishes to expand its retail stores. They discuss two prime locations they wish to purchase for their store. A significant part of your job responsibility pertains to researching other stores in that area and monitoring how well they are doing. You can also study more about the demographics of that area, i.e., age, sex, education, average salary, etc. If you can gather as much relevant data as possible, the decision-making can become very easy.
Creativity and curiosity are fundamental attributes for a good data analyst. These two traits are why critical, and analytical thinking is crucial for this field. Companies and businesses hire data analysts to decipher data and present solutions to problems at hand. To work with big data, you must effectively analyze the data, filter out information relevant to the problem, discover data connections that may not be obvious, and make it presentable for stakeholders and relevant departments.
Some people are naturally gifted at critical thinking. But this does not mean it can’t be an acquired skill. Critical thinking exercises are available online in abundance, and we’d recommend Data Analysts practice them regularly.
Companies thrive on excellent coordination and communication amongst their employees. Since your role in the company is central, your communication skills need to be effective and strong. Your job is to spell out everything the data, trends, and critical metrics relevant to people. You have to use layman language to explain your findings and make them see how you reached a certain conclusion.
Data visualization is an important skill to learn if you pursue this field. While it is imperative to use easier language to make your team understand what you have deduced from your data, you can also use simple yet informative charts and graphs to present your findings.
Studying the data to identify the past trends and predicting the future based on those trends is an integral part of a data analyst’s job description. This skill requires a strong grip on the concepts of statistics and probability. Knowing basic arithmetic can help you manipulate and simplify complex data, and probability can help you predict the future. However, this skill does not require you to be extremely proficient in mathematics. Developers have made spreadsheets and other tools with built-in functions and formulas to compute different calculations easily. But it is always a plus to know all this.
Data Analysts must be proficient in one or more programming languages. Data Sciences and Data Analysis use R, Python, MATLAB, or SAS. These languages enable an analyst to gather and clean data. They are able then to perform statistical analysis and data visualization with ease. Research shows that R (30%) and Python (40%) are the preferred languages out of all others.
Similarly, understanding SQL Database language is a must for data analysts. SQL databases are relational databases that present data in tabular forms, making interpretation and extraction of data easier. You can use it to run queries on the data.
Proficiency in Analytical Tools
Various tools are available to help data analysts handle large data sets. The data analysts’ operation depends on their level of expertise and the requirement of the job. Traditionally Microsoft’s Excel and Spreadsheets have been used by data analysts. To date, 42% of job openings still require expertise in Excel. Many information and courses are available over the internet to teach you how to use Excel efficiently.
On the other hand, there are many Business Intelligence (BI) tools. A data analyst uses these tools for quicker and more informative data visualization for non-technical business stakeholders. These tools are employed while preparing presentations. Tableau is the most preferred tool (46%) compared to Power BI, QIlk, etc.
With the evolution of technology, this profession is only expected to grow in demand. More and more businesses and companies are shifting to Data-Based Decision Making to ensure a profitable future. Data Analysis requires analytical skills, more than just understanding numbers. With the right course or an accredited degree in Data Analytics, your future in this field is secure.