Understanding Analytics Professionals

Analytics professional, who are you? I can safely assume you have a math brain and enjoy sussing out patterns and identifying correlations in data. You almost certainly like statistics and are likely into programming and creating data visualizations. But certainly that's not the whole you.

With constant talk of the impending analytics talent shortage and the growing complexity of the analytics discipline, a lot of industry watchers are trying to understand who makes a good analyst and why. The folks at the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) are among them. In a blog post yesterday, Greta Roberts, an IIA faculty member and the chief executive officer of Talent Analytics, expressed the organization's desire to "understand the people who are well suited to this sophisticated challenge."

Roberts wrote that the IIA is driven to learn more about an analytics professional's DNA, as it were, for this reason:

In addition to mathematical models and computers, the real component driving innovation in analytics work is the analyst him or herself. Arguably, the person operating the keyboard is more important than all other factors combined. Though much has been written about data models and computing infrastructures, little is known to date about what drives the people behind the keyboards to do what they do.

The escalating need for analytics talent will force businesses to "move beyond reliance on experience and other standard demographic information to access other talent inside their organizations as well as recent college graduates with little or no experience." Wouldn't it be nice, she asked, to use IIA participants' own discipline to assess the traits comprising true analytical talent -- and maybe even predict performance?

I think so!

If you're working with complex analytics for a living (which many of you clearly are), the IIA is looking for your participation in a survey aimed at understanding the traits of analytics professionals. This is a call to action for you, the analyst. And to you, the statistician, data miner, predictive modeler, econometrician, actuary, data scientist, informatician -- or however your business card might read.

If you participate in the survey, you'll be answering the usual slew of demographic questions. But you'll also find questions about your ambitions and behaviors, Roberts wrote. Rest assured that "everything asked is value neutral and intended only to learn about the people doing this work."

The IIA researchers feel digging beyond the demographics is important, because the additional questions will "lend insight into the workers themselves vs. meta-data about the workers," she wrote. "We hypothesize these metrics may have more predictive power than education, experience and other more traditional metrics."

The Understanding Analytics Professionals survey is available here. Feel free to share the link with other qualified analytics professionals. According to Roberts, the IIA expects to publish results by yearend. And, of course, we'll be hoping to share some of them here.

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Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Re: Done!
  • 6/19/2012 11:49:23 AM

But it's so hard to be enthusiastic about bad ideas...or to explain good ideas to people who don't have any.

Re: Done!
  • 6/19/2012 10:42:50 AM

Ouch! Sounds like that was a good, but painful, lesson to have learned, Seth -- one that's applicable well outside of the classroom, too. You've got to really understand what your business manager or colleague is asking of you before answering, sometimes. 

Re: Done!
  • 6/18/2012 8:58:58 PM

@ Beth, having a good teacher makes all the difference.  I was bored out of my mind with history that was taught as just dry facts and dates. It wasn't until I had a teacher made it a very dramatic soap opera that I understood the why and came to enjoy it. 

Teachers are people and sometimes do stupid things and have their own egos.  I had one English teacher that a ran into at a bar once.  He was typsy and told me. "I gave A's to students that wrote as well as you did, but I just thought you could have done better."  I though, "Gee, thanks a lot.!" and wished I had a tape recorder.  Early in the year, he had some of his own writing that he asked us to critique. I learned an important lesson that day. If a teacher asks you to critique their own work, don't do it if it's at the begining of the semester. 


Re: Done!
  • 6/18/2012 8:43:04 PM

@Seth, only very recently I was made to feel far less inadequate about my math deficiencies and all it took was this simple comment from my older sister in passing as we were talking about our career choices. She's also a writer/editor but has recently begun teaching She said she always felt she had really belonged in a field like medicine and "but for that absolutely horrendous alegbra trig teacher that turned me off of math when I was a junior in high school I may very well have pursued that idea longer than I did." I, of course, had the same math teacher and also lost all interest in and confidence in my ability to do math after taking her classes. Funny, I always blamed myself -- even though until then I had done very well in math. But now I do fault myself less and wonder "what if I'd had a better teacher." We hear this time and again, and I've seen it myself now, too with two of my daughters, whose math confidence was shattered in 5 & 6 grade due to a horrible teacher. They're now going into their senior year, are doing great in math, and are all of a sudden have loads more confidence about school overall as a result.

Re: IIA Understanding Analytics Professionals Survey
  • 6/18/2012 8:32:01 PM

@MDMConsult -- thanks for sharing the McKinsey insight. I think it's an exciting time to be exploring career opportunities and education direction for those who have an analytical mind and understand the mathematical underpinnings, too.

Re: Done!
  • 6/18/2012 3:36:33 PM

@ Beth, no judgements here.  I was alwyas a math wiz until I took caculus.  That shook my math confidence to my very bone.  Took me forever to recover. 

IIA Understanding Analytics Professionals Survey
  • 6/18/2012 3:13:18 PM

@Beth Its great to have shared this (IIA) Understanding Analytics Professionals Survey with the AllAnalytics.com community. Mckinsey presented recent insights:

Is a Data Scientist Born, or Made?

The question of human talent and abilities might very well be the gate-keeper for Big Data. McKinsey says "the harder thing is to get the set of skills". What skills, exactly? Among the ones mentioned:

· "analytical"
· "a set of attitudes and an understanding of the business"
· "more to do with sampling methodologies, designing experiments
working these very, very large data sets without becoming overwhelmed"
· "creative in seeing patterns and for people who can be entrepreneurial
creating new business opportunities that take advantage of these patterns"

These skills may be very hard to find: "People realize that there is a gap between the current role of statistician or data analyst or business analyst and what they actually want. They are grappling with the set of tools and the set of skills that they need. Across the whole research cycle, it's a combination of skills that social scientists understand, plus additional programming skills, plus the ability to do aggressive prioritization. And, of course, a good grounding in statistics and machine learning. That collection of skills is difficult to find."


Re: Done!
  • 6/18/2012 9:40:52 AM

Seth, glad you took the survey and surprised yourself along the way! Thanks also to the nod to my analytical role. While I agree that an approach to overseeing AllAnalytics.com does require analytical practices, I'd have to distinguish myself from those who have the quant side as well. Me and math -- especially advanced math -- we're not such great friends. :-)

Re: Done!
  • 6/17/2012 8:29:14 PM

It was an interesting survey to take and I was surprised at some of my answers.  For example I ranked charitble work and self improvement low on several questions, but because I've already been a volunteer for seven years and am always working on improvement, so I've been there done that. 

@ Beth,  I would argue you are an analytic professional.  Writing takes a lot of research, disseminating data and qualitative interpretation.  

Re: Done!
  • 6/14/2012 12:28:57 PM

Cool Anish! Should be interesting to see the results.

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