Rising, Shining, or Falling Star: Where Are You in Your Analytics Career?

As of January 2018, my analytics career will have been 34 years long. During this span, I have worked in academia, the private sector, and the public sector (municipal, state, and federal). Locations have stayed within the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia). Technologies have ranged from mainframe, minicomputers, and microcomputers. And if I use my undergraduate studies as a starting point, my range of technologies spans from keypunch machines, decks of Hollerith cards (eventually made into Christmas wreaths), and the 'high speed' printers that produced output on green and white lined paper.

But beyond the variations in the type of work, the locations of work, and the technologies of work -- all specific to my journey -- is the common trajectory of a career in analytics. Metaphorically, I, like many before me, have gone from being a rising, to a shining, to a falling star. Over the course of my journey, I have found it advantageous to know which category I was in at any given moment. The advantage of knowing where you are in your career trajectory will help you to plan for the next stage of your career; those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

In that light, let me share this self-assessment tool to help you in knowing where you are in your analytics career. For each of the ten items below, please give yourself points that correspond to the answer selected (i.e. Answer (1) equals one point, Answer (2) equals two points, etc.):

  • Item 1 - Meetings: When project meetings are called (1) you go but sit off to the side; (2) you go and sit at the table, actively engaged in the discussion; (3) you get placed on the optional attendee list.

  • Item 2 - Mentoring: (1) you are assigned a mentor; (2) you are assigned to be a mentor; (3) you are assigned to document policies and procedures.

  • Item 3 - Recruiting: (1) you are recruited for a new position; (2) you are recruiting for a new position; (3) you are interviewed by the recruiter so that s/he can write a job description for the position the company wants to fill.

  • Item 4 - Training: (1) the company wants to send you to training; (2) the company wants you to train others or lead the training initiative; (3) you have to take the initiative to ask your manager if you can take a class -- budget money permitting.

  • Item 5 - Opinions: (1) your opinions are acknowledged; (2) your opinions are actionable; (3) your opinions are ignored.

  • Item 6 - Mistakes: (1) your mistakes are anticipated and accepted as growing pains; (2) your mistakes are overlooked or downplayed; (3) your mistakes may impact future work assignments and your evaluation.

  • Item 7 - Working Extra Hours: (1) your enthusiasm is affirmed but you are encouraged not to overdo it; (2) this is expected if you are to maintain your record of meeting mission critical deadlines; (3) you are asked why you cannot get your work completed during core hours like everyone else.

  • Item 8 - Presentations: (1) the questions seek clarity about your slides and encourage you to consider other ways of looking at the data; (2) relatively few questions -- pretty much accepted as gospel; (3) you get questions about emerging technologies or techniques missing from your presentation.

  • Item 9 - Business Trips: (1) you are encouraged to travel with a more senior co-worker; (2) you are expected to travel -- you are a designated agent of expanding the company brand and business volume; (3) you are asked travel to help take notes and pass out glossies.

  • Item 10 -New Projects: (1) you are assigned to work on new projects; (2) you will lead or serve as an advisor on new projects; (3) you are assigned to do quality assurance and documentation for new projects.

Now tally your points and use the ranges below to evaluate your star status:

  • 10-16 points - You are a rising star; you are on a bright path -- keep going and growing strong.
  • 17-23 points - You are a shining star; all of your hard work and fortunate breaks have brought you to this phase of your career. Take ground, plant your flag and maximize your earning potential.
  • 24-30 points - You are a falling star. You still have time to reinvent yourself but not forever. Put in the time and effort to bring new value to the company, or demonstrate how to use old approaches in new ways. The shot clock is running down.

So how did you score? Based on your score, how do you feel about where you are in your career? Where do you go from here? Please share.

Bryan Beverly, Statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bryan K. Beverly is from Baltimore. He has a BA in sociology from Morgan State University and an MAS degree in IT management from Johns Hopkins University. His continuing education consists of project management training through the ESI International/George Washington University programs. He began his career in 1984, the same year he was introduced to SAS software. Over the course of nearly 30 years, he has used SAS for data processing, analytics, report generation, and application development on mainframes, mini-computers, and PCs. Bryan has worked in the private sector, public sector, and academia in the Baltimore/Washington region. His work initially focused on programming, but over the years has expanded into project management and business development. Bryan has participated in in-house SAS user groups and SAS user group conferences, and has published in SAS newsletters, as well as company-based newsletters. Over time, his publications have expanded from providing SAS technical tips to examining the sociological, philosophical, financial, and political contexts in which IT is deployed. He believes that the key to a successful IT career is to maintain your skills and think like the person who signs your paycheck.

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Punch cards
  • 1/16/2018 4:02:36 PM

Bryan reminisces: "... my range of technologies spans from keypunch machines, decks of Hollerith cards (eventually made into Christmas wreaths), and the 'high speed' printers that produced output on green and white lined paper."

I found Hollerith cards (punch cards) very useful as bookmarks.

Anyone remember books?


Re: Nice insight
  • 1/16/2018 11:54:01 AM

@Kq4ym - Thanks - yep - this is designed to be a 'reality check'.  I started using SAS in 1984, so I as well as my generational cohorts (roughly 55-75 years of age) are really the first generation of modern number crunchers (we started right before or at the emergence of the internet and PCs).  Hence, we've been in the workforce long enough to have a sense of what a career in analytics looks like.

To your point, I hope that all who read this post will do a self evaluation. Every career has to end at some point, but it helps to take a hard look at where we are, who we are and how much we imagine that we are valued.  Again to your point, we can build this false narratives in our minds (a false sense of superiority or a false sense of inferiority) and it helps to swallow our pride to get on track. At some point every superstar will become a has-been. But if you know where you are and are willing to put in the work; you can extend your career. 

So to all of the young analysts out there - just remember that:


A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

Re: Nice insight
  • 1/16/2018 10:27:15 AM

I would imagine it would perhaps be a bit scary for some to go through the questions and to discover where they might be on the scale. Lots of ego inflating or deflating possibilities there!

Re: Nice insight
  • 1/14/2018 7:38:01 AM



Thanks; yep that change would work! In fact that is what you ought to be doing if you don't answer with 1 or 2.

Re: Nice insight
  • 1/13/2018 8:48:50 PM

Great post @Bryan.

I would change one question -

Item 3 - Recruiting: (1) you are recruited for a new position; (2) you are recruiting for a new position; (3) you are looking for a new position.

Re: Nice insight
  • 1/12/2018 11:54:26 AM

@Tomsg – Thanks. The career lifecycle is interesting. When you start out, you are worried if you are good enough to get to the top. When you get there, you then worry about staying on top. And then slowly, without much fanfare, you get the signals that you are no longer on top. From puppy, to Big Dog to 'the old dog'. But the tradeoff is that with the accumulated years of experience, you learn to devise some pivot plans along the way.  Especially with people living longer, if you are healthy and keeping abreast of the emerging technologies, jargon and trends, you can reinvent yourself. Sometimes changing environments can help as well; when you become stale in one place, you can become a breath of fresh air someplace else. 

Nice insight
  • 1/12/2018 10:40:41 AM

I am impressed by the insight shown in these simple questions. I suspect most people know where they stand, but this gives confirmation- and some insights on how to change your trajectory.