How to Break into an Analytics Career

Projected demand for analytics professionals continues to exceed expected supply. According to recent PwC analysis of Burning Glass Technologies data in 2017, the 2020 estimate forecasts 2.7 million job postings for data science and analytics roles. Although data scientist talent shortages dominate headlines, most future new hires will work in analytics or citizen data science roles. This next generation of data-savvy talent will be pervasive throughout Industry 4.0 organizations.

(Image: Pixabay)

(Image: Pixabay)

How can you break into the growing analytics profession? Since I get asked this question several times a week, I summarized my top suggestions, tips and resources below to help you begin your journey.

Building an analytics aptitude

Are you unduly curious and inquisitive? Do you enjoy learning, investigating different perspectives of an issue, and questioning facts? Did you excel in statistics or math classes in school? If you answered yes to these questions, you will probably enjoy the analytics profession.

Key capabilities for analytics roles include critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and teamwork. Analytics frameworks are also helpful for navigating and defining analytical business problems that are often unclear, complex or difficult to understand. These types of skills will set candidates apart as technology changes and routine analytics tasks are automated.

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Jen Underwood, Founder of Impact Analytix, LLC

Jen Underwood, founder of Impact Analytix, LLC, is a recognized analytics industry expert. She has a unique blend of product management, design and over 20 years of "hands-on" development of data warehouses, reporting, visualization and advanced analytics solutions. In addition to keeping a constant pulse on industry trends, she enjoys digging into oceans of data. Jen is honored to be an IBM Analytics Insider, SAS contributor, former Tableau Zen Master, and active analytics community member.

In the past, Jen has held worldwide product management roles at Microsoft and served as a technical lead for system implementation firms. She has launched new analytics products and turned around failed projects. Today she provides industry thought leadership, advisory, strategy, and market research.

Jen has a Bachelor of Business Administration - Marketing, Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a post-graduate certificate in Computer Science - Data Mining from the University of California, San Diego.

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Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/11/2017 10:08:02 AM

Interestingly I found the tips for an analytics career might well match up or most any career with maybe the exception for having math and statistic skills. But, even there, it would certainly be helpful for anyone in any career path to at least have a basic understanding of those as well.

Re: Analytics Career : Add Python to Skills Needed
  • 12/6/2017 9:16:25 AM

Louis writes

 I found it interesting that Python is a part of the skill set needed.  I was aware of R and I know at least one person who is working on learning it within the community. 

However I had not heard much about Python but it doesn't surprise me since it is such a popular and useful language to learn.


In my own view, the future of analytics is quickly being subsumed by AI. Not being personally involved in AI development, I wondered what the top AI programming languages are currently. I found the following rather interesting InfoWorld article on this:

The 5 best programming languages for AI development

According to this, the current top AI development languages are:


Notable, of course, is the inclusion of Python at the top of the list, since this is also the first language (for analytics proficiency) recommended by Jen Underwood in her blog posting.


Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/6/2017 8:54:56 AM

@Louis Yes, I think it has a firm place among business people, and only data science specialists get involved in things like R. In fact, some of them have to go to special data science schools to learn those languages.

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/6/2017 12:12:20 AM

As I pondered is there anyway around the use of Excel.   I am more convinced than ever the answer is a resounding "NO".   What are the other options ?  Do it by hand ?   Totally out of the question in today's ever increasing technology dependent world in which we live.

This is a price of progress - a new median if you will, so like roaches ( sorry I couldn't think of anything else) they and Excel will probably be the only survivors of true extinction.

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/6/2017 12:05:04 AM

Arielle    Good to see it ( Excel) is still a standard tool in Business Schools.  It was just as an esteemed a skill 15 years ago (as I recall) as it appears to be today.   Not sure how I feel about the MS force feed monopoly - I guess that's a topic for another day.

However the tool itself is as indispensable as any business tool ever could have hoped to achieve.  There is simply no way around it, for the ease and power of quick or lengthy analysis.

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/5/2017 8:49:37 AM

@PC The courses in which my daughter had Excel were more general courses -- for standard or business students. Computer majors likely do move beyond that. But I think that business people still rely heavily on Excel. 

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/4/2017 10:36:01 PM

@Ariella - Yes, Excel is still used in college courses. In my experience it's more of a stepping stone to real languages like R, Python and SAS.

Probably deserves more respect than it gets.

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/4/2017 10:01:32 PM

@Louis @Terry I can tell you it is still taught in college courses. But I think that the fact that it was bundled into the Windows Suite that used to be free with Windows system PCs plays a big part in its popularity.  So I do think that Microsoft's move to demand subscriber fees for its software may, ultimately, help undermine Excel's standing. 

Re: Spreadsheet savvy
  • 12/4/2017 4:59:53 PM

I agree Terry.  I remember a couple of years ago that Excel was a dirty word amongst Analytics progressives yet it is no surprise that when it comes to analysis, Excel is still the starting point for such endeavors. 

Still King of the Hill to a large degree and I don't see that changing anytime soon.   

Analytics Career : Add Python to Skills Needed
  • 12/4/2017 4:53:51 PM

Thanks Jen for a very informative piece on the various skills needed to break into the Analytics field.   I found it interesting that Python is a part of the skill set needed.  I was aware of R and I know at least one person who is working on learning it within the community. 

However I had not heard much about Python but it doesn't surprise me since it is such a popular and useful language to learn.

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