When you think of a data analyst, you probably picture someone sitting in the back room of the office, pounding on his computer keyboard, sorting through millions of rows of data looking for a nugget of useful information. He’s surrounded by empty fast food containers, and probably hasn’t spoken to anyone or seen the light of day in a while. Well, I am about to debunk that myth for you.
After interviewing 15 analytics executives from different companies (including Facebook, Twitter, and the Weather Channel), here are the top skills they look for when hiring entry level talent.
- Business Acumen
Speaking intelligently, regardless of experience and skill set is crucial. Analysts need to speak to difficult subjects (like modeling methodologies and approaches), translate a lot of data and information into actionable insights, and present recommendations to a non-technical audience with ease. They also need to be articulate when fielding questions and handle situations they might not be prepared for when presenting with ease.
Going the extra step to figure out the “so what?,” “why?,” and impact on the business so you’re not measuring for the sake of measuring. Just spewing out stats and data points is not going to solve problems, but more likely, create new ones. A strong data analyst has explored all the possibilities and has quenched his personal curiosity for answers before presenting his findings.
Today’s entry level data analysts need to trust their abilities and instincts, and stand behind their findings and recommendations. Analysts are typically the “unbiased” third-party in the room, but if they don’t have confidence in themselves and their analysis, no one will.
- People Skills
Analysts need to be team players as they often sit at the cross-section of multiple internal departments, including marketing and sales. They are often sharing their findings and presenting to multiple audiences (e.g., clients, agencies, etc), so they need to have client service skills like patience, adaptability, and a thick skin.
No one wants to work with an egomaniac.
Of course, it’s helpful if the candidate has a basic understanding of Excel, PowerPoint, Python, R, SAS, and SQL. But, most hiring managers agree, “we can teach the tools, we can’t teach the desire to learn and we certainly can’t teach someone to use his brain.”
Sharon Bernstein is a former SVP and Director of Digital Analytics at Mediavest.