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6 Jan 2014

How to start a career in Analytics?

Analytics, as an industry is set for exponential growth. With more and more data being available in digital form, need for smarter, faster, data based decisions is only going to increase. Consider following facts to substantiate what I am saying:

According to Harvard Business Review (October 2012 edition), job of a data scientist is the sexiest job of 21st century.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute (In a May 2011 report): “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”
Imagine what would be the number across the globe…

I understand Analytics will become big, but I don’t know how do I start a career in Business Analytics?

Its difficult for a newbie to find out the best way to start a career in Analytics due to following reasons:

The industry in nascent stage, hence, it is difficult to find proper guidance.
“Analytics” or “Business Analytics” are losely used terms, which makes it difficult for people to understand and appreciate the role
There are limited structured & well laid out path which you can follow to enter the field.
While the first factor will improve with time and I had written an article mentioning second point here, this post aims to address the third point.

Two approaches to build a career:

Like any other employment skill, there are 2 approaches to enter / start an analytics career:

Approach 1 – Get hired by a company which trains you (on job / internal trainings) on the necessary skills. These would be companies which have Analytics in their DNA and use it for their day to day decisions. While this approach is better from long term perspective, it takes time and investment (especially if there is no structured training in the companies). Some of the companies known for using cutting edge Analytics (in India) are:
Technology leaders: Google, Facebook, Linkedin
Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI): Capital One, American Express etc
Telecom companies: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile
Analytics Consultancies: Fractal, Mu-Sigma, ZS Associates

One of the alternate route to get into these companies can be internships. So if you have a 2 – 6 month break, give a try to becoming an intern in these companies.

Approach 2 – Get Business Analytics related certification: While these certifications provides you with the technical skills required, these would not be able to compensate for experience on the job. Following are some options of training available :
For people with work experience, various leading academic institutes run certification courses.
For freshers, there are certification courses run by SAS training institute, Jigsaw Academy (Online), Analytics Launchpad. Getting these certification courses can increase your chances of getting hired in some of the best companies..

While these are specific paths for starting a career in Analytics, there are smaller steps you can take to increase your awareness. Some of them are mentioned below:

Continue reading on the subject: Keep reading about the subject through various blogs and communities. Modernanalyst.com, kaushik.net are some websites which can help you stay up to date.
Attend Industry forums: There are various industry forums, meet and conferences which you can attend to gain understanding of the subject. SAS Forum (held annually) is one of the places to meet some of the best people in industry. Videos and proceedings of SAS India Forum and Global forum might be available on internet.
Try internships: Internships are awesome way to start your career. They provide you a flavor of the work before you take a plunge and the employer gets to assess you without significant investments.
Connect to people: Since it is a small industry today, most of the people know each other. Find out how can you connect and talk to people in industry. They are your best sources of information.
Go through training material available on the web: Google provides basic training for Google Analytics free. There are various websites running basic courses which can be accessed freely. Some universities provide access to course notes freely. Consume as much as you can.
Books: Read some good books on the subject like Scoring Points (on Tesco); The new Science of retailing, The Signal and The Noise are some good books on the matter.

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