Growing up there was nothing I disliked more than numbers and math. Spending hours working on my 10s times tables and 13th times tables was the bane of my early existence. Therefore it’s pretty ironic that I will be graduating this summer and starting my career as a data analyst. Never in my whole life did I think I was going too spend my days pouring through lines of data and numbers. But here I am using Excel for every portion of my job calculating efficiency rates and production! Now, why should you care about numbers? Well simply put, because they tell a story.
If you’ve spent any time in the College of Business here at UCF you’ve probably heard the whole “we are all in sales” speech. Well I’m here to tell you a new speech, you are all data analysts! No matter what position you take, there will be some kind of data generated! Unfortunately very few people actually look at this data, and if they do it’s a shallow analysis. This is where you, as a recent graduate or intern, can distinguish yourself from the established professionals! The ability to understand data and extract a meaningful story is invaluable too you and your company. Here are a few tips for how to get better at understanding data!
- Learn what the data actually means. I work for an aviation company where there is a multitude of terms and abbreviations that I had to learn.
- Let the data speak. If you begin your data analysis with a pre-determined outcome, you’re going to make the data say what you want it to say.
- Focus on simple metrics at first, then dig deeper. I work for a maintenance department, my first couple metrics were simple “how many planes did we fix” reports. Now, almost a year in, I am working on performance and efficiency ratings that take multiple data sets in to account.
- Learn how to visualize data! Time series data is your best friend! Don’t use gauges (gauges are a horrible chart, a discussion for another day), pie charts are great, bar charts are the best. Also keep it simple, fewer colors is a good thing.
- Stare at the data! I mean it, literally just look at the data! I’ve found many new pieces of information because I spent a few hours scrolling through data.
- Learn excel! Excel is my best friend and it can be yours too. It is WAY more powerful than you think, trust me.
- Lastly, check and re check your calculations. Nothings more embarrassing then reporting false data. I always try to have someone else look at my report before sending it to my bosses.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog post; my favorite part of data analysis is the investigation and creating insight! It’s actually very fun if you have the patience for it. Good luck during your years here at UCF!
Jan K. van Dalen