I recently began my career in data analytics consulting eager to enter this industry. Not having all the bells and whistles of certifications and years of experience made me anxious as I began working in my role, but I quickly learned that curiosity and a willingness to learn are two mindsets that act as great incubators for strengthening the skills needed for the job. Here are my four tips to those either beginning a career in data analytics or looking to expand their expertise:

Don’t discredit the free resources

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning data analytics. However, it is a shared belief among industry professionals that becoming data literate with one platform often makes learning subsequent programs fairly simple. Though the user interfaces might differ between platforms such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics, the core principle of using either are nearly identical- measuring metrics against a variety of dimensions. Choose just one analytics platform to begin. Though they may seem mundane at first, starting your training with the free resources provided by the platform vendor is a great place to begin learning without feeling overwhelmed. 

A great benefit to starting with these free resources is that they often include mock data sets to work with. It’s possible to read about data analytics for days on end, but until that information is put into practice, it doesn’t have much value. The learning resources by Google, Adobe, and even Microsoft all provide practice data to explore and work through. From there, gleaning data sets that might be more challenging to work with are a great way to independently practice and hone your data skills. Data.gov is a free resource that provides access to all of the open data made public by the U.S. government. It has over 200,000 data sets in a variety of formats that are perfect for early analytics practice. 

Explore “real world” examples

The heart of analyzing data is about unearthing insights to help solve business problems. Seeing analytics applied in the business world is a great way to put the hard skills you’ll learn into a context that is applicable to the work that you will be doing. Finding case studies from a company in a specific vertical that you are interested in is a great way to go about obtaining this information. It’s one thing to know how to work with data, but seeing what kind of business questions are commonly asked and how data is able to answer them in a meaningful way is helpful. Cardinal Path provides data analytics services to a diverse array of clients, so check out some case studies and on-demand webinars from the library.

Leverage your network and work collaboratively

The journey of learning data analytics for the first time will certainly contain roadblocks along the way. Whether it be small frustrations trying to master a new coding language or an inability to transform data in a certain way, having others nearby to bounce ideas off of and gain new perspectives can help ease frustration and keep the momentum going.

While working with others through training materials is a great way to enhance your own learning, there are a vast array of SMEs in the field who might be able to provide an assist whenever you’re working individually and a mental roadblock is reached for a particular platform or topic. In such situations, there is a unique opportunity to potentially get your questions answered while simultaneously expanding your network. The Digital Analytics Association offers a ton of resources and forums in which you can glean valuable information and ask questions of some of the leading minds in this industry. Lynda.com offers courses in all disciplines of marketing and data analytics and you can take advantage of a free month of learning, check with your local library in case they offer Lynda.com courses with membership, or gain access through a premium LinkedIn membership while you’re job-searching. 

Make a commitment to being a lifelong learner 

Data analytics is a dynamic field where software and technologies are constantly evolving. A lifelong commitment to learning and a tenacity for keeping a pulse on the industry is required. Gaining expertise in foundational skills takes time, but establishing a strong base makes absorbing new information and adapting to changes in the industry easier. Best practices shift and updates to analytics software happen with high frequency, so staying ahead of the curve is a great way to help ensure your success. 

I’m still early in my career path, so gaining foundational skills from tutorial courses for platforms I knew I would be using in my work gave me enough momentum to continue self-study with a greater degree of confidence. These introductory type courses helped “warm-up” my mind for being prepared to learn some initial coding languages that will become core capabilities throughout my career. Having early exposure to even the most basic training videos helped me to better understand the context of how fundamental coding and query languages are to unearthing actionable insights from data sets.

Sandbox

Whenever I can find the time, I sandbox mock analyses and dashboards with dummy data that I am able to find on the web. It’s great practice to be able to apply my learnings across the entire process from connecting, cleaning, and analyzing data. It also helps me to identify where I can learn more as I continue to grow in my role. 

Learning data analytics takes time and patience, but hopefully, these tips are helpful as you begin your own journey. The world of digital data analytics can seem daunting at first but with the right attitude, motivation, and support, you will be well on your way to becoming the industry professional you want to be.