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How do you know that Analytics is the right career for you?

Author:  Charanpreet Singh, Co-founder Praxis Business School

Business Analytics, Data Analytics, Data Science are the new stars on the career horizon – Harvard Business Review triggered the zeal by calling Data Science the sexiest job in the twenty first century; and Forbes put the issue beyond doubt by ranking Data Science as the top job in the US in 2016. Add to that the fact that McKinsey reported a shortage of about 200,000 data scientists in the US alone, and, add to that the fact that India accounts for about 70% of the total analytics work across the globe – and you have a heady cocktail of glamour and opportunity.

An obvious fallout is that almost everyone who can spell (or not spell) analytics is rushing to embrace data science as a career. The question is – how do you know Analytics is the career for you? Remember, if it’s not, you could have been doing something more worthwhile and more rewarding.

Before we start judging your suitability for analytics, let us explore the parameters one needs to consider while examining a career.

To my mind, we should look at three things:

1.       What is the skill/ knowledge/ temperament set required for success in the area – we can loosely call it ‘aptitude’ – and do I, honestly, have the aptitude to be competitive and successful?

2.       What kind of work would I be doing if I join this field and do I have the passion, or at least a good level of interest, in this kind of work to keep me going?

3.       If points 1 and 2 are in place and I do create a competitive advantage for myself in this domain, can I foresee adequate growth and scope, at least in the medium term – or, in other words, is this domain at all worth serious consideration from a career perspective?

 

 If we are doing well on all three factors – aptitude, interest and scope – we have an excellent choice of career.

 Mapping the above to analytics or data science, let’s try and address the three points. Crossing the easy hurdle first, there should be little doubt in anyone’s mind that analytics, big data, data science etc. is the career for today and tomorrow. Data creation is going to continue to explode and the requirement for people who can understand what this data means and can do for the business is expected to grow significantly. The questions to be addressed therefore are – do I have what it takes, and will I enjoy doing these roles?

 At a broad level, a Data Scientist needs to be good at three things – math and statistics; technology (including writing code); and business understanding. Ideally, he/ she should be competent in all three and exceptionally good in at least one of these. A background in science and/ or engineering is helpful – computer science and IT graduates have a natural advantage because of their comfort with technology and math. Similarly, people with a statistics background – say an economics/ statistics/ mathematics degree – find analytics a logical extension of their learning curve. We do see people from commerce and business backgrounds do well in this area – but their numbers are far lower and they all have superior quantitative ability.

 There is a difference between passion for an opportunity and passion for a subject or nature of work. A good number of analytics aspirants are rather nebulous about the nature of work an analytics or data science professional does – I often hear loose descriptions like ‘analyzing data to make better decisions’ – sounds exciting and fairly easy, doesn’t it? The facts that ‘analyzing data’ comprises components that are rigorous, sometimes tedious and almost always time- consuming, and that you require a certain temperament to enjoy spending hours and sometimes days consumed by a problem that needs to be solved, are not always taken into account. I see people chasing an obvious opportunity, without examining whether they would enjoy engaging in this science.

 

Ask yourself the following few questions:

ü  Do I love numbers? – not just simple arithmetic but complex problems;

ü  Am I better than most others around me when it comes to solving problems involving data?

ü  Would I rate myself high in terms of analytical thinking, and have I demonstrated that throughout my academic and professional career?

ü  Would I prefer sitting in my workplace going through several iterations trying to build the right model to spending the same time elsewhere, maybe achieving sales targets?

If the answer to all these questions is a firm yes, you may want to look at analytics as a career. The next step would be to find out more about the field, the kind of work it entails, the applications of this science and where it is heading. Once you do this research, you will be surer of whether this is the place for you or not.

 All the best!

 About the Author:

 

Charanpreet Singh is the Co-founder and Associate Dean of Praxis Business School – a leading business school with campuses in Kolkata and Bangalore and offers top ranked analytics programs in the country. Charanpreet has completed his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur and his MBA from University of Iowa.

 Has been a part of the corporate world for 20 years and has a rich experience in industries as varied as Cryogenics, Steel, International Trade, Consulting and IT with organizations such as British Oxygen, Tata Steel, PwC and Compaq-HP. At HP he was Country Manager, Marketing for SMB when he decided to switch to his first passion, academics, and embarked on a mission to set up a Business School of the highest quality in the country. A winner of the Chevening Scholarship for Young Managers awarded by the British Government, he has strong professional interests in the areas of information technology, analytics and business communication. He has taught at the University of Iowa and has been a visiting faculty at IIM Lucknow, IIM Raipur and IIM Shillong. While his courses are rooted in academic theory and fundamentals, they never let the student lose sight of the real business value of each concept. 

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