Can I be a data analyst at a tech company without a degree in computer science?

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Yes — it’s not a must have to work as a Data Analyst. In fact, a lot of people come from a non-CS background and succeed in this role!

Let’s look at the pros and cons of having a computer science (CS) degree and this should help you evaluate where you fall:

Data Analyst computer science degree

Pros of having a CS-degree:

  • If the data analyst position requires you to have this degree in CS then you qualify! Fortunately this is not that common and usually it says bachelor’s required in cs, business administration or related field so as long as you have bachelors for positions that require it then you should be fine
  • you might already have the basic tech skills that are needed for data analysis jobs and the CS degree might be used to validate that.
  • you can pick up new tech concepts and tools fast(er) — with the cs background, it’s easier to pick up new concepts & tools — and you need to continuously do that to stay relevant.

Cons of having a CS-degree:

  • Not enough business problem solving experience and/or lack depth in business knowledge — so if you have a degree in business then you come ahead! Especially if your background aligns with the role. For example: if you focused on Marketing in your bachelors and the role is focused around marketing analytics then you might have an edge
  • I have a CS degree and then I followed it up with a masters from a “business school” — so this is just based on my experience but few CS students (without real world experience) are inclined to focus on “automation” and “bleeding-edge” instead of focusing on what the problem needs. Lot of data analysis doesn’t need to be automated or shouldn’t be automated and not every company needs <<insert the latest tech trend here: big data, deep learning>> — but CS students tend to do that. That’s what they feel most comfortable with so while that doesn’t stop from getting the job, this would impede their growth as a data analyst within the org.

Conclusion:

So as you can see even if you don’t have a CS degree, you can still find roles that align with your other skills and in fact, you might be able to come out ahead if you can prove that you have basic quantitative and tech skills needed to get the job done.

Related: Paras Doshi’s answer to How do I prepare myself for a career in Data Analysis?

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Book Giveaway: Head First Data Analysis — Ends 07/22/2016

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<< THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED NOW! Thanks for Participating! >>

Head First Data Analysis

Book Giveaway: Head First Data Analysis — A learner’s guide to big numbers, statistics and good decisions!

I love Head First series — if you haven’t read one of these books, you should — it’s great! So when I learned that they had a Data Analysis one, I had to read it. So I bought one and skimmed through it.

Now, Instead of letting it sit on my shelf, I think it might better serve its life purpose if more people read it so I have decided to do this little experiment.

Rules:

  1. You need to have an US-based address so that I can ship it to you (no cost to you!)
  2. You need to comment on this blog post on or before 07/22/2016 — just put your name & email. I’ll contact you if you win*

*Random selection!

Go!

How to create a Histogram in Excel?

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Histogram is a powerful data analysis technique — it let’s you quickly see the distribution of the data you have. So in this post, I am going to list the steps to create histogram in Excel.

It’s a two-step process.

  1. Install “Data Analysis Tool Pak” (free Excel add-in)
  2. Format the data and build the histogram

Step 1: Install Data Analysis Tool Pak.

One of the most useful data analysis add-in in excel is not available by default! It’s called “Analysis ToolPak”

To activate it. Go to File > Excel options > Addins > For the manage field, select Excel add-ins

Histogram Manage Excel add-insMake sure that ToolPak is activated and click OK.

Histogram analysis toolpak excel(Also, Solver is a great add-in as well! It’s not in the scope of this article to discuss that add-in but it’s a powerful add-in as well. For instance, it let’s you work on optimization problems)

Step 2: Format Data and build the Histogram

So now let’s format the data.

You need two things to create a Histogram. 1) Data 2) Range

Here’s an example: (I have about 3000 numbers and need to see the distribution)

You could have other fields on the sheet as well but you need at least the data field. Range is optional but I recommend that you specify the Range so that your histogram would have the bins that you specified — otherwise you could have just used a bar chart!

Note that both of them are numerical.

Data Histogram

Now go to Menu Bar > Data > Data Analysis

Data Analysis HistogramOut of the options available, click on Histogram and select the Input Range and Bin Range > after you’re done, click OK.

Data Analysis Histogram ToolpakYou should see a new worksheet with raw data (ready for charting!). Now, create a Bar chart using the raw data and you have your histogram:

Histogram Excel Data AnalysisConclusion:

In this post I listed the steps you can take to create a Histogram in Excel. Note that there are other options as well — like R (hist function) that let’s you build histogram as well so you do have choice of tools but if you want to stick with excel and it’s good enough then you now know how. Cheers!

Related Post: What is the difference between Histogram & Bar Chart?

What are the reasons why developing a data dictionary is so important?

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data dictionary

Let me first define “Data Dictionary” — It’s a document that lists data fields/metrics and their standardized definition to be used across the org.

The key here is: Standardized.

Imagine this:

Imagine that a management team meeting is going on and you have CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, CFO, COO among others in the room.

Meeting Agenda: why they didn’t hit the $100M profit goal in the first quarter. So each of them start with the reports they had access to.

VP of Sales says they missed it by $5M

CFO says that they missed it by $9M

COO says that they missed it by $7M

VP of Marketing has three different versions on her report and she is confused!

No ONE talks about the “Why” they missed the goal but instead spends next hour reconciling the numbers!

It was a hypothetical scenario but these things happen all the time! Of course it could be any team meeting and the metric could be something else or it could just that someone is working on something on their own and end up spending a lot of time digging through all the metric definitions and trying to makes sense of it all. This is where data dictionary could help! Let’s take this a step further:

What’s one of the most important characteristic of a good data analysis/science?

It needs to be Actionable.

It needs to help business decision makers take action based on the insights that they found or were shared with them. And before they take that decision, business decision makers need the data they can TRUST!

For data to be trusted, it needs to be understood. It needs to have a definition that everyone agrees upon.

This is what data dictionary is for. It lists data fields/metrics and their standardized definition so that everyone in the org understands what the field/metric means and don’t have to worry about aligning their meaning. They could focus on Analyzing and extracting insights that would change the business and the world!

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How do I get experience as an entry-level Data analyst?

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It’s a three-step process:

  1. Figure out where (location) you want to work and who (company) you want to work for.
  2. Note the “skills” required in job Descriptions at companies in your desired location(s) > find common themes from job descriptions > Pick up those skills if you don’t have them already!
  3. Start Applying!
    • Getting a job is a function of Number of Job Applications and your conversion rate (Offers Received/#of Job Applications). Optimizing # of Job Applications is easy — you just need to apply to as many jobs as you could. To improve conversion rate, you would need to do number of things: clear HR/Culture-fit rounds, clear TECH rounds, create a portfolio of projects to talk about, etc.
    • You could also consider applying for internships to get experience. This should help you land full-time roles.

Related Answer: Paras Doshi’s answer to How do I prepare myself to be a data analyst?

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What data are data scientists at startups actually analyzing? How is it collected?

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Question: What data are data scientists at startups actually analyzing? How is it collected?
(Coming from a web analytics background I’m wondering what data are data scientist at IT companies actually analyzing. Is it server-side or client-side? Is it collected internally or using some external tool?)

Answer:

Part 1: What are startups analyzing?

It depends on the Business Model and the Stage that they are at.

Business Models: Marketplace, Ecom, SaaS, Media, etc.

Stage: Early, Mid, Late

So let’s say you have a SaaS model and you’re in Mid-stage (post product-market fit stage) then you would tend to be focused on things like: Engagement, Churn, etc…and ideally they should be focused on measuring what aligns best with the strategy (instead of capturing everything!)

Let’s take another example. Let’s say you are a Marketplace in late-stage. So you would tend to be focused more on the “money” and so you can measure things like: transactions, commissions, etc…

I recommend reading “lean analytics” book as it goes much deeper and it’s a great starting point for anyone to understand how analytics could help a startup.

Part 2: How is it collected?

Now this also depends on your product. Assuming you’re a tech startup, you would have Web App and/or Desktop app and/or Mobile app. And now depending on your delivery approach plus your measurement needs, the “how” part will be determined. It would invariably be a combination of your transactions data source, web/mobile events stack (like Google analytics/other-Vendor or Custom), finance data source among others.

This post points to 10 other blogs which lists their “data” stack: The Data Infrastructure Meta-Analysis: How Top Engineering Organizations Built Their Big Data Stacks – The Data Point

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What is the difference between Histogram & Bar Chart?

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Histogram Bar Chart
 Histogram Bar Chart
The x-axis represents bins. So if you have a continuous variable like age which has values from 0-100 then you can create bins like 0-10, 10-20 and so on (and here bin size = 10). You can change the bin size to analyze the distribution of the data.
X-axis has a numerical (quantitative) variable.
The x-axis represents distinct categories from your data.
The variable on the x-axis is usually qualitative
The order of the bins is important since it is used to understand the distribution of the data. The order of the categories in the bar chart doesn’t matter. We can sort it if we want but it’s not needed.