What are some of the most important resources a Data analyst needs to know about?


This question was asked on Quora and here’s my answer:

I will list resources broken down by three categories.

  1. Business Knowledge: As a data analyst, you need to have at least basic knowledge of business areas that you are helping with. For example: if you are doing Marketing Analytics then you need to understand basic concepts in marketing and that will make you more effective. You can do so one of the three ways:
    • On-the-job: Pick up knowledge by interacting with business people and using internal knowledge bases.
    • Online resources: Pick up basics of marketing by taking a beginners course online on a platform like Coursera OR from resources like this: Business Concepts – Bootcamp | PrepLounge.com
    • College/University: If you are at a college/university then you can either audit a course or depending on your major/minor, core business courses might just be part of the curriculum
  2. Communication skills:
    • Public Speaking: Toastmaster’s is a great resource. if you don’t have access to a local Toastmasters club, you should be able to find a course online. Check out Coursera.
    • Data Storytelling: Just listening to someone like Hans Rosling can be very inspiring! The best stats you’ve ever seen . Also, If you search storytelling with data on YouTube, you will see few good talks: storytelling with data – YouTube
    • Problem structuring: If you are able to break down the problem into core components to identify root cause, you will not only increase your speed to insight but your structure will also help you communicate it more effectively. Learn to break down your problems and use that in communicating your data analysis approach. Imagine this list without the three high-level categories — wouldn’t it look like I am throwing random resources at you? By giving it a structure — Tech, Biz, Communication, I am not only able to structure it but also communicate it to you more effectively. More here: Structure your Thoughts – Bootcamp | PrepLounge.com
  3. Tech skills: Read Akash Dugam’s answer: Akash Dugam’s answer to What are some of the most important resources a Data analyst needs to know about? — it’s a nice list. Also, check this out: Learn #Data Analysis online – free curriculum

A great data analyst will focus on all areas and a good data analyst might just focus on tech. Hope that helps!


As a data analyst for the CEO in an e-commerce company, what kind of reports are expected of me?


Someone asked this on Quora and here’s my reply:

As a data analyst, you should work with the CEO (or other decision makers) on a quarterly (or more frequent if possible) and learn about #1 Strategic objectives and initiatives — #2 after that, you should work together and figure out how analytics could help these initiatives.

So why is learning about strategic initiatives from the executives important?

  1. Because analytics could be applied to lot of problems but you and your team might just have limited bandwidth.
  2. Also, executives want to stay focused on what’s important now and so if your priorities align then you are much likely to succeed in the role.

Let’s take an example:

Scenario 1: As a data analyst, you create bunch of reports from let’s say Google Analytics and throw them at the CEO! It has everything like visitor stats, acquisition stats, retention stats, behavior stats, conversion stats among others! Now by doing so, executives might get what they asked for but then they will still have to go through the reports and map it back to their strategic initiatives and figure out the recommendations on their own. Also, executives might not have the time to do this and may miss critical insights.

Scenario 2: You know that the one of the strategic initiate for the quarter is to improve the conversion rate from landing pages to order-complete page from 1.25% to 1.40% — so your analysis that you send to the executive would not only be focused on just that but also include “recommendations” — like it seems that there is a significant drop-off after customers learn about shipping cost. Then the executive could use those recommendations to drive actions. There’s also another benefit: Any ad-hoc data request that doesn’t align with the strategic objectives can be postponed (or de-prioritized) and let’s you focus on what’s most important for the company.

I prefer scenario #2. And try to create this culture wherever I am working. Executives should be open to sharing strategic initiatives at high-level with everyone in the company and help align everyone’s priorities.

Note: This doesn’t mean that you don’t create reports, you still do that for broader consumption — especially the Key Performance indicators that are key for success but you should look at automating most of that and focus on data analysis and find recommendations that the executives could take some action on.


what’s the role of a “Master” database in a SQL Azure world?


One of the question that pops up in the head of first-time SQL Azure user is “What is Master Database doing in my server”. They try to delete/drop it. That does not happen. Fun fact: I tried dropping Master database when I had got my hand on SQL Azure for the first time. Any-who what we speculate is that  “OMG! I paying for this SQL Azure Master database!” Wait…No, read this:

You are not charged for the SQL Azure Master Database.

Ok Good news, But why does this “read-only” master database exist?

Here is the information I have used that is available via SQL Azure Master Database:

  • It has SQL Azure usage metrics
  • It stores logins for a given SQL Azure LOGICAL server (To manage Server-Level security)
  • To view list of all databases via sys.databases
  • To create databases via TSQL. You do that by logging into master database first.

What do use SQL Azure master database for?

That’s about it for this post.

And Let’s connect! I Look forward to Interacting with you on any of these people networks:

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Step by Step guide to Export a SQL Azure Database to Azure storage via Import and Export CTP << Link to SolidQ blog


Import and Export (CTP) is an interesting SQL Azure feature that allows us to Export a SQL Azure database in form of a bacpac to Azure storage. And think of bacpac as the “zipped” version of schema and data in your database. It also allows us to import the bacpac to a SQL Azure database….Read more on SolidQ Blog: Step by Step guide to Export a SQL Azure Database to Azure storage via Import and Export CTP

How to make the best use of your SQL Azure Free Trial?


Let’s say you have signed up for a SQL Azure free trial and it allows you 1 web edition database of Max Size 1 GB for a Month. You want to make the best use of this resource to get the maximum out of it, don’t you? No worries – In this blog post, I’ll list tips and tricks which would help you get the maximum out of that 1 GB SQL Azure database in a given month.

One option is to install Adventure Works LT sample database for a month – you try connecting SSMS, run queries, create DB objects, run stored procedures and you realize that it is SQL server in cloud (SQL server vs SQL Azure) – And you used your 1 GB SQL Azure DB free trial for a month, fair enough – you did learn a few things and that’s good. Now, let me propose a slight change that will allow you to try features such as SQL Federations and SQL Data SYNC and still not go above the “free” usage limit.

Before I do that – it is important to understand this:

When you are given a 1 GB Web edition SQL Azure DB free trial for a month – it effectively means that you have “30” 1 GB web edition SQL Azure DB whose validity is one Day and this is so because – the SQL Azure billing is “on per day” basis.


Image Source: Getting started with SQL Azure – Part 3: Provisioning and Billing Model of SQL Azure << Paras Doshi

Note: The billing cycle is based on UTC format and not your “local” Timezone.

Now let’s take this one step further:

This billing model allows you to create “30” 1 GB web edition DB for 1 day – and you have exhausted your free trial cap.

Alternatively, this allows you to create “15” 1 GB web edition DB for 2 day – and you have exhausted your free trial cap.

Alternatively, this allows you to create “10” 1 GB web edition DB for 3 day – and you have exhausted your free trial cap.


And I hope – you got my point that you can spread those “30” 1 GB web edition DB in many different combinations.

Now, here is one way you can go about o spread your cap of “30” 1 GB web edition SQL Azure DB:

Number of Days
Feature Details Number of 1 GB web edition DB consumed per day
[Col1 * Col4]
5 – learn basics – connect via SSMS
– run TSQL commands
– Explore Management studio
– SQL Azure firewall
1 5/30
2 – Data SYNC Learn cloud to cloud synchronization using 1 Hub SQL Azure DB and 2 Member SQL Azure DB 3 11/30
2 – Data SYNC Learn Enterprise to cloud synchronization using 1 hub SQL server DB and 1 SQL Azure DB 1 13/30
2 – Azure reporting Learn SQL Azure reporting 1 15/30
1 – COPY TSQL command -copy a SQL Azure DB using COPY command 2 17/30
1 -SQL Azure Import/Export Export a SQL Azure DB to Azure storage blob and then import it back to a new SQL Azure DB 2 19/30
1 – SQL server to SQL Azure migration try various migration tools like SSIS, BCP, SQL Azure migration wizard to migrate SQL server DB’s to SQL Azure 3 22/30
1 – SQL Azure federations When you SPLIT a SQL Azure DB, it will perform it ONLINE. that means a single split command equals two create db command and one drop command and so for that day – you are charged for three db’s. Read more here 5 27/30
3 – Anything you may want to learn you have “3” db’s to learn any other feature 1 30/30

Now, this is not the optimum plan but it does give an idea to plan your free trial usage. I’ll tell you why the above plan is not optimum. For instance, when you try COPY command – you have two databases to play with for the rest of the day and you can do bunch of stuff with it. Other being, Once you have migrated the local SQL server db’s to cloud – you have those db’s to play with for the rest of the day. (Again, a billing day is counted based on UTC format. be aware!)

So yes. This is it! you can tweak the above plan based on your need and time you may have. feel free to post your suggestions in the comment section.