What Makes A Good Analyst? 6 Vital Skills for those in Analytics

August 14, 2015

Collective Measures

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When it comes to digital marketing, the ability to collect accurate data is critical, but is meaningless without someone to analyze it. What exactly is the role of a Digital Analyst? What’s the difference between someone who knows their stuff and someone who doesn’t? 

Whether you are interested in entering the analytics field or hiring a new analyst, here’s a list of the characteristics that bring Analysts to the next level.

1. Learn and adapt quickly to new and changing interfaces.

As a Data Analyst you will be asked to pull data from at least one platform, often times multiple. Given the nature of the industry, the sources of data are constantly changing and new platforms are always in a state of development. To be a successful analyst you must be comfortable having to pull data from a platform that you may have little or no training with, and to learn from doing. Do not be scared to jump into an interface you have never worked with before.

2. Be flexible and patient.

There are often several people or committees that will provide input about the report you have created before it gets sent to the client. In order to be a strong link in your team, you have to take the feedback and make the changes without getting annoyed or offended. Just because you know the data does not mean you know everything about the client, and it is important to remember that other members of the team may know more about what they are looking for. While it may be frustrating to go back and slightly manipulate the data twelve separate times, those advising you have an end goal in mind; to be a productive and helpful member of the team you must be able to approach every edit with a good attitude.

3. Love looking at spreadsheets of data for hours on end (or at least able to bare it).

If you do not have a genuine interest in data and statistical analysis, then analytics is not for you. More than most professions, you will quickly become miserable without an enthusiasm for numbers and spreadsheets. Even with a passion for data, spending hours on end looking at rows of numbers is enough to stir one’s inner insanity. If you are entering analytics purely for the money or the fame, you may want to reconsider career fields.

4. Have a comprehensive knowledge of the programs and platforms used.

It is always good to learn new interfaces quickly, but nothing beats the strong, in-depth understanding of the tools used that comes from training. Many companies that made the platforms you use to pull data have also created terrific tutorial videos to train people how to use them. Google, for example, has hours of videos to give their users a better understanding of Google Analytics, AdWords, Tag Manager, and other tools. Beyond the officially-released training materials, there are several third party websites that give some insight in using the tools. KhanAcademy, for example, has over one hundred videos on how to use Microsoft Excel, and even more articles with more user information. There is also a seemingly endless supply of forum boards to ask any question you may have (and oftentimes the question has already been asked and answered).

Once you know what tool(s) you will primarily be using, I urge you to invest the time in becoming trained or even certified. Even if you are confident in your ability to use the platform, there are always new functions and shortcuts to be learned. Oftentimes when learning a tool on your own you will figure out how to use it, but not as efficiently as possible. The more training taken, the more efficient and productive a worker you will be. Plus, it will be easier to use the tool, ergo less (tedious) work for you.

5. Be able to creatively solve problems.

I know analytics is typically thought to be near the bottom of the creative professions list, but that does not mean that you are excused from thinking outside of the box to solve problems. A large part of my job has been to streamline the efficiency of populating pre-existing reports. Though that sentence may scream “non-creative” to many of you, it actually requires being able to approach the situation from all angles and come up with an original solution.

6. Be passionate about your work.

Okay, this is not analytics specific, but that does not make it any less true. In the short amount of time I have spent working in an analytics department, one thing I have noticed is not only how little people complain about their jobs, but how genuinely excited they are about their work. Every week in our departmental status meeting my fellow analysts and I are asked about something that we are working on that is particularly fun or interesting. This question is rarely ever left hanging in the air, as the analysts almost always have a project quickly come to mind. The answers often vary from a totally new type of project they’ve started to a new use for an Excel formula, and the enthusiasm is always high, no matter how broad or specific the project is.

This is what I consider to be the most important trait of an analyst. All the other listed skills can be cultivated and honed, but without a raw passion for analytics, you will likely never be able to work at your maximum potential.

Obviously, this is not a scientifically backed list of requirements. All necessary qualifications will change depending on the employer, the position, and the employee. This is simply a list of characteristics I, an analytics intern, have noticed to be universally present in all of the analysts with which I work.

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