I ended up being a Data Analyst almost completely by accident – but I’m so grateful that it happened because I love my work now. At school I had no idea what career I wanted and picked Psychology to study at Warwick University simply because it was interesting, although working in that field didn’t appeal after graduation. It was while on a temping job that I started getting into data analytics; some of my tasks involved using Excel and I must have been good at it because the company kept giving me more and more advanced data tasks, which was really enjoyable. Eventually I just asked the data team manager how I might secure a job. He told me to go away and learn a coding language, which I did – from a book – and then I applied for a vacancy on his team – and got it.
It’s been satisfying to have found something fulfilling to do for work after so many years of feeling a bit lost. The logic of working with data is the appeal – you’re given a problem and have all the tools to solve it, you just need time to figure out the best possible solution. It’s satisfying in much the same way as Maths was at school, which I did at A Level as well as taking Further Maths. However complex the problem, the answer can be found if you have all the formula. Plus, my own experience has shown me that you can gain the skills you need by yourself; there are no hard topics, there are only things you haven’t learnt yet.
I don’t have a Computer Science degree which can sometimes give me a sense of imposter syndrome, but only on the bad days. On other days I am proud that I reached this point by learning the skills from a book, via online courses, by asking my colleagues or just Googling. The technology industry is changing so fast that there is plenty that you simply learn as and when it happens around you – you couldn’t learn that at university. Moving into the industry in the way I have has allowed me to follow my nose, exploring areas I find interesting, learning from those around me and finding a place for my natural skills to thrive.
As a Data Analyst at Nominet, the majority of my work is responding to the data requests submitted by people across the business who need data. Sound data is required for all sorts of reasons, such as knowing how well something is working or how it can be changed if there is a problem, as well as helping inform a business decision. Part of my job is understanding what data people want, finding it and then designing a dashboard that pulls it together in a visual way that my ‘clients’ can immediately understand and access. It’s about helping people, which is lovely but can also be stressful as the process of getting, analysing and presenting information can take time which you might not have and the data can be critical for them to move onto their next stage or task. The pressure keeps it interesting, though.
A successful data analyst is someone who is logical, curious about numbers, and enjoys solving problems and learning new things. Good communication skills are vital, as so much of the job involves translating complex technical detail into a language non-technical people can understand, as well as finding out from them what they need so you can create the data solutions that work best for them. I’ve also realised how much creativity there is in a job like this; because there are many different solutions, you have to design and deliver the one that best serves the purpose and suits the person. It’s a challenge at times, but so fulfilling when you feel you’ve nailed it.
There is so much more to learn in this field and I love working alongside people who do slightly different jobs to me, such as the Data Scientists or Web Developers. There are also many programming languages for learning – I taught myself Python last year – and so it’s easy to keep adding more skills into the mix, more tools for solving problems. I certainly feel I am only just scratching the surface of this work and will follow my interests wherever they take me, gaining the skills I need for success. The tech industry is pretty unique for enabling that progression and offering such a rich diversity of jobs with transferable skills.
My Dad worked as a Computer Programmer but in my years of teenage rebellion I vowed that I would never do what he did. I assumed that my parents would have liked me to study accountancy or medicine, something that would set me on a ‘successful’ career in the old-fashioned sense, but I only wanted to focus on what I found interesting. It seems odd that my career is now in the same industry as Dad’s, but it’s a very happy accident! Now he shares advice and highlights courses that he thinks I might enjoy – and is thrilled I’m a Data Analyst. It’s been special that we can share something and having him really understand what I do. It’s funny how life works out sometimes.
In past jobs I have at times been conscious of my gender in a generally male-dominated industry and sadly have been in a position where a handful of people didn’t seem to recognise and value my skills as they would a male colleague. It was incredibly frustrating and a bit disheartening because I was so young and so new to the industry, but it made me all the more determined to succeed. Securing the job with Nominet meant a huge deal because I felt I proved my worth as a Data Analyst, and the environment here is just great – I definitely feel valued. There are actually more women than men in my data team now, which is a rare thing in this sector. And my whole team is lovely and supportive, regardless of their gender. I’m glad I wasn’t scared out of the industry by a few bad apples, because it is truly an exciting place to be.