How to Learn Analytics Skills with Andrew Jones from Data Science Infinity

Andrew has interviewed and screened hundreds of data scientists and analytics candidates. Through these interviews and screenings, he has learned a lot about candidates and knows the behind the scenes of the hiring process. Overtime he has noticed that there is a gap and disconnect between what people learn in courses, including college/university courses and online courses through sites like Udemy, and what hiring managers are looking for in a candidate. Andrew created Data Science Infinity to bridge that gap.

Some of the flaws he has seen in candidates include jumping into deep learning projects before getting to know the fundamentals of basic machine learning algorithms and other simpler techniques that can solve a business problem. He also shared how he has seen a large volume of candidates hyper focused on skills and tools and not on the value and impact that they bring. Skills and tools are super important, but they do not add value in isolation. They need to be used in ways that show you can solve a business problem.

Something going on in the education place is that skills and education are being commodified and this is resulting in people stacking up certifications without fully knowing how to use those skills to bring value. This is not to say that getting certifications is a bad thing. Certifications give you a base level of education with a tool that familiarizes you with the buttons and features and most of the time a certificate shows just that. However, a certification does not show that you know how to use a tool’s features to drive a business outcome. Education space is capitalizing on people having anxiety around feeling like they need these certifications to break into the analytics space or to grow their career.

Data Analysts and scientists are hired to drive value by solving business problems, you are not getting paid to just sit in a room and “be smart” for knowing how to use different tools and press buttons. Practically anyone can be trained to plug data into a tool and press different buttons to use its features. Therefore, when people create content for courses targeted for people breaking into the data space it is a responsibility to make it their educational priority to deliver content that will help their students advance and see results. Unfortunately, a lot of content is focused solely on delivering certificates when in reality a certificate on its own is not going to hold any weight when speaking to a hiring manager. You need to take getting a certificate a step further to show that it truly adds to your skillset.

A simple yet efficient way of achieving this on your resume is to add a “Key Learnings” line explaining how the skills you learned through the certification process can help solve business problems and add value to a business or organization. This way a certificate will mean something to a hiring manager, you need to frame your certifications in a way that makes them about the value you can bring to the table when applying for a role. Andrew revealed that hiring managers want to see what you can do that will make them look good. This is not something they will say or ask you directly but according to Andrew that is the bottom line. Hiring managers are looking for what will make the team you are hired into look good with your performance and what will make the company more money which will in turn make that hiring manager look good.

When diving into online courses the large number of courses out there can be very overwhelming. For those new to the data space, it can be very hard to choose which course to take or what certification to go for. Andrew advices people to research the course creator or instructor and to opt for courses taught by people who have experience in the type of companies or the field you want to work in. If you can find someone who has experience in a company or a role that you are interested in it could indicate that you will be taught by them in a way that will help you get in the right direction to landing the job that you want.  Doing this can give you a better idea of what you will get from the course. If the course offers any previews into the material, it is a good idea to go over it to get a sense of the teaching style. Even if a course has great reviews if it does not mesh with the way you learn you might not get the best learning experience.

Another great point that Andrew made about online learning is that you need to choose what you put your time into wisely. Do not take a course just because everyone else is learning that cool flashy tool. You need to focus your efforts into what will get you into the roles you want. Look for courses that teach the skills that are necessary and in demand for those roles. In other words, do not fall into the trap of going through courses and certifications that LinkedIn or other social media influences everyone else to take just for the sake of their popularity.

At the end of the day your learning experience should revolve around your ultimate goals. Learn the analytics skills necessary in a way that allows you to use those skills to drive value. When learning new skills and applying them to projects you should always keep the possible business goals and problems in mind and when speaking about your skills frame them in a way that highlights your ability to think like a great analyst.