Soft Skills to Advance your Data Analytics Career
Working in data analytics undoubtedly demands that practitioners are technically skilled. However, it’s important not to discount the value of soft skills, particularly if you’re looking to move up the data analytics career ladder. But which are the soft skills you need to set your data career on the track to success?
For candidates coming directly from university, one of the key skills employers will be looking for is communication. What can happen with university graduates is that they’ll have boxed themselves into a cultural clique. It’s natural for people to socialise with friends who speak the same language or share the same cultural background, but the issue then is once they venture into the business world, they haven’t had enough exposure or practice with communicating at a business-appropriate level. Colloquial English will only get you so far, but it’s unlikely to get you past the interview stage of the data analytics jobs you’re pursuing.
For client engagement roles, whether you’re looking to get into consulting or wanting to work for one of the software vendors or even come into a support type role, you need to have solid communication skills. That means you have the ability to talk to a client, understand what they’re looking for and conduct the necessary root cause analysis. Certainly, jobs in data analytics require you to have technical know-how but at the end of the day people want to understand what information you are going to be able to extract from their data.
Yes, data analysts are aided by data analytics tools such as Qlik and Tableau but those communication skills are still a top priority.
As you progress through your career, more senior data analytics professionals are expected to bring a different set of skills to the table. Customer intelligence is one; understanding and knowing your customers, understanding the way they think, understanding why the data would be making certain suggestions. Furthermore, is presentation skills. Data professionals at a more senior level must be able to stand up in a room and talk to a client in the pursuit of requirement gathering as they find out exactly what the client is looking to do, which may be at odds with what they should do.
As you move through your data career you have to be able to assess the bigger picture, asking ‘why is the data telling us that?’, ‘what’s the reason for it telling us that?’. You’ll need to be able to interact with non-technical people who want to understand more about the business side of data. If you’re looking at internal data jobs, the presentation element is perhaps less important, but you will be working with stakeholders and will need to understand what the objective is. It’s not just a case of running the data at face value, you need to be able to probe further and challenge what you’re doing in order to help the business develop it into a viable outcome.
Other soft skills such as the willingness to be flexible and a team player, as well as undoubtedly having an aptitude for critical thinking will also contribute to your career development. However, communication, understanding the business holistically and having the confidence and curiosity to challenge both clients and the data itself to get the most useful and accurate information are the foundations to getting ahead in your data analytics career..