Data Analyst roles are in high-demand, with over 50,000 jobs posted in the last year at an average advertised salary of $105,540. According to the recent General Assembly report, Blurring Lines: How Business and Technology Skills Are Merging to Create High Opportunity Hybrid Jobs, Data Analysts “are typically expected to use data to drive insights and make a business case by generating hypotheses, developing creative problem solving approaches, and using data visualization to communicate results and strategy implications.” Data analyst roles often require business, marketing, and technical skill sets- a true Hybrid role.
Darshan Sangani is a perfect example of this Hybrid role revolution. He was on a sales track at Megnetics, a startup company that he loved, but wanted to transition into a Data Analyst role. He enrolled in a part-time General Assembly Data Analytics course and is now a Sales Analyst, employing both the skills he learned at General Assembly and his background in Sales.
What you were up to before you decided to take a General Assembly class?
I studied Supply Chain Management and Operations Management at the University of Maryland. I worked for a corporate organization after graduating and I really wanted to transition into a startup. I quit my job about 6 months in and joined a startup called Magnetic. I was on a sales path at Magnetic, and I realized I wanted to revisit my roots and get back to the business and data analysis that I was doing in that corporate setting.
So your goal in doing the Data Analytics course wasn’t to get a new job, but to change your career path within your current company.
Right. I wanted to do data analysis but in a startup environment because my company is awesome.
What is Magnetic?
Magnetic is a digital marketing company that focuses specifically on search retargeting.
What does a data analyst do?
Data Analytics is garnering insight from collected data. You can generate insights from that raw data through cleanup and different manipulations to make sense of it. There is usually a story in that data that is beneficial to a businesses.
What types of jobs can you get with data analytics skills?
I work in the Business Intelligence department right now, specifically as a Sales Analyst. I had a background in sales, so it just made sense; I know how a sales organization works.
Data Science is much more technical and business-oriented. You can really do a lot with Data Analysis skills, but data science is a different beast altogether. General Asssembly actually has a Data Science course, which I may pursue in future.
Why did you choose General Assembly? What factors did you consider?
To be completely frank with you, I work close to the General Assembly classroom, and that location was important. It also definitely had a good online presence and seemed like something I would be interested in.
Is Data Analysis something that you could teach yourself online?
There are a lot of different sources that you can use. I know Coursera and Udacity have online tracks in SQL training.
I wanted to learn the skills but I didn’t really have the discipline to do it independently after work. Just having the accountability to do homework assignments, attend class, was good for me in a sense that it forced me to do it.
So I chose to pay a little more of a premium to have the opportunity to attend a class and network with people.
What was the application like for you? Did you need a certain background to get into the Data Analytics class?
On a phone interview, the GA team vets your background and what you’re trying to get from the class; sort of a pre-interview to see if you were “qualified,” but there are no prerequisites to have a specific background. They have a screening process to ensure your learning goals align with the curriculum and environment.
Did you ask your employer, Magnetic, to sponsor the General Assembly Data Analytics course?
I did not, and looking back on it, it’s probably something I should have done. When I decided to take the class I was relatively new to the organization so I didn’t ask that question right away but it’s definitely something I would consider doing after my positive experience at GA.
How many hours a week did the course take you?
The course was twice a week, three hours each class, so 6 hours in total.
Were you working on projects outside of those class hours?
Yes, you have homework assignments for the first 5 weeks and then the last 5 weeks was spent on your final project, which is the culmination of the whole course. You apply all of the techniques that you learned and you put it towards a project interesting to you- it can be about anything as long as it uses two data sources. The idea is to use Excel and SQL to join the two data sources and tell a story from the data.
Who were the instructors in your class?
We had an instructor and two TAs. The instructor was a data analytics manager at American Express. The two TAs work for New York State in data analyst positions.
What was the teaching style like?
This is something I definitely liked about the class. It was very interactive in the sense that there was very little lecture. Their whole philosophy is based on the “I do it, we do it, you do it” method.
The idea is that first, the instructor shows the class how to do a specific concept, and then you do it together as a class. Then you work on that concept by yourself for homework assignments. I’m not the type of person that can listen to boring lectures, so I definitely appreciated the teaching style that General Assembly used.
What did you think about the teaching style in your undergrad compared to this type of class?
I would say that GA was much better in the sense that we didn’t really go through a lot of theory; it’s more about getting into the nitty-gritty of the application of what you’ll be doing on a job. I like that because it really cuts through the B.S.
How many people were in your cohort?
There were 27 people in my cohort.
Was it a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
Yes, and that was another really good part that I liked. People came from really different backgrounds professionally, socially, and culturally, so it was a very dynamic mix of people.
Tell us about those varied professional backgrounds- did everyone have the same motivations for being in the class?
Everyone had different reasons for taking the course. Some people wanted to stay at their company and change departments like myself; others wanted to switch jobs entirely; others were not motivated by the job, they just wanted to learn the skills.
Everyone’s motives were different and everyone was at different places in their career. Some were fresh out of college and wanted to get back into the classroom. Some were much more experienced, working for 10 years and trying to make a pivot in their career.
What technologies did you learn in the Data Analysis course?
A lot of people know Excel, but everyone is looking for that next layer. The real reason I took the course was to learn SQL and Tableau. Tableau is a Data Visualization application software used to make graphs and visualize findings. Those two core skills are very marketable in the job world.
Were there assessments or tests throughout the course?
Yes; the instructors gave feedback on every homework assignment and we had a mid-course and final project. We were held accountable for work that we completed (you need to complete at least 80% of the homework and the projects to complete the course). We were also given feedback on our final project, which we worked on for the bulk of the course.
Can you tell us more about one of the projects that you worked on during the class?
Throughout the course, our whole class worked with one data set, which was Citi Bikes data. The amount of data was obviously way too big for Excel, so we had to use strategies in SQL to trim that data down to a manageable level; then we could import that into Excel and do the analyses that we wanted to do.
I appreciated having that continuous data source because you can go through the progression and the process with the same data and get to know the data really well.
What did you find out about Citi Bikes in New York?
We found that men use CitiBikes a lot more than women. We found out what the most crowded stops are. I think the most popular was on 1st Ave. We looked at average trip durations, which station-to-station route was the most common; all sorts of different types of information that is useful to know if you are managing Citi Bike to make your product better.
Tell us about your individual final project!
I’m a huge sports fan, so I used sports data, particularly NBA draft picks. I selected the picks between 11 through 60 and my sample size was 20 years. Everyone had the choice to pick a data set that was of interest to them. It always makes work fun when you actually care about the data!
So during this class, you were working at Magnetics with the intention of switching career paths within your job. How did you go about that career change?
I told my boss that I was doing this Data Analysis course, and didn’t say explicitly that I wanted to switch roles; but my team could see that I was doing a lot of ad hoc data projects in my sales role. The class was just icing on the cake. They could see that I was taking the initiative to do a class to better understand data.
It was a combination of me expressing that I wanted to move in that direction and then taking an action to support that decision.
It sounds like you also have a supportive boss and team, too.
Yeah, which is extremely helpful.
Was there a lot of emphasis on job prep in this Data Analysis class?
We learned team skills, how to market our new skills in resumes, and got the opportunity to network with our peers, instructors, guest speakers, and other students and alumni in the GA community. There’s more emphasis on job prep in the full-time classes (our class was part-time) who get a dedicated career coach.
So what is your new role at Magnetic?
I’m a Sales Analyst. I look at our sales pipeline and our revenue and forecast future revenue and report it to our business intelligence team and management.
Do the skills you learned in the Data Analysis class apply directly to this new job?
A lot of it does- I’m not using SQL yet, but my manager introduced me to the team who does manage our data warehouse. That’s not my core function, but a lot of the Excel and SQL skills obviously helps because there are a lot of complex formulas. Learning that at GA definitely helped me in my current role for sure.
It sounds like you’re on a track towards doing the Data Science Course. Have you thought about it seriously?
Learning data analysis certainly prepares you with core skills, but the data science class calls for some prerequisites in coding Python. So I think there is definitely work to be done in the interim between those two classes.
I just finished the class, so I’m trying to chill for a bit, but I will address those gaps and then will look at the data science track!
Want to learn more about the General Assembly Data Analytics course that Darshan took? Check out their website here!