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data analyst

A Practical Guide to Become a Data Analyst in 2024

Introduction

Being a data analyst in 2024 is one of the most promising career options, given the rising demand for individuals possessing strong analytical skills. However, looking at the excessive amount of resources available on the internet, one can easily get lost on where to start and learn the necessary skills. This blog will cover a simplified and structured approach one can follow as a beginner to become a proficient data analyst in 2024. 

Who is a Data Analyst? 

A huge amount of data is generated every minute. Companies seek skilled data analyst professionals who can collect, organize, and effectively analyze this data to provide valuable insights on how to tackle similar challenges in the future.

Data analysts work collaboratively with data scientists and data engineers to make data-driven decisions that benefit the company.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Analyst

In a typical day, the life of a data analyst revolves around collecting data from different sources, cleaning and organizing data, performing exploratory data analysis, and creating visualizations to identify trends and patterns. The next step involves extracting insights from the data and presenting these findings to stakeholders to determine what is best for everyone. Here, effective communication skills play a pivotal role, as this defines your ability to convey the results to the stakeholders. 

The better the communication, the better the decisions will be. Data analysts are always open to learning new skills to apply the best possible analysis to their data.

How to become a Data Analyst

1. Tools and Programming Languages 

First and foremost, let’s talk about the tools that a data analyst uses daily at work for data analytics processes such as collecting, analyzing, visualizing, and reporting data. I have listed these tools without any specific order in mind, and you can learn them all gradually as your journey progresses. Remember this key principle: focus on one thing at a time.

SQL

As a data analyst, a significant portion of your work involves working with huge databases. SQL, or Structured Query Language, serves as the primary tool for accessing, storing, and analyzing information within these databases effortlessly. SQL provides advanced query functions, which allow you to extract specific data and draw conclusions from it.

Python or R

Python and R are popular programming languages used for data analysis processes. Depending on your preference, you can opt to learn either one of them or both. Python is often preferred by beginners due to its relatively simpler syntax, which sets a strong foundation for getting started. R provides a more streamlined approach for statistical analysis and data visualization, with packages like ggplot2, and is used mostly by data scientists. 

While Python libraries like NumPy and Pandas are used for exploratory data analysis, other libraries, including Matplotlib, Seaborn, and Plotly, are used to create beautiful visualizations. Learning these libraries will not take much of your time and will make your analysis much easier, setting you apart from the rest of the crowd.

Tableau or PowerBI 

While you can easily visualize data using the various libraries mentioned above, when working as a data analyst, you are expected to present comprehensive reports of your analysis. Popular dashboarding tools like Tableau and PowerBI are used for this purpose, which are known for their user-friendly drag-and-drop interfaces and extensive customization features. 

Data analysts utilize them to transform their raw analysis into interactive dashboards that can be presented to stakeholders. Both Tableau and PowerBI are prominent tools and are easy to learn, so getting used to both of the tools can be advantageous for anyone getting into this field. For an in-depth comparison, refer to this blog.

Microsoft Excel

The Microsoft ecosystem requires no introduction. Microsoft Excel is known for its powerful numerical and statistical analysis proficiency on spreadsheets. It is the fundamental tool for organizations that use it for data collection, analysis, and manipulation. Learning advanced Excel functions like CONCATENATE, SUM, AVERAGE, ROUND, SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, IF/ELSE analysis, VLOOKUP, and pivot tables will help you a lot in your day-to-day analysis tasks.

Additionally, real-time collaboration tools like Google Sheets, which offer flexibility to teams within an organization, can be a valuable addition to your resume.

Statistics

Last but not least, a strong knowledge of statistics can really help in selecting the most relevant parameters to make the most of the analysis, which will subsequently help you conclude with meaningful insights and find trends and patterns in the data. 

 

One should have a knowledge of basic statistical concepts, such as the distinction between inferential and descriptive statistics, probability, significance of hypothesis testing, distribution of data, skewness, variation, and standard deviation.

2. Build A Strong Portfolio

Learning the skills is one thing; applying them is another. Knowing how to apply the tools mentioned above to practical use cases is an indicator of how well you have mastered all these tools and technologies.

Here are some tips to build a strong portfolio that will significantly increase your prospects of securing a job as a data analyst:

Practice Building Projects

Use resources like YouTube, Medium, tech blogs, and tutorials to build projects as a beginner and stay updated with new tools and technologies. Once you get an idea, try replicating the projects with a different dataset.

Use Free Datasets

Utilize hundreds of datasets available online, free to use through platforms like Kaggle, GitHub, Google dataset search, data.gov, and the UCI Machine Learning Repository. Start by understanding the data first and doing the analysis on your own.

Curate Your Portfolio

Explore prominent different sectors available in the market like media, marketing, e-commerce, social media, sports, healthcare, and finance. Pick industry-specific datasets that align with your interests and that you would want to pursue further as a career option, and make projects related to them. This targeted approach will make your profile credible and relevant to recruiters from similar industries.

Address Meaningful Problems

Focus on solving problems that will actually benefit the data. Be practical, and ensure that the analysis is impactful by properly addressing the issues in the particular industry. 

Indulge in Hackathons

Engage and actively take part in both offline and online hackathons, such as those on Kaggle. This will not only provide you with hands-on experience with real-world datasets but also boost your confidence in your skills. Many hackathons also provide opportunities to connect with potential companies and employers, giving you a direct chance to showcase your skills to the right people.

Review Your Resume Regularly

Always ensure your resume is up-to-date and tailored by using target keywords relevant to the data analyst role you are applying for. Clearly explain your portfolio projects and their analysis using concise bullet points for better clarity.

Hosting Your Portfolio

There are various options to host your portfolio online, such as GitHub repositories. Open-source platforms like GitHub make your work publicly available and increase your visibility among potential employers. 

Additionally, you can also create a personal website to showcase your work online. This contributes to personal branding and a powerful online presence for your work.

3. Build Your Personal Brand

The current market is saturated. One needs to really stand out in order to be recognized. A personal brand helps you do the same by creating a unique identity for your skills and contributions to the community.

Following are some of the potential methods to establish yourself online:

Write Blogs

Try writing a new blog as you learn any new concept or technology. There are a lot of tech-focused blogging platforms like Medium, Dev.to, Hackernoon, and Hashnode where you can contribute by publishing tutorials or detailed guides related to data analytics. This serves as a credibility of your skills and the ability to simplify complex topics in a professional yet beginner-friendly manner. You can also write about your interview experiences, as it will help others prepare and learn from your mistakes.

Networking

Share your work online and actively engage in discussions on platforms like LinkedIn, as it will help you get recognized among professionals and receive feedback on your work as well. This will not only improve your communication skills but also keep your profile active and relevant to recruiters.

Stay Updated

Keep in touch with technical blogs to stay updated with new tools and tech stacks in the market. Remember that data science is a constantly evolving field, so continuous learning becomes a perpetual process that ensures your skills remain proficient and up-to-date in this industry.

Final Words

As we conclude, here are some tips that will help you in the long run in this journey to become a data analyst:

–   A data analyst should have strong communication skills in order to properly convey the findings that resonate with stakeholders. Focus and continuously refine both your soft skills and technical knowledge. Keep in mind that technical skills alone will not be sufficient to work in this industry.

–  A data analyst should have great data storytelling skills to present analysis reports in a compelling and easy-to-understand manner. Read about data storytelling and try implementing the techniques on your dashboards as well. 

–  To really understand the analysis, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the industry you are working with, the data you need to deal with, and the audience you need to present it to. Pick an industry that genuinely interests you and constantly expand your knowledge on a practical level.

By following this approach and keeping in mind the above discussed points, securing a data analyst role in the current market is less intimidating and easily achievable with constant effort.

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Shreya Purohit

Shreya Purohit

As a data wizard and technical writer, I demystify complex concepts of data science and data analytics into bite-sized nuggets that are easy for anyone to understand.

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