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This article was published on December 19, 2015

Beginner tips to becoming a data analyst

Beginner tips to becoming a data analyst
Amber Leigh Turner
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Amber Leigh Turner

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative

Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over ei Owner and Creative Director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, Amber has been a self-employed graphic and web designer for over eight years, starting early in her collegiate career. Amber has a unique passion for not only all things design, but all things business as well. Freelancing as a student gave Amber an opportunity to write a student freelancing book, appropriately named Students Freelancing 101: A Start to Finish Course to Becoming a Student Freelancing, to help other students who want to start freelancing. Follow her on Twitter. Email her at

The new year is quickly approaching and it is common during this time for people to start thinking of a career change or step up their careers for the new year. For some, a career in data analysis may be an appealing option.

If you enjoy working with numbers and algebraic functions, reverse-engineering other people’s work, and enjoy sharing what you’ve learned with the world, then data analyst may be an appealing career choice for you.

For those who are interested in or just beginning a career in data analysis, here’s a few tips to help you get started, along with a nice deal on some courses to help you get started learning right away.

Be willing to learn

With any new career, willingness to learn something new can take you far. This is even more true in the data analysis field where the work you do could impact future decisions and moves within a company.

Curtis Silver, Business Analyst for Petco Support Services has this to say about staying open to learning new things:

“Show a willingness to learn. Companies don’t want to hire an entry-level analyst that isn’t going to show an ability to mold and grow with the company. This is their data, they want someone who is willing to help their company evolve, not strictly tell them what to do. Your job as an analyst is to advise the business based on trends and forecasts, in order to do this competently, you have to not only understand the technical aspects of the job, but the human aspects of the business.”

Gobble up and soak in any knowledge you can

Right there with being willing to learn is actually putting that willingness to use. Search out new information and educate yourself about your field. Learn new tools, new techniques, and new ways to do things. Immerse yourself in all there is to learn about being a data analyst.

Being a sponge in learning data analysis (and with any field) can only reap the benefits. Much like Silver said above, companies want someone who can take their data and draw conclusions and trends from it. These trends and conclusions can be drawn much sooner and much more accurately from those take the time to immerse themselves in data analysis and take in all they can.

This goes for your tools as well. Here’s what Jade Le Van, Data Analyst at Tableau Software recommends with learning your tools:

“Know your tools – there are tons of tools out there to make your life easier, particularly data scrapers to help you get your hands on even more data. These can range from the simple ImportHTML formula in Google spreadsheets and the Chrome Web Scraper extension to more elaborate tools such as Outwit Hub or”

Start small, then move on up

With data analysis, it’s important to start small and learn the basics and foundations before moving on and tackling bigger things. Andy Cotgreave, Senior Technical Evangelist at Tableau Software offers up this piece of advice:

“Don’t run before you can crawl. If you want to get into visualization, it’s an amazing, creative field. To succeed, however, you really should know the foundations first. Reading the right books is the best way to get this right.”

Building a solid foundation of education in the beginning helps you know the basics and allows you to work on building your skills and knowledge as you progress through your career.

Start with what you know
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When you begin learning how to work with data and are eager to put your skills to use, find something that interests you and that you already have experience or knowledge about.

“Start with what you know – Probably the best way to learn how to analyze and explore data is to begin with something close and familiar to you. This could be data around sports, music, movies, or information from your local city, but analyzing a topic that you’re passionate about can make the introduction to analytics that much easier (and fun!).” – Jade Le Van, Data Analyst, Tableau Software.

This helps to increase your interest in the data and helps you learn more about it because not only are you learning about data sets and drawing your own analyst, you’re also deeply interested in the data and subject matter surrounding the data.

Be ready to work with numbers a lot

If you’re a whiz at numbers and algebraic equations, then becoming a data analyst is right up your alley. Data analysts work with numbers, formulas, and charts all day long, so being able to keep up with the paces helps with this.

“Make sweet brain love to the data. Numbers are now your life. Whether it be human resources (turnover, staffing analysis), marketing (sales, web analytics) or finance (accounting, profitability, trending) — these are your numbers now. Take the time to understand where they come from, what they mean and how knowing, trending and forecasting them helps the business operate.” – Curtis Silver, Business Analyst for Petco Support Services.

Numbers are your friend in data analysis and learning to work with them in new but challenging ways is important when developing a career as a data analyst.  If you don’t have any data in which you can work with or manipulate, here’s a great open source site where you can find data to work with.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Self-teaching can only get you so far before you find yourself needing help. Two experts I talked to about data analysis both recommend asking for help and connecting with a community in order to help advance your skills.

“Practice. Share. Learn. Repeat. The dataviz community is very engaged and will be constructive with criticism if you ask for it. Keep practicing. The experts were all amateurs once and only became expert by continually trying new things out, and learning which aspects worked and which didn’t.” – Andy Cotgreave, Senior Technical Evangelist, Tableau Software

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I started out, there was a lot I didn’t know. Asking Senior level analysts for technical help such as formulas or using query languages isn’t as terrible as it might seem.” – Curtis Silver, Business Analyst at Petco Support Services

You can’t do it alone, and not seeing out help can cost you opportunities as you progress through your career. Reaching out isn’t a sign of defeat or being unknowledgeable, it shows that you’re passionate and want to learn more but need the proper guidance to get you there.


Becoming a data analyst is a great career option for those who love to work with numbers and want to help companies and organizations draw conclusions and arm them with the information they need to make important decisions.

If you’re looking to get into data analysis and want to learn more for yourself, there’s a great deal going on over on TNW Deals that will help you get started your career very affordably. The Essential Data Mastery Bundle offers up over 36 hours of instruction that allows you to extract, manipulate, manage, and analyze data sets.

This course is being offered over on The Next Web Deals for $39 (that’s 94 percent off of the normal $661). It is designed to help beginners build the foundation they need along with additional courses to help build upon that foundation.

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