Alex: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Alex: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Today, we're bringing you an interview with Alex - he currently works as a BI Manager at AWS.

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Hi Alex! I'm super pumped to feature you on Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi everyone, I'm Alex Mendez - a BI Manager at AWS. My team is responsiblefor the product analytics and data strategy across all business verticals including Buyer Journey, Seller Experiences, and Foundational APIs.

Please share with us your current Data Analyst role, what company you work for, and what your day to day looks like.

As a Manager, my primary focus is on building and developing the talent within my team. Outside of that I work cross-functionally with Product and Engineering leadership to ensure each new feature launch has the requisite telemetry to track product adoption and success criteria. This enables our partners to make more informed, data driven decisions and helps to drive product strategy. We also do deep dive analysis into different problem areas to inform leadership on key trends - things like Lifetime value analysis, post procurement experience, and customer journey mapping.

Can you share with us how you entered the data analytics industry, and tell us about your first data analyst role?

My first role was an internship with a BI SaaS platform. This opportunity allowed me to quickly gain exposure to leadership across multiple domains like hedge fund analytics, manufacturing and distribution, and real estate management.

What is it that you're personally finding most exciting about being a data analyst?

The impact of the role on business decisions is my favorite part. Working on an analysis with multiple teams and finally reaching that eureka moment where you can bring the findings to leadership is always exciting.

You've grown your career, from an individual contributor to now being a manager of a team of 11 - what would you say are the most important behaviours / skills that help data analysts progress toward a managerial role?

For aspiring managers the top thing I would recommend is to really evaluate if you want to progress into this role for the right reasons. Effective leaders know they are only as good as their team, look to unblock where possible, and consistently focus on developing and helping guide their reports careers. Conflict resolution, strong written and verbal communication, in addition to business acumen would be the things I recommend focusing on for aspiring managers. The transition from IC to Manager is difficult, as you now scale through your team and don't directly deliver as you once did. It is a rewarding path for those who are committed to it.

Do you have a vision of what you'd like your next career growth to look like?

I see two paths my career can grow into and one is not traditional at all. Managing high performing teams and being a strategic partner for leadership is something I'm enjoying and can see myself growing more. Ideally, I'd like to get some product manager and software engineering resources on my team to scale and build data products like an experimentation platform, AI/ML workloads on our datasets, etc. The other path I'm interested in exploring is as a Tech Policy advisor for Congressional representatives. There are a few programs that support this transition and it's one I've been considering lately.

Something that a lot of people are wondering and asking about - what recommendations would you give to someone who is looking to join the data industry and get their first full-time data analyst position?

I've been mentoring a few folks on this recently, ranging from college gradsto mid-career individuals in non-tech roles. My recommendation to each is to build an end to end portfolio of work. An example is using python to webscrape information from a website and persist to a normalized datastructure in a database, using SQL to write queries and analyze thatinformation, and then use Tableau or PowerBI to visualize results and share insights. Each step of this process is important for a rockstar Data Analyst/BI Engineer and will showcase the capability to do the work for hiring managers. In addition to this, you must network with people in your field as that is the path of least resistance for landing a new role. 

Anything you'd like to highlight, or add?

Don’t forget the non-technical skills. Most folks I see trying to break into this industry put ALL of their energy into learning technical skills. Those are important - but they are the bare minimum. Also, anyone can learn them. If you were able to learn SQL and Tableau in a few weeks or months - so can all of the other folks applying for the same jobs as you.  

Where I see job - and even internship - candidates actually stand out is on the “soft” skills like communication, domain knowledge, business acumen, problem solving, curiosity, and being a self-starter. I’ve seen really bright internship candidates get passed over for candidates who were also bright but successfully demonstrated that they can take initiative and solve problems without a lot of hand-holding. I’ve seen a lot of really smart job candidates get rejected because they struggled during an interview to explain themselves clearly. The reality is, it’s not uncommon to have a stakeholder who lacks quantitative skills. A big part of your job is getting that person to understand your work. So start practicing. Try to explain the things you’re learning in simple terms to your partner or roommate or parents or friends (or record yourself). When you do projects for your portfolio, create a summary that someone with no context and no math skills would understand.

Extra one, out of curiosity if you have an opinion on this - With the rise of ChatGPT / Bard, do you see AI being a risk to data analysts?

No. I'm on the side that LLMs will increase the efficiency of analysts and allow us to focus more on prescriptive insights. I do believe data analysts of the future will be more focused on business and domain understanding than the technical skills needed today.

Where can people connect with you?

Happy to connect on LinkedIn and chat further:

Alex Mendez - BI Manager at AWS
Alex Mendez - BI Manager at AWS