Elijah: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Elijah: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Today, we're bringing you an interview with Elijah - he's from Kentucky and currently works as a data analyst for Humana

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

Hello! My name is Elijah Butler. I am from Kentucky and am a data analyst for Humana. My career in data started with a bachelor’s degree in business economics and a master’s degree in applied economics, both from Western Kentucky University. During my studies, I gained experience using statistical tools such as R, Python, Stata, and SAS.

However, my first job out of college was an analyst role that only utilized Microsoft Excel. I found out quickly that I wanted a job that employed more advanced statistical tools and techniques, so I started researching different data positions and found data analytics to be the field for me. Over the next couple months, I taught myself SQL, Tableau, and Power BI and landed my first real data analyst role.

While I took the college route into data, once I entered the field, I noticed that many people were breaking into data without a degree or pivoting from another field. Interested in this, I started making TikTok videos about my life as a work-from-home data analyst and videos teaching others how to learn the skills for free.

This struck a chord because my first data analyst video went viral gaining over one million views, and I found a new passion – helping others break into the wonderful world of data. As of March 2023, my TikTok account (@imElijahButler) has over 115,000 followers. You can also find me on Instagram (@datafromhome), YouTube (@datafromhome), and my blog (datafromhome.blog).

When I’m not working as an analyst or making TikTok videos, I enjoy spending time with my wife, reading, writing, playing music, and (most of all) traveling.

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

Currently I work for Humana as a Data and Reporting Professional. In my role I manage over 15 quarterly reports that each utilize a Power BI report, Microsoft Excel, and several SQL queries. Beyond these reports, I pull and analyze data for several monthly reports and complete ad-hoc analysis when my colleagues require it.

My day-to-day varies depending on the part of the quarter. During the first month of the quarter, I am running numerous SQL queries daily, updating Excel files, and refreshing Power BIs. In between the large amount of work needed for these large quarterly reports, I’m completing my monthly reports and available to my team for data questions and requests.

During the latter two months of the quarter, I am often implementing requested changes and additions to my quarterly reports which often includes adding lines to my existing SQL queries and adding new charts and tabs to my Power BI reports.

Finally, a large part of my day-to-day is maintaining strong lines of communication with my team to answer their questions, get them the data they need, and clarify any data asks to make sure we’re on the same page before I start putting in the work.

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

I was introduced to data as an economics student at Western Kentucky University then eventually taught myself SQL, Tableau, andPower BI using YouTube and mostly other free resources.

My first data analyst job was great. It was a role that utilized SQL, Excel, and Power BI. I, like many others, was anxious enteringmy first role, afraid that too much would be put on my plate with too littleoversight, leading me to make a grave mistake to hurt my company. 

However, my onboarding process at my company included me working close with my great team lead, slowly handing me off my duties and answering as many questions as I had. My team was very patient during my first months while I learned not only the data processes but also theins and outs of the industry.

So, to any upcoming analysts: don’t worry. They won’t throw you in with the sharks and make you fend for yourself.

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

My favorite parts of being a data analyst are the business impacts I make, the creativity I get to utilize, and the problem solving I get to employ.

First, as a data analyst, you really make an impact on company strategy. As a huge business nerd, I love this. I love it when I get to use my analysis to drive company decisions to create positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

Second, while data is typically thought of as a nerdy field (I’m not saying this is incorrect), you certainly get to use some creativity with how you present your findings. I enjoy taking data out of the database and turning it into an aesthetic dashboard that clearly illustrates the given metrics.

Third, there is certainly an engineering component to data analytics that requires you to solve problems in an efficient manner. Whether you’re trying to complete complex analysis of data, draw out unique insights not obvious in the raw data, or just trying to get a stubborn SQL query to run, you must be persistent and a good problem solver.

How did you start improving your skillset as a data analyst? What are you currently doing to keep up with the ever changing data analytics industry?

To improve my skillset, I am always working on improving my current skills and adding new skills to my toolbelt. I do this by constantly enrolling in low-cost online courses.

To keep up with the ever changing data analytics industry, I try to stay well read in data, business, and technologies. Also, spending a lot of time on TikTok, I get a lot of news there.

Can you share what factors are most important to you in a data-focused career and why? Do you have a vision of what you'd like your career growth to look like?

As I said before, I am a big business and entrepreneurship nerd, so I love the aspect of data analytics of using my skills to direct and further my firm’s business goals. There is a growing understanding in the world that companies need to use data to drive decisions.

As far as what I want my career growth to look like, that remains to be seen. I see myself following one of two paths: data or strategy. In 15 years, I could see myself as a high-up analytics manager for a company I am passionate about, mentoring newer analysts and pushing my organization to be the best it can be.

On the other hand, I could see myself working in data for 5+ years then transitioning into a strategic role with more high level decision-making while still incorporating data into said decisions.

Either way, I expect data to remain a large part of my work for the remainder of my career.

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?

This is my favorite question to answer and is what my TikTok covers most.

First, you must learn the skills. I recommend learning SQL, Microsoft Excel, and a data visualization tool (Tableau or Power BI). Pick either Tableau or Power BI and stick with it. I usually suggest Tableau because it is easy to create and maintain a public portfolio. Some may suggest learning a more advanced tool like Python or R. However most entry level roles don’t require this experience, so I say focus on the above tools.

Second, build portfolios. This is especially important in the absence of a college degree. With or without a degree, a portfolio is the best way to prove you have used SQL, Tableau, etc. in an applied context. This step is incredibly important. Don’t skip it.

Last is fixing up your resume, optimizing your LinkedIn, and learning to network and reach out to recruiters. There are many skilled analysts that go unnoticed by employers because they have a lackluster LinkedIn. Getting your first job in analytics will be incredibly difficult without a properly set-up and optimized LinkedIn, so don’t put yourself through the pain. Spend an hour or two and make your LinkedIn beautiful.

Anything you'd like to highlight, or add?

If anyone would like to learn more about how to learn the skills, build portfolios, optimize LinkedIn, etc. and would like to do so mostly/entirely free, check out my TikTok @imElijahButler. Breaking into tech is difficult and can be overwhelming, so I use my TikTok to try to break down the process.

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?

I get asked this question all the time and it is a valid question.

First, the future is uncertain. Anyone who claims with 100% certainty that AI will take all the data analytics jobs or will have zero effect on the field isn’t worth listening to. There was a time when the most prominent tech leaders were hailing the segway as one of the most revolutionary inventions of all time. In reality, it can be hard to forecast how tech will develop and how the public will adopt it. So, I would say no one knows for sure.

My opinion (or guess)? I think in the next few years, AI will start being utilized to automate repetitive processes making room for deeper analysis which is the greatest value analysts bring.

Author: Elijah, Data Analyst @ Humana
Author: Elijah, Data Analyst @ Humana