Muthalib: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Muthalib: My Data Analyst Career Journey

Today, we're bringing you an interview with Muthalib - he currently works for a small healthcare company

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Hi Muthalib, please introduce yourself to our site’s readers.

So I am Masters Graduate from DePaul University with a degree in Medical Informatics and have a bachelors in Dental Science degree from India. I graduated from dental school in 2019 and worked as a dentist until 2020 before moving to states. With barely knowing how to even use a laptop or switch it on, I had my challenges getting used to a new culture, education system and technologies/software. I currently work as a data analyst since 5 months (29 M) and I'm more than happy to land a Data Analyst role in this competing 2023 market. I work for a small healthcare company and use different tools to clean and prepare data and then generate reports with the help of a visualization tool.

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

Most of my courses during my masters were centered around healthcare data and what you can do with it. Ranging from normal data cleaning, validation to predictive modeling. Almost every course thought a new software and a new model. For example my first course was about regression and then next jumping to clustering techniques then Support Vector Machine and so on. I was using excel for regular self motivated projects, then using R, SAS and SQL for programming courses. My prime interest only grew after I was exposed to SAS and was amazed by its use case. Right after I graduated, I gave my SAS base certification and was focusing to land a clinical data analyst job in healthcare. I do not have any experience in professional setting whatsoever. However, I did volunteer work for over 12 months to showcase my interest and loyalty as a health data management intern. I believe based on my previous volunteer work, and self motivated projects on most widely used tools, any candidate can have a better chance to impress the interviewers.

How do you spend your days in your role?

Most of my job is on excel (Unfortunately). We are small healthcare company and do not have efficient systems like SQL database to make our tasks more technical. However, learning excel is a master course in itself. This is because almost any organization starts its work with excel. Even after using excel for 1+ year, I gained so much experience in just 5 months of my employment, that I think not even 10 self motivated projects would help. So most of my time (say 85%) is working of excel. The rest of using PowerBI to generate reports and present the dashboard to the team over a meeting.

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

The fact that I get to start my work with excel which is the bare minimum for any data analyst jobs. With this, I get to set my base right and up-skill from there.

What would you say are the must have data analyst skills to thrive in today’s environment? 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?

I think having some experience in this competitive world is necessary. This does not mean professional experience only, but also could be small projects set up in your portfolio ready to be shown to employers on LinkedIn (game changer). Make sure the projects are end to end, meaning every step is explained clearly, questions were answered during analysis and what major skills you learnt. Apart from this I think communication is crucial since you will be communicating with different professionals to express your visualisations and answering questions. Currently I'm trying to automate the process of cleaning data and building dashboards to keep up with the rise in amount of data we receive now and in the future.

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?

For me it is personally being able to use at least 1 data management tool like Excel, data base management tool like SQL, programming tool like Python/R/SAS (although I do not know python but worked on R and SAS only), and a data visualization tool like PowerBI (start with PowerBI as it is tougher than Tableau). Always learn the toughest tool first.

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

First recommendation is to start early. Be it building projects and a portfolio or starting to apply, interview preparation etc. Data Analyst is a saturated field and it's not a whole lot tougher to get into this field. The only few things are willingness to learn, express your idea and critical thinking.

Anything you'd like to highlight, or add? Something that not specified above but you hear a lot? Or would be helpful for people to know?

Don't try to only focus on data analyst positions. Focus on any title that uses these technologies. That way you may have an upper hand. Your primary goal is to land a job (if you are unemployed). From there you can switch to your career if interested. Be very confident when you speak, sometimes all they want is someone who speaks up. Most employers are not looking for someone with hard skills but soft skills. And soft skills can only come with confidence which can only come if you have experience working on similar technologies through professional work or personal projects.

An extra one: How do you see the increased availability of AI tools such as ChatGPT, Bard etc, impacting the data analyst role?

I have never use ChatGPT yet to enhance my reporting, but I am aware it is going to transform how we work. It's more about working smartly and efficiently but working less. I believe this might lead to job loss as we do not need 2-3 analyst to build reports and processes but only 1 to oversee the process and debug issues as they come. Thats why, once you land a job, be sure to get some hands on with AI and ChatGPT.