How to understand if Analytics is for you
Is spicy food or surfing, playing the guitar or knitting your type of thing? Maybe yes, maybe not. Good news is that it has nothing to do with gender, nationality, whether or not you wear glasses or what you studied. One thing’s for sure though – you’ll never know it before you try. The same can be said about analytics, too.
I am originally from Russia and graduated from one of the provincial yet quite good universities there (you can look up Voronezh on the map). In journalism. Together with part-time/freelance arrangements with local and sometimes national media, I’d been working as a journalist for about 5 years. Then I changed my mind and went to study in Estonia, to the University of Tartu – and graduated with an MA in Political Science. Even though we had a bit of a course on quantitative methods here and there, we were never really taught programming or whatsoever.
Only then, for various reasons, I abandoned my dream to work in a think tank and joined Wise – as a Verification agent. There I realised that I can contribute to my team’s success not only by onboarding customers but also by optimising our operational processes. Here at Wise we trust in data, not belief — so I pulled some together. After some Coursera and Udemy courses (outside of working hours of course), MIT lectures on YouTube, playing around with SQL simulators, amazing mentorship by Triinu (hey, Triinu!) I landed my new role as an analyst – all together it took me about 2 years. I wouldn’t be where I am if I just thought: “Well, analytics is for tech people, I have degrees in Social Sciences”. I tried it, I liked it, and eventually I got it.
I must be honest though, the social sciences part bothered me a bit in the beginning. I kept thinking what if I just wasted my time on all those years of study, what if I have to start everything from scratch?
Not really. Our brains are so complex and so independent that we don’t even realise how our subconscious leads us to making decisions and gives us these lovely Eureka moments. That happened to me when I was encouraged to apply for a Marketing Analyst position with the focus on Public Relations – back in time I considered it as an unexpected turn, but now everything makes sense to me. I didn’t even think before that experience in analytics, which I got being in the Verification team, can be blended with my knowledge of communications.
I personally believe my analytical skills were not good enough just yet when I applied for a role, but I had an understanding of the world of PR (I had worked on the other side of barricades) and GR (governmental relations, or public policy advising – that’s actually exactly what I’ve studied in Tartu). I had a couple of ideas on how we can use numbers to help measure the success and shape the comms. We are still joking though that as soon as I figure out how to measure PR, I can retire. If that’s the case, I’m not sure I can ever do that: being still a part of the Marketing tribe and supporting the company’s growth, the world of PR is too transcendental compared to other marketing channels (almost 0 tracking data points). But this only makes it more interesting.
Now we are working with the PR team on setting up message penetration metrics: we search for specific keywords, like ‘transparency’ or ‘hidden fees’ that describe our mission, and calculate what share of total coverage mentioned these words along our brand. Or in other words, reminds the audience what is important for us as a company – this is the main goal in the end. The most amazing thing is that thanks to some not really complicated scripts the process is automated.
Some other good news if you are still scared about the technical part of the job — tech is actually a relatively small part of it. Creativity and striving for innovation, looking at the old problems from a new angle – that’s what analytics (and engineering, and quantum physics) is about. Technical skills are just muscles – you simply need to train them regularly to stay in shape. It can be a bit harder in the beginning, but it’s still enjoyable.
You can spend an hour or two looking at the script and rip hair off your head – why is it not working? – only to find that missing comma. You’ll find it eventually, but much more important is how you think about the problem, how you present it to the people you work with and how you convince them to take action. Coding is just a tool you use to gather your evidence faster and more efficiently. And imagine what, I saw literally everyone struggling with coding: men and women, Asians and Europeans, newbies and oldies.
Is there still a bias in the society that tech professions are for men? Unfortunately, yes. That is why I really appreciate how here at Wise we are working on diversity: we are setting KPIs to achieve gender balance, educating wider society, and giving a hand to aspiring analysts regardless of who they are.
“Everyone knew it was impossible, until a fool who didn’t know came along and did it.” You might not be called Albert, but you can always be that fool who didn’t know that being a woman in analytics was impossible – and did it. Like I did, like many other female colleagues that I’m working with did, like other women in the world did. It will take time to make women in analytics positions a new normal, but it’s worth trying, isn’t it?
And even though analytics might not be for you, like you might not enjoy cycling or cooking, you’ll just never know it before you try. And keep your mind open: whoever you are, it just takes a few things: a bit of time, persistence and, most important, enjoyment.
If you’re interested in giving analytics at Wise a go — we’re always hiring!