7 Ways IT Pros Can Boost Data Analytics Skills

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Whether you are an IT pro looking to add data analytics and data science skills to your repertoire, or you are looking to make a career change from IT to the data analytics field, here are seven tips that can give you a head start. 

It’s no secret that data analysts and data scientists are some of the highest paid and most sought after professionals in technology and IT. Linda Burtch, managing director of Burtch Works, an executive recruitment firm specializing in data analytics and data science pros, has told InformationWeek that the demand for these particular professionals is the highest she’s ever seen in her 30 years in the business.

Her most recent salary survey of data scientists, released in April 2016, places the base salaries of individual contributors in the range of $97,000 to $152,000, not including bonuses.

For IT pros that are looking to make a career change, shifting to the data analysis realm and even aspiring to the data scientist specialty could provide new opportunities and a bigger paycheck. It could also provide broader choices for career options.

Chances are that if you are working in IT and have some experience, you already in command of skills that give you a head start for this additional set of opportunities. Maybe you are already working in an area such as databases and data management. Or maybe you have been dabbling in development and are looking to incorporate analytics into your skill set.

Businesses and organizations are also shifting. Where there were taxi companies, now there are technology companies like Uber. Where there were entertainment companies, now there are technology companies like Netflix.

Every company is becoming a technology company, regardless of its vertical business specialty. Data scientists and data managers and data analysts are poised to lead the way for this new generation of organizations that capitalize on data and turn it into greater value.

If you want to be part of that effort, there are a few steps you may need to take before you can begin the big journey. Through interviews with IT pros, executive recruiters, technology analysts, and others who follow the industry, we’ve compiled this list of tips to help you apply your IT experience to the world of data opportunities.

Back To School

A number of universities offer advanced degrees — master’s and doctorates — in analytics and data science. A couple of the best known programs are at UC Berkeley and Northwestern, which have residential and online programs available. These programs will require a big investment of money and time, but the payoff could be worth it in the end.

Online Courses

Before you commit to a degree program, you may want to dip your toes in the water by taking an online course from one of the MOOC (massive open online course) providers such as Coursera, Udemy, and EdX, which offer courses in such topics as databases, data analytics, Excel, SQL, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and programming in Python. Specialty providers such as DataCamp focus only on what you need for analytics and data science.

Boot Camps

Technology training boot camps fit in between formal degree programs and MOOCs, offering an intensive full-time program for a few months, most often in-person. These programs are designed to fill in a gap in your knowledge — such as Python programming or big data skills — and typically offer help with job placement once the program is over. These programs are particularly popular with career changers, so if you have experience in IT and are looking to make a move over to the data side, this might be a great option.

Online Networking

LinkedIn is a great place to start, and you can add your new skills to your profile. Add new contacts and join data science and analytics groups. Analytics and data science executive recruitment firm Burtch Works says that analytics and marketing research pros on LinkedIn are regularly approached via the networking site about job opportunities.

Real-World Networking

While online networking is great, in-person networking is also important. Try local meetups, data analytics and data science conferences, and other events focused around your targeted niche. Members of these communities are often willing to share their good and bad experiences — including those with potential employers. They could also provide you with contacts that could lead to the next opportunity.

Showcase Your Skills

Sites such as GitHub and Kaggle offer aspiring data pros virtual spaces in which to showcase their work and connect with other members of the community. Use these sites to show off projects that you are proud of and that display your talents and skills. Kaggle also hosts data science competitions that give participants a problem to solve and reward them with visibility and prize money.

Do An Internship

If you are after your first job in analytics or data science, pursue an internship to help get your foot in the door. Internships can provide you with new contacts, give you experience with real-world data sets, and give you a taste of how to navigate organizations as an analytics pro. Katie Ferguson, who specializes in advising early career data professionals at Burtch Works, recommends candidates do internships. She says that entry level candidates can strengthen their job prospects with real project or internship experience because they interview better and they have keener business acumen.