Former Account Exec with MBA pariah for data jobs?
October 17, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Looking for how to get skills that would make me qualified for a data analyst position.

I've posted a few questions on my job search (here and here), and in searching through job postings here (Austin, TX) and thinking about what interests me I think data stuff would be a good fit as I like crunching with numbers, and technical stuff but my resume does not reflect that. I'm happy to share my resume if that would help. I took a Intro to SQL class and an advanced Access class per recommendations before, but what else do I need to break into that field. I've been in Austin for 5 months and I really need a job!

Some things about me:
- I'm a highly analytical and data oriented person
- I have my MBA in finance
- My BA is in History (I didn't really know anything about careers or real jobs when I started college at 17 - in retrospect Economics, CS, or MIS would have been a better fit)
- 8 year experience in Account Management - the last 5 spent in a company that specialized in selling data used for credit analysis and marketing purposes)
- I recently paid (overpaid) for a resume writing and my resume is oriented towards Sales Analyst positions, but I don't know how strong it is

I appreciate any help advice for what types of jobs to search for, how to strengthen my application, and any training that might help. I've spent about $1000 recently (for the classes, software, and the resume) so money is a bit tight, but I'm willing to spend for something that would seriously help me get a job (i.e. certification??)

Thanks in advance.
posted by hrj to Work & Money (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Get your excel skills up. Odds are you'll be using excel for on the fly analysis every day- mostly to just cross check data dumps and to try to hunt for issues/discrepancies.

I recently interveiwed several candidates for an analyst position, and every single one of them said they had strong excel skills. Only one of them knew what a pivot table was and he then struggled with defining why a vlookup vs a sumif. These are not obscure formulas/ways of parsing data, and 20 mins on Microsoft's own website will walk you through what those are. If those candidates had been realistic and had said they had medium skills, but were willing to learn, they would be stronger candidates. I expect someone strong in excel to be able to build macros in VBA/at least know how to read a macro's code, build spreadsheets that analyze data efficiently using formulas to link data/sort it, and be able to explain why certain tools are more useful than others.

If you have an mba in finance, take a look back at the courses you did- if you took anything quantitative, look back over the projects you worked on and be able to use those as examples of your strong analysis skills.

If you really want a finance oriented analyst job, the CFA is a useful exam/good metric to prove you know your stuff but it might not be the direction you really want to end up working in. (However, the exams are a ton of work and only offered 1-2x a year.)
posted by larthegreat at 11:18 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Changing fields is nearly impossible in this labor market. Companies have their pick of highly qualified candidates that are desperate. Why would they hire you? My advice from the first thread still stands. Get a job based on the skills and experience you bring to the table today, and then work your way into the job you want.
posted by COD at 11:23 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a very junior role, given your background. Have you thought about a senior sales ops role, perhaps in a start-up? It's a role that often entails data crunching, but where your MBA and experience would play strongly with the desired skills.
posted by ellF at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2012

Response by poster: larthegreat -- thanks so much! I do have strong Excel skills, but I definitely can add an Advanced Excel class to my Advanced Access class and brush up. If you were looking for an analyst, would you be deterred by someone with my background?

COD - I referred back to the first thread and I appreciate your feedback. My issue with sales is that I'm not suited for it. I am a great account manager -- helping customers solve problems, building relationships etc., but I'm not a closer, I don't like the pressure of hitting quotas, and I'm generally not aggressive enough. I did apply and interview for one sales position (recruiting for finance contractors) and that was the feedback I got for why I didn't get the job. Plus sales jobs are not stable. I don't like living under the constant threat of being fired for having a bad month.

ellF - I assumed I'd need to go into a junior role because I'm not experienced. Most companies don't think that sales experience counts for anything other than sales roles. I would love a senior sales ops role, but I'm not sure if I could even get an interview.
posted by hrj at 12:45 PM on October 17, 2012

Honestly, I would be confused why someone with an MBA wants an entry level role (that's what most analyst positions in a finanical company are (0-5 yrs out of school), MBA's usually apply for Associate/VP roles), and your resume would probably screened out by HR. I would expect you, with 8 yrs work experience, to be applying to manage an analytical team, or at the very least applying to be a senior member of a team.

I'd get in contact with your MBA's career center (even if they aren't in the same location where you are now) and see if they can recommend anything.

Count your MBA as analytical experiance- if you worked on projects that required analytical skills, don't discount your life experiance, you are no longer entry level, even if you feel that you are. Fake it till you make it.
posted by larthegreat at 1:00 PM on October 17, 2012

Response by poster: Larthegreat - thanks for the feedback.

First of all, I'm not seeing any jobs to manage people, and I don't have management experience.

My MBA's career center is non-existent. Literally. The program I attended was primarily part-time, and most graduates intend to stay with their existing companies.

That is an interesting idea, that I'm not getting screened out for too little experience but for too much.
posted by hrj at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2012

In a former life it was not just excel but having a background in enterprise database systems with SQL/T-SQL background that tipped it my way.
posted by jadepearl at 9:00 PM on October 17, 2012

hrj: I don't have an MBA, but I do have a decade of experience as a sales engineer, team lead, and now strategic manager (e.g., defining market strategy for software products). Our VP of Sales Ops is an analytical guy, not a sales guy -- in fact, he's somewhat abrupt, and would probably not do well in a pure sales role. That tracks with what I've seen in other sales ops VPs.

If someone handed me an MBA-bearing candidate asking for an analyst role, I'd raise my eyebrows. Most analysts are (at the risk of being ageist) kids. They're new to the working world, have no experience, and no real skills yet. Often high-potential, they put in long hours and hump it to work their way up. While you may be coming in from a slightly different angle, your work experience and degree put you far outside of that profile; I'd suggest reorienting yourself towards a management role.

Regarding your perceived lack of management experience: (a) you won't see "come manage staff" as a job; it's simply a function, either formally or informally, of being a VP or director, and (b) these types of roles typically entail managing small teams of managers, not large groups of junior staff. Accordingly, one of the talents inherent to good senior management is trusting your team, and treating them as intelligent, skilled, effective people unless they give you reason to think otherwise. As such, you're (generally) working with them as peers, not "employees" -- unlike, say, what many middle managers do when handling junior employees. That MBA primes you for a role where you'd have a few talented middle-management types reporting to you, each of whom would handle the day to day operational management of staff.
posted by ellF at 6:12 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all such interesting information because it was so counter to what I was told by recruiters and my career coach.

Everyone was telling me because I was starting a new career I had to start with entry level jobs, and since sales basically is always an entry level job, at least at the companies I've worked at, I've had little exposure to promotions, etc.

So as I'm searching job boards (I've primarily been using Indeed), what kind of job titles should I be looking for?
posted by hrj at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2012

Yeah, I think a data analyst role is below you. A senior at least, preferably an associate level job (or "vice president" at banks).

To answer your question, I do work as a senior data analyst at an investment company. Some other senior analysts on my team have CFAs and MBAs but most of us transfered in from another team internally. We're all very versatile and experienced (we're aged 30 to 50). To a certain degree, all of us:
  • Are adept at using Excel and using it to quickly format/parse random datasets, join against database dumps and filter for patterns. So vlookup + pivot tables are key for doing ad hoc reports.
  • Have generally broad (but shallow) subject matter expertise on the data that our business groups deal with. For us, that includes capital markets, credit derivatives, credit ratings, private investments, financial benchmarks, etc. Obviously a data analyst at an oil & gas company should have SME on their relevant areas rather than in finance & capital markets. Having previous working experience in those areas help a lot.
  • Have decent SQL skills, at least fluent enough to handle multi-join queries on SQLServer and on Oracle. The stronger you are with this skill, the less competition you will have.
  • Are able to perform basic project management & business analysis roles. Sometimes, we're seconded to another team's project not just for the data analysis tasks but to also act as a face to the business side. For example, I might be assigned to do a particular IS dev team to help with the data analysis on their project. I will also be expected to work with their BA (if there is one) to act on their behalf to talk with other business groups and be the SME for the data that they're consuming and for the data that'll be delivered to downstream users. A go-to person for all the data related questions & issues and be the data representative at meetings.
  • Are comfortable with maintaing vendor relationships. Basically, we also own and manage the relationships and legal contracts with external providers of data. Sometimes this means entertaining dog and pony shows just to build up that sales relationship with the vendor. Sometimes this means being the liaison and driver between the business user requesting the data, the vendor providing the data and our legal department.
The difference between senior and associate is largely a function of working experience, leadership and industry knowledge. YMMV with industry, company and manager.

I think you should focus on making use of those 8 years of account management experience to sell yourself into a senior level position with the express aim of being promoted to the next paygrade within two years. Aiming for an entry level position speaks poorly of your MBA and the reasons you sought it.
posted by table at 7:47 PM on June 4, 2013

Oops. I didn't realise how old this thread was. Please ignore of you've already found a job!
posted by table at 8:07 PM on June 4, 2013

« Older The slowest game of peek-a-boo on record.   |   god i hate scrubbing tile Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.