Just want the data, not the insights
July 6, 2018 7:07 AM   Subscribe

I've come to realize over the last couple of months that my favorite part of my job is when I'm just crunching numbers in Excel. I love organizing data and creating formulas and tables. Right now a lot of my position also includes interpreting everything and writing reports and detailing insights, which I find a lot less exciting and would rather just hand off to someone else. What are positions that would entail just the Excel part (or something similar to it)?

In previous positions I also wrote SAS syntax, which I found immensely satisfying, especially if I got it all correct on the first try when running data. So my mind leans towards possibly learning some sort of programming language. I'm working full time as a consumer survey researcher currently, so if I train in something new, a cheap or free online course or book would be ideal.

Other skills I have: writing surveys (which I don't mind and is kind of neutral on the enjoyment scale for me). Some rusty SPSS as well, but I haven't used it in years. I used to use Wincross a lot and I loved writing syntax for that. My Excel skills are better than average, but I'm not at the level of those finance people who use it completely sans mouse (although that would be pretty cool to get there). I just started using Tableau a little bit, but it's not really applicable to what I do at my current position. I also have access to social media analytics tools such as Tubular and comScore, which I haven't used much but could develop skills with.

So, what's my dream job and what skills should I train to get there? Data scientist seems to be quite broad and it's hard to figure out what specific skills I'd need as it varies based on the position. Also, specific courses/books to read would be helpful (instead of just, "learn SQL"). This thread was interesting but is 5 years old and I wanted to see if anything has changed in terms of what the hot new skills are. And haha, I happened to answer it with what I do currently, but obviously the shine has worn off since then as jobs with data have gotten a bit more specialized since.
posted by Fuego to Work & Money (10 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I’m under the data science umbrella, but on my he academic side. The typical languages right now are R and Python. If you like real programming, then the Python pandas library is a good choice. I prefer R, and to the book “R for data science” by Hadley wickham is a good intro.

Look at job description under business analytics, data analyst, business intelligence, data engineer. As far as I can tell, data job titles are completely Unstandardized, and almost meaningless. Good luck!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:38 AM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: “Data engineering” is an area of data science that you might like, as it focuses on organizing and transforming data for data analysts/machine learning engineers to use. I haven’t read the whole thing, but this essay looks like a good primer on the field.
posted by asphericalcow at 8:10 AM on July 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: GIS would be something to look at. A lot of GIS can be organizing the data.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:16 AM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: Yeah, data warehousing/engineering/business intelligence. We build the databases so other people can do the trend analysis.

Get SQL and python training and you can write your ticket.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Financial modelling.

"but I'm not at the level of those finance people who use it completely sans mouse"

You just need practice, a financial modelling course, and Excel add-ins.
posted by moiraine at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: I almost took a job which was exactly what you describe. It was with a large nonprofit legal aid firm, and it involved processing all kinds of data from thousands of legal cases, from demographic info on clients to specific aspects of real estate law. Lots of pivot tables. Obviously not every city has a legal aid provider large enough to call for such a position, but I bet a lot of regular large law firms would.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:13 AM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: Oh but on checking your profile, we live in the same city! It was with the New York Legal Aid Society.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:14 AM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: Data journalism is growing, even in the current journalism industry climate. Keep an eye on https://www.propublica.org/jobs/. I would love to work there.
posted by jgirl at 9:52 AM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: The teams at work who do this are in the "reporting" side. I give them complicated requests for data; they spend 2-3 hrs running sql queries, sorting data, and then I take that data and analyze it. They know our databases inside and out; I know roughly what kind of information I am looking for and why I need it. together it's pretty awesome.

All major financial firms will have massive teams that do "risk reporting" or "data reporting".
posted by larthegreat at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you enjoyed programming with SAS, you should absolutely learn either R or Python, probably R. Note both of these are free software and arguably also superior to SPSS or SAS.

“R for Data Science” is an excellent choice as recommended above. The software tools at tidyverse.org are all really great.

Having a programming language and skills in the tools used for data manipulation will open up lots of jobs in analytics and “data science”, especially if you can also learn statistics.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:09 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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