My name is Joshua and in this blog, I’ll be sharing my experience about my tech journey so far, in particular my experience within Data Science/Analysis + Business Intelligence. I will be providing some tips on how university students, recent graduates and young professionals can get started in these fields.
My journey into the tech world has been anything but conventional. A musical prodigy, my background was firmly rooted within the music industry across two decades. I professionally performed and studied music from primary school right all the way up to degree level obtaining a Bachelor’s of Art in Music Business & Management.
Since my interests/expertise were mainly in music, I couldn’t envisage doing anything else outside of it and you may be reading this feeling like you’re in a similar position. The great news is that it’s okay to do more than one thing however, it is also vital to be passionate and knowledgeable about whatever it is that you’re doing.
Although I am naturally a creative, I am also highly analytical and an extremely logical thinker. These two things were fundamentally crucial in me finding my passion within data more specifically ‘Big Data’. As I didn’t have the academic background i.e. a degree in Statistics, Computer Science, Mathematics, Data Science, Economics etc I did struggle in understanding the usefulness of knowing about certain technical concepts in the workplace.
ADVICE #1 – You don’t need a degree
You do NOT need a degree in any of the aforementioned degree courses to work within the tech sector, that being said, they do serve as a very beneficial prerequisite for understanding fundamental technical concepts, application of technical knowledge as well as providing an area of focus within a specified field/role.
In February 2019, I began a 12-week intense graduate programme that was run by Sparta Global (a technology services company). I joined the business stream which focused on developing graduates into expert business technical consultants. I further achieved qualifications in both business analysis and project management. I was also introduced to SQL (Structured Query Language) an important application/tool to grasp the basics if you’re thinking of working in Data Science/Analytics or Business Intelligence.
ADVICE #2- Specific qualifications matter
Qualifications DO NOT MATTER! Specific qualifications are what matters. It’s important for graduates/young professionals to understand that whilst they don’t need to have studied a STEM subject at degree level to find a role and develop a career within tech; this is dependent on the sector you wish to work in.
For example, if you wish to work in a Tier I investment bank like Goldman Sachs as a Data Analyst, there’s a high chance that they’ll require a minimum of a 2:1 degree from a good university in a subject like Computer Science or Mathematics. However you may have a degree in Business Management and Finance which may help you get your foot in the door, but chances are you may have no knowledge of or experience in something like ‘data cleansing/mining’, you’ll need to be smart in seeking a way to make up for that particular lack of skill/competency.
I recommend looking online for courses online from credible educational companies such as Udemy, Coursera, and Pluralsight that can not only help you upskill but provide you with a certification which can be displayed on your LinkedIn profile
Following the graduate scheme, I briefly worked in the public sector as a technical project support officer for a local government authority just outside of London. I was working in the capacity of a civil engineer which was way outside of my comfort zone but gained valuable technical skills and improved my knowledge and application of Microsoft Excel – another important tool to know how to use!
My first actual role in tech finally came in November 2019, I had applied earlier in that summer for a Business Intelligence Analyst role at The Financial Times Group based in The City and was successful. I worked in the Customer Research and Analytics department where I learnt a lot in such a short space of time. I was exposed to a number of applications/tools I had never used or even heard of before. Whilst my time at The FT was fairly short-lived, I left with a lot more clarity of not just what I wanted to do for my career but more importantly what I didn’t need to focus on doing.
Keen to improve my knowledge of Business Intelligence, Data Science and Data Analytics, I became an avid reader of ‘Analytics Insight’ a news publication on all things data and analytics. I also enrolled on to Udemy’s Business Intelligence Analyst 2020 course which I have almost completed. I found a Master’s programme in Big Data, which peaked my interest into understanding the effects of Big Data on culture and society from a social, economical, political and technological standpoints and finally I launched a newsletter called ‘The Data and Finance Newsletter #TheDFN’ where I release weekly issues on the latest news/trends in both data and finance.
ADVICE #3 – Ask for help
Seek a tech mentor and ask for help.
My final piece of advice is to look for a mentor within the tech industry and if possible, look for one specifically in your area of interest or sector who can not only give you practical tips for success but also help guide you to achieving that success. I would have hugely benefited from having a mentor prior to working at The FT as I would have learnt and understood certain things that I didn’t know about that I needed to have already known.
I struggle to ask for help even when I am clearly struggling with something (the irony!). If you’re like me, you understand how hard this can be as you do not like to ask for help not because of pride, but because you’re naturally a problem solver and seek for any and every method to solve something before you request for assistance. Whilst this is an excellent trait to have especially for technical roles and for team/group work, it can also be a hindrance to progress because of how much time is being spent on trying to solve a specific thing at the detriment of completing a task or project in time.
I would encourage people to join a tech community/group like Xuntos because it is super useful to learn from not just people ahead, but develop a network of professionals who are in different tech fields from you, who you can also learn from and vice versa. ‘No one is an island’ as the saying goes and so it’ll take the help of others sometimes to take you to the next level in your career.