Guest blog by: Dr. Charles “Chuck” Noon, a professor and Department Head of the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Peter Brand, the fictional sports analyst in the movie Moneyball, was portrayed to be the stereotypical nerdy number cruncher. This makes a good story line in a movie, but the real life architect of the Oakland A’s analytical success in baseball, Paul DePodesta, required more than number crunching ability to succeed. He played both varsity football and baseball at Harvard, worked as a professional baseball scout and later became a general manager in Major League Baseball. Paul exemplifies the “unicorn” that businesses seek as analytics professionals. The term “unicorn,” a mythical creature that does not exist, is used to describe the individual that can bridge the gap between the world of technology and the world of practical application.
To succeed as an Analytics Professional, one must possess a broad set of skills and personal attributes beyond the technical tool kit. Some of the most valuable attributes are described below.
1. An intellectual curiosity about how things work
Being eager to learn will help you become an expert in a new subject area. A natural sense of curiosity will help you in your endeavor to discover how things work in your particular topic.
2. Ability to communicate technical information in concise, clear, nontechnical terms
Having excellent communications skills means being able to relay technical solutions in a clear, concise manner that is free of technical jargon. This will ensure that your message will be understood across all platforms.
3. Ability to visualize information
The analytics professional must be able to organize data visually to glean business insight. If you are able to visualize information, you will be able to help others visualize it as well.
4. Ability to function as part of a team; listen
Working on a team means being able to listen, lead, and lend support at the appropriate times.
5. A fundamental understanding of business
Having all of this information on hand is great, but you must be able to leverage data to drive better business decisions that positively impact the bottom line. If the numbers don’t improve your business, what’s the point in having the numbers?
6. Ability to think from a big picture perspective
It’s important to have a clear understanding of the interdependencies within any organization so that local optimization does not compromise the overall performance of the organization.
7. A commitment to life-long learning.
To succeed as a business analytics professional, you must be committed to a life-long learning process to remain abreast of technological advancements in the discipline; for example, nearly ubiquitous data visualization tools did not even exist ten years ago.
These are just a few of the traits that will help today’s students succeed as tomorrow’s business analytics professionals. From clear communication to understanding how businesses operate, it takes a lot to make an impact in the analytics world. Having some – or all – of these attributes will make you a natural.