Taking a new job in Analytics? Ask these 5 questions first!
Taking up the right job can accelerate your career.
On the other hand, getting into a wrong job can de-rail you for couple of years. The impact of these decisions can be far higher than what it might look getting into the job. Please note, by right job, I simply mean it is right fit with your goals (of making a career in Analytics industry). Similarly wrong job means bad fit with your goals.
Let me take an example to explain what I am saying:
While I was lucky to get into Capital One from campus placements, many of my friends were not that lucky. One such friend was Mehul (name changed). Since he could not get into Capital One, he took up job from another MNC with designation as Analyst.
A few days in his job and the truth dawned up on him. He realized that his role was part of IT team. He was expected to write queries for business requirements, check system maintenance and perform pre-defined reporting for business. The word analysis was completely missing in the way he described his job! He still decided to stay for at least 12 months before making a switch.
After those 12 months, he has made several attempts to enter Analytics industry, but haven’t got a break through till date. Today companies mention lack of hands on Analytics experience as the major reason for not considering him! Sad! but this is a reality check for people who are taking up jobs in hope of becoming an analytics rockstar in their career.
In order to make sure that people make right choices with the roles, I have come up with a list of questions, which you should ask to your employer before taking up a job in Analytics. The aim of these questions is to make sure you know what you are getting into. I assume that you would use this in addition to the research you are doing any way (rather than in isolation). For example, I have not included questions asking for “Stability / History of the company”. I am assuming, you will do that at your end.
I think that using these questions will not only help you make the right choice, it will also tell the employer that you are dead serious about the role and industry! So here is the list of questions:
You need to find out the expectation from the role. There can be various levels of expectation from a role (in order of increasing value addition):
- Creating business reports (pre- determined format) or refreshing dashboards with right data.
- Creating business report, looking at trends and providing a commentary (Note: I mention looking at trends and not Analyzing)
- Taking up a project (business problem), creating framework to analyze data, collate various hypothesis, mining data for insights and giving them to business
- Along with what is mentioned in previous point, owning the project implementation.
All these positions will be called Analysts! However, the learning in the last role would be far higher than the first one.
So, how do you find the expectation from the role?
Your first step is to read the Job description thoroughly and map the job on Business Analytics spectrum. If you are still not clear, asking these questions from the interviewer can help:
- Please describe typical day for this role? What kind of problems will I work on day to day basis?
- What is the impact this role can create in the company?
- Who are the main customers (internal / external) for the role / team?
These should leave you with enough details to map the role correctly. If you are still not clear, next point might help.
You should ask the interviewer to describe work done by the person in this role recently. This should give you a good flavor of the work which is expected out of the person. Following are the aspects you should specifically understand:
- How critical was the problem to the business? Was it creation of a report? Creation of a monitoring platform? or Segmenting the entire customer base to create strategy for the company?
- What kind of tools and techniques were used during the project? What was required – a complex data modeling? Clustering? Predictive modeling?
- What were the quality of insights that came out of the project? How much impact did the project create? Was the benefit monitored?
- If it was a strategic project, did the company test it before implementing it completely? Good companies will test out the insights before implementing them.
Answer to this question would help you understand following:
- How much peer to peer learning can happen? Usually analytics is best learned through brainstorming with other analysts on the job.
- The perspective your customer and leadership would have towards analytics. The bigger the community, higher would be the mind-space in Leadership team
If you can connect to analysts in the company, that would help immensely.
While there might be exceptions to this, but the reporting function usually influences the kind of projects you work on. If the team reports to IT, the nature of projects would focus more on tools and dashboards (rather than customer insights). If it reports to Operations, you might get higher share of Operations Analytics. Typically, direct reporting of Analytics team to the CEO (or through Center of Excellence) brings the best mix of the problems.
This is a tricky question and you have to judge the right way and moment to ask this. An informal lunch / coffee post interview might be more suited than during the interview. But, asking this question might give you some good insights:
- Is the manager / interviewer comfortable while talking about it? If he is, he is likely to be comfortable having open and honest discussions later on.
- Does the reason sound reasonable? How did the Organization react to it? If the person left for higher education or starting his own venture, did he / she get the required support? If the answer does not convince you, do not ask further, but try and understand it later on.
For new setups, it is always worth understanding the vision / goals for the team. If the person is not clear about them or is unable to articulate it, consider it as Red flag. If the leader can’t articulate / excite a new team member about the team’s vision, chances that the team would be clear / excited about their role and responsibilities are bleak.
Asking these questions should give you a good read on fit between your expectation and interviewers expectation. You should only join the potential employer when you get satisfactory answers to at least 4 of these questions (with full match on the first question.)
If you have any thoughts on these questions, or use any other questions to judge new roles, please add them in comments below.