In this series, I interview specialists in various fields and try to uncover different strategies, perspectives and anecdotes about the job-hunting and interview process. Everyone’s job-hunting story is unique, but there’s a ton of ways we can up our game by learning from each others’ experiences.
The following is an interview with Rachel Krug (@krug_analytics), a New Hampshire-based Research and Analytics Professional. Rachel is a especially adept at translating huge piles of data into actionable strategies and tactics for her organization. As you’ll see, she focuses on not simply digging through the numbers, but also using storytelling to help her team clearly understand multiple perspectives surrounding a problem and what’s at stake with each decision.
Jump to the takeaways if you’re in a hurry. Alright, let’s get to it! Here’s Rachel…
Tell us a little bit about what you do and how do you define success?
“I constantly strive to be an analytics action-hero. I conduct research and run statistical tests, and present results of my studies to stakeholders, asking discussion questions that help drive action plans. I’m successful when my findings have informed a decision and generated value at the organization I work for.”
What skills, characteristics or personality traits are required to succeed/excel in your company today?
“The best analysts that I have worked with take data and make it meaningful and relevant to their audience. In addition to running statistics, you need to be able to tell stories. For example, after conducting a cluster analysis at a University I worked for, I gave the three clusters creative names to illustrate that they represented three different types of people, with different backgrounds and characteristics. When I presented the data to faculty, I asked, how do you teach these different types of people? What mattered was making the categories relevant for my audience, then they were able to participate and we could engage in collective meaning making.”
Think back to when YOU were interviewing for jobs as a recent college graduate. What was the worst job interview experience you had and what did you learn from that experience?
“When I was interviewing for my first job, I drove 4.5 hours to NYC for a 30 minute screener. I expected the interview to be much longer and was very prepared. I learned that there are different types of interviews and that sometimes a phone interview is best!”
[SIDE NOTE FROM CHRIS: Few things feel worse than having your own time wasted. Remember that it’s always OK to ask who you will be meeting with during your interview. If you’re speaking with a phone screener, you can simply ask, “For my interview on Tuesday, could you give me be a bit more insight as to who I’ll be meeting with? I just want to make sure I’m best prepared to answer their questions.” Most of the time, this should work fine, and they’ll be more than happy to say “You’re meeting with Director Stevens” or “You’ll be meeting with members of the purchasing team.” In the case of more complicated interviews, they might even say “There will be three rounds of meetings. First with the Director, second with the Assistant Director, and last with the marketing team.” These are not situations you want to blindly walk into – whether its one person or three or seven, you want to know who will be in the room. They may or may not tell you, but it never hurts to ask!]
Now think about the BEST job candidate you ever interviewed. What made them so memorable?
“Enthusiasm! When you are interviewing analysts that all have the right technical background, you are really looking for someone who can add value, communicate their findings, and be enthusiastic about the day to day.”
What’s one common mistake you’ve seen young professionals make during the job search and interview process?
“I had one young person interviewing for a position of Research Assistant who told me that the job was not her first choice, she really wanted to work in Public Relations. Be serious about the position and the career path! Take the time required to really target your job search.”
What nugget of wisdom would you pass along to a smart, motivated young job-seeker today?
Spend time doing informational interviews. It’s important to learn about different positions, organizations, and industries. If you are interested in analytics, research, or business strategy follow me @krug_analytics.
- If you’re hired for your technical abilities, of course you need to have chops and be awesome at your craft. But equally important is the ability to translate your work in a way that’s understandable to others (bosses, team members, customers) who don’t have your technical background. Storytelling is a huge force multiplier and a great way to make sure your work is taken into consideration when actions are being planned.
- Never stop learning and exploring! Informational interviews are great for keeping current with changes in your industry, as well as demonstrating your initiative and building your professional network. If you had a stimulating conversation with an executive, asked great questions and really jived with their style, there’s a solid chance they’ll remember you six months from now. And when a key employee leaves at an inopportune time (as they always seem to do!) you’ll be top-of-mind when they suddenly need to make a hire.
- Seek out leaders in your field on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Find your heroes now, stay connected and begin building those relationships today! If you’re interested in learning more about data, analytics and translating data into visuals, check out the work of Nicholas Feltron and Greg Piatetsky.
There are a variety of industry-standard software packages that are used daily by data and analytics professionals. If you’re getting into this field, it would be wise to master one or two, and have at least a working understanding of the others. Don’t try to guess what a company uses and rush to learn it overnight before an interview. Instead, focus on gaining broad familiarity with several different software packages and learn to be versatile. That way, when you’re hired and you need to quickly get up to speed with whatever software n organization uses, you’ve got a solid foundation on which to build.
Below are some resources to get started:
- Google Charts
- In-depth Excel
- Data analysis on Coursera
- Try R at Code School
- R on Lynda.com
- R Advanced Data Mining
- Learning Qualtrics
- Getting started with Survey Monkey
- Tableau Viz of the day
- Tableau training and tutorials
- Learning Tableau
Are you interested in getting into data science? Or do you already work in this field? What other resources have you found that are helpful to get up to speed in this area? Share your ideas in the comments!