Okay, since some of this blog is aimed at students of analytics, how do you know if YOU are analytic? Sure, sure , you’ve been pushed by your parents into taking a lot of math and science, etc., and are now in school studying analytics–but deep down, sometimes at night, you wonder if it is really for you. It’s not about how much money you might be able to make, you sometimes wonder if you should change your major to something fun and interesting, maybe music or art or politics or history.
Or, you’re already working IN analytics and also question if you’ve made the right decision. Do you fit in? Can you be successful? You’re early in your career and it’s not too late. How does the prospect of doing SAS on dirty data and searching for insights with no time for the next 30 years sound? If your heart skipped a beat, you should worry.
How do you know if you’re an analytic person? You should love the simple joy that comes when seeing a variable that should be significant, be proved in the data. The satisfied look of wonder pervades your face when the world makes sense. That replaces the constant, cynical caveat-laden weariness we usually have to carry around. That’s what got us into analytics in the first place, right? People are confusing, full of irrational gray areas, but data is data, truth is truth. When well-understood relationships make sense, it’s comforting. When insights are found, it’s exciting. Murder solved! Puzzle completed! And because it’s consumer behavior we are trying to predict–this helps us believe that maybe people are NOT so confusing.
So, look over your life. Do you find enjoyment in black and white answers? Do you naturally distrust any data / claims that you yourself have not been in to? Do you like learning how things work, do you naturally and quickly see relationships (especially causal relationships) and are you constantly curious? If the answers to these are mostly “Yes” then you might be analytic.
A QUICK ANECDOTE
When I was in elementary school I was the class clown. (Can you believe it?) I have a strong introvert streak but also have always found it necessary to make the joke, point out the funny thing, and teachers usually hated me, the class clown. I didn’t eat paste or do funny dances, it was always verbal.
Anyway, in third grade we were learning long division. The previous couple of weeks the teacher had been warning us that LONG DIVISION was a very big deal, difficult, complicated, and would require all our attention, and she would have to mentor us along. (She would be in no mood for class clowning when we started.)
So, the first day arrived and she motivated us to appreciate the central issue of long division, remainders, by asking, “Now, how can you divide 5 evenly? You can’t. Thus–”
I immediately shouted, “Yes, you can: two-and-a-half and two-and-a- half. See, evenly.”
She sent me to the office. The one time I was NOT being the class clown–I was being analytic–got me in trouble. In truth, it served me right. The statistics in that class proved that 9 out of 10 times whatever I said was worthy of sending me to the office.
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ANALYTICS
So, another issue. The real trouble is that being analytic in corporate America is not enough to be successful in analytics. This is because most analytic folks are a little quiet, maybe introverted. We can pretend it’s because of the left-brain domination where we get our sense of logic and rationality. But to be successful in analytics you will have to be able to push yourself to find insights and present them to others. You will often have to convince other people (sometimes those many levels above you, those that have the purse strings to carry the project forward). So the key personality trait, as a test for analytic talent, is passionate curiosity. That is, you are so excited by what you have found, you can easily overcome your natural shyness. The love of discovery so drives you that you can';t keep your mouth shut and you tell the world that you have found the truth, and it’s shouted from the rooftops.
Therefore, I would say you are analytic if you love finding relationships in data. But you can only be successful in analytics if you are so thrilled by what you have found you must socialize that to everyone you can. Right now. Make sense?