What Makes a Good Analyst, Anyway?

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What makes a good Analyst?  Analyst is a very broad term used differently in every organization and job.  But when you think of an Analyst what are the key attributes you think of?   So often job descriptions and hiring managers focus only on technical skills.  The ability to write kick-ass queries and wrangle data like nobody’s business. 

But in many cases the “Analysis” in “Analyst” is missing.  The critical thinking skills which enable a person to see contextual patterns in data and notice when something looks off. The ability to unconsciously notice the relatedness between several pieces of seemingly disparate pieces of information, and put them together into relevant, true-to-life pictures of information that tell the story of the business problem at hand.  The communication and networking skills to dig into understanding significance and context in data.

I’ve worked with a lot of Analysts over the years who were technical wiz kids but couldn’t provide informational insights to save their lives.  They lacked any ability to tell stories with their data.  They could follow instruction steps, but when it came time to say what the output of those steps is saying, I’d get the deer-in-the-headlights look.  It was like being able to efficiently gather all parts of an engine, without knowing how it’s put together or how to make it run. 

On the other hand I have worked with Analysts who were a little slower and clunkier in gathering the data.  But when they had it, they could gather all the nuanced context, draw the patterns, put it all together, and make it sing like Frank Sinatra.  A true blending of both the art and the science of data.

No matter what the job description is, here are the attributes I feel make a good Analyst:

  1. Artist – The ability to see pieces of disparate information and bring it together into a picture of relatedness.
  2. Critical thinker – The ability to look at data and draw accurate inferences.
  3. Communicator – The ability to reach out to others to gather contextual information.
  4. Story-teller – The ability to put it all together and use compelling story-telling that engages the end user in understanding data output.
  5. Technician – The ability to use available tools to query and compile the data.

What do you feel are the best attributes?

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