If you’re a working professional, it’s safe to assume that you know how to write, read, and comprehend written words as well as communicate your thoughts. You might even be good with numbers. But here’s a question to consider: can you speak data?
Data Literacy: The New Alphabet of the 21st Century
Since the turn of the century, there’s been a running narrative across industries: the future belongs to the data-driven.
The narrative doesn’t come without basis. According to McKinsey, organizations that invest in data and analytics are 23 times more likely to attract new customers than their competitors. If in doubt, you only need to look at Google, Amazon, and Facebook—all of which are companies that found their competitive advantage in data.
Following their lead are several other companies that have started embracing data into their operations. The problem is that many of them still struggle to realize their potential gains. According to NewVantage Partners’ 2021 Big Data and Executive Survey, only 24 percent of companies that committed to becoming data-driven have succeeded at fostering a data-driven culture.
So, what’s hindering their progress?
For a company to be data-driven, everyone—regardless of the role—needs to know how to speak the data lingo in whatever level of proficiency, whether basic, intermediate or advanced.
It doesn’t matter if having tons of data promises a significant business value. If the people with the data do not know how to integrate it and the available tools to their day-to-day jobs, then data’s potential to drive growth in every aspect of the business will never be realized.
In short, for a company to be data-driven, data literacy should no longer be cordoned off to data analysts and data scientists. It should be the second language of everyone.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to learn the language of data. With the learning platform, Dataquest, you can learn how to write, read, and communicate data from the comfort of your browser.
Dataquest: Teaching Data Literacy to Every Modern Worker
First things first, what’s Dataquest?
Dataquest is a fully online learning platform built in 2015 for individuals who wish to learn data skills. Through its multiple data analytics and data science courses, the school has trained over one million data learners across the globe since inception.
These involved learners who wished to satisfy their curiosity, data analysts and scientists who wanted to upskill, or professionals whose roles involved working with data.
Belonging in the third group of Dataquest alumni are Curtly and Antoine.
When Excel Isn’t Enough
In 2019, Curtly was working as the monitoring and evaluation officer for the Livestock Department Authority in Guyana, South America. Part of his job was to wrangle data gathered by his agency from frequent visits to hundreds of farms across the country. The goal was to use this data to see how they can help farmers improve their livestock practices.
To get there, however, all the collected data had to be cleaned and organized into one place to get them ready for analysis. Curtly was tasked to do the job alongside his partner, Microsoft Excel.
Also partnered with Microsoft Excel is Antoine, an SEO Lead for a travel search engine company.
Despite playing different roles, Antoine and Curtly shared a problem. They wanted to know how to “handle a lot of data without having to pray in front of your computer that Excel won’t crash.”
Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that has become part of nearly everyone’s arsenal in the workplace. In fact, it’s estimated that 750 million people use the software. There’s just one downside to it: Excel often holds computers hostage.
Complaints, like “it crashed,” “it’s still refreshing,” and “there’s not enough memory,” are not unheard of when working with large amounts of data on Microsoft Excel.
For both Curtly and Antoine, the frustration carried over to how much the task of waiting impeded their progress and productivity. “It took up an entire week every month trying to combine and clean the data,” said Curtly.
To improve efficiency, they started looking into alternative solutions. Curtly went the YouTube route by watching data science video tutorials. Antoine went down the old-school learning path by reading a book called Automate the Boring Stuff with Python.
The problem was Curtly wanted to learn further whereas Antoine went nowhere with his reading.
“The issue was when I tried to apply the stuff explained in the book,” said Antoine. “I had a really hard time going from the theory, which is explained in the book very well, to the practice of being able to apply it to my own problems.”
So, they searched again. This led them to Dataquest.
From there, Curtly took Dataquest’s free courses before jumping to Dataquest’s Pandas and Numpy Fundamentals course. Meanwhile, Antoine took one of Dataquest’s Career Paths: the Data Analyst in Python.
How Dataquest’s Interactive Platform Works
It wasn’t long before they realized that Dataquest was unlike other data skills learning platforms. Instead of video-based lectures, Dataquest offers an interactive platform that promotes a hands-on learning loop.
Learn. Apply. Receive immediate feedback. Rinse and repeat.
The way it works is simple. When using Dataquest, your screen will be split into two. On one side, you’ll learn about a new data science or data analytics concept. On the other, you’ll be pushed to write code that readily applies the concept. This will be immediately checked by Dataquest.
Dataquest’s hands-on learning cycle compels students to interact with information the minute they shake hands with it. This way, the learning sticks.
“For instance, with Boolean indexing,” said Antoine, “the first time I read about the concept I was like, ‘What the [hell] is that?’ But then [Dataquest] has that animation with the red and the blue where [they] show [you] how it works.”
“That’s something that I really liked about Dataquest,” he added. “It’s written, yeah, but you also have some very, very good visual explanations…It was the best option for me because of the way things are taught and the way things are explained.”
Automating Excel with Data Skills
Only 20 percent through the program, Curtly went back to his problem. He optimized the Excel process by writing a Python script, which was designed to do all the heavy lifting of cleaning data.
With Python in the equation, it only took him “about a minute to combine” all files and organize them accordingly, a significant difference from what initially took one week to complete. “It was just a sweet feeling, an amazing feeling,” said Curtly.
Antoine took a similar path, even going the extra mile by applying his data skills outside of Excel.
“Right now, I basically use Python for data crunching, data blending, and being able to do whatever I want, because I have the Python community behind me,” he said. “I have one script that I use on a weekly basis that saves me an hour each Wednesday. I spent probably three hours creating it.”
“At the end of the day, Python is a huge time-saver,” added Antoine.
So, Who Else Needs Data Skills?
With the increasing creation and consumption of data, it’s only a matter of time before data touches every job imaginable. Below are examples of professions that already require data skills.
1. Marketing Professionals
How can companies gather demographic information to better understand a brand’s opportunities and limitations? What’s the return on investment for every marketing campaign? What’s the story behind the numbers in a company’s marketing strategies?
While instinct and intelligent guessing governed traditional marketing, it’s hard to imagine any marketing role today that does not utilize data and analytics. Indeed, with users generating tons of data each day, it has become crucial for marketing teams to leverage data skills for the faster derivation of customer insights.
In particular, data and analytics have made it possible for marketing teams to clarify their target audience, personalize and differentiate their message, and identify any sudden changes in customer behavior to respond in real-time.
2. Finance Professionals
A survey conducted by financial services company SIX reveals that 90 percent of financial institutions are eyeing an increase in data consumption over the next 12 months. With this, most employers today are on the lookout for evidence of data skills when hiring.
The data skills a finance or accounting professional would need include a solid grasp of data processing and the ability to identify key data trends from huge reams of information.
3. Healthcare Professionals
Data collection in healthcare has always been crucial in providing real-time medical and clinical care. But this has admittedly been a struggle with traditional databases, which are known to be cumbersome.
By leveraging technology and some data skills, healthcare professionals can digitize and consolidate tons of data in no time. The structured data is then analyzed to help realize better health management practices, predictive care, and more affordable medical services.
How Are Your Data Skills?
Data is not just for data analysts and scientists anymore. It’s for everyone. To remain relevant in the workforce, therefore, you’ll need to learn how to write, read, and communicate data.
Find out where and how to begin with Dataquest. First, get the full picture of what the school has to offer with our Dataquest deep dive. Then, create a free Dataquest account and see where your learning can take you.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.