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When he was a supply chain analyst at a medical device company, Nick Robertson was accustomed to spending weeks on a single data analytics project. He’d burn through up to 60 hours prepping, blending, and analyzing global datasets.
Then a co-worker introduced him to Alteryx Designer. Using Designer’s robust yet easy-to-use automated platform, Robertson stopped burning through hours and started burning through projects. It took him roughly10 hours to do what once required 60.
It also opened his eyes to the transformative potential of data analytics. “It changed my life, because it led me directly down the path of data science,” said Robertson, who received hisAlteryx Designer Core Certificationand is now pursuing a master’s degree in data science at New York’s Utica College.
“I like to solve problems, link chains, minimize repetition — those sorts of things,” he says. “I’m always actively seeking new problems to solve. With a tool like this, you’re capable. It’s a great feeling and opens a lot of doors.”
Anywhere in the World, In Any Field
Robertson’s journey continued with a free trial of Alteryx Designer throughAlteryx SparkED, a program that gives educators and students free access to Alteryx software, learning materials, certifications, and online support. Through hands-on practice and prescriptive learning paths, students can begin to develop the analytics skills they need to question, understand, and solve real-world problems with data.
As a grad student with prior experience in supply chain analytics, Robertson has already racked up several real-world wins. During his first Alteryx Designer project at his place of employment, he trimmed 12 hours off a report that typically took 14 hours. He used the results to help pitch his boss on Alteryx’s potential to save time and reduce errors. “I eventually created a model for myself that spread the news and showed the company how great it was,” he says.
In fact, introducing Alteryx to his higher ups became something of a habit. “I had a supervisor who asked me to choose between data and supply chain, because the two don’t mesh,” Robertson says. “I had just received my Alteryx Designer license, and I said that doing both is actually the future, because it’s faster and leads to more accurate choices. What else could be better for supply chain work?”
He’s also used Alteryx to power analytics on non–supply chain projects. “Probably the coolest thing I’ve built in Alteryx is a proof-of-work concept,” he says, referring to a complicated algorithm used to prevent fraud in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. “You can do pretty much anything with Designer. It just depends on what you like to do.”
This points to another of the platform’s strengths: It combines powerful data prep, blending, reporting, analytics, and data science tools with a no-code drag-and-drop interface that even a data newbie can navigate. In effect, it reduces the fear factor in data analysis. And with less fear comes a willingness to dive into data sets and approach problems with more confidence.
“With big data, once you understand your datasets, no matter which type, you have a base knowledge,” Robertson says. “And that means you can do this anywhere in the world, in any field.”
In addition to pursuing his master’s, Robertson has parlayed his Alteryx Designer experience into a role as a supply chain data scientist and director at a different company. “I started as an analyst in 2017 and now I’m a director,” he says. “Because of my data skills, I’ve been a value-add from day one.”
Tips for Gaining Total Job Security
As an Alteryx power user, Robertson has advice for students just dipping their toes in the analytics waters.
Stick to it:First and foremost, have faith in your work. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Keep working your data — and be willing to admit you’re still gaining certain skills.”
Practice, practice, practice:A great way to gain skills is to do a lot of Alteryx Designer workflows and run formats many times. “It helps you understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your data, beyond just outputs and reports.”
Know your tools:Familiarize yourself with all the available tools, even if one is your favorite. “I sometimes try to do projects across Alteryx and other languages. You always want to improve your ability moving forward.”
Challenge yourself:Take on problems in areas you may not know much about. Not only will you sharpen your skills, but you’ll open up more career opportunities.
Don’t be shy:Reach out to theAlteryx Communityfor advice early and often. “Any time I come across a really difficult problem, I consult the Alteryx Community. It’s a really great forum with answers and awesome downloadable plugin tools.”
Show your value:Be sure to bring up your Alteryx and data analysis skills during job interviews. Companies are looking for people who can solve problems right away without a lot of training. If employers aren’t familiar with Alteryx, you may be the one who introduces them to the platform’s time- and money-saving potential.
Ultimately, data science knows no boundaries. Robertson says anyone can apply these tools to literally any field and be successful.
“Supply chain is simply my specialization,” he explains. “But think of all the other fields that require specialization, like medical.
“If you can take basic data and gain insights from it immediately, it’s total job security.
For more information about the Alteryx SparkED education program, browse this space in the Alteryx Community, and visit us at alteryx.com/sparked.