When I was first entering college (CEGEP), I started out with a focus on engineering. It was something of a given, because in those days, being “good at math” led directly into ‘science’ of some kind. But work is always easier when you enjoy it, and I began to realize that I did not really love engineering. With that realization, I applied to Concordia University and switched my major to finance. I’d still be using my talent for math, but in a field that I thought would be more straightforward.
I’ve always had a very analytical mind, and as I continued my education, I found myself less enthused about raw numbers, and drawn instead towards the theory and philosophy of finance. It sparked an interest in consulting, which naturally led me to data science, and then logistics in general. Fortunately, Concordia offered a co-op program through which I could obtain an internship to gain the real-world experience I craved.
Data Analytics is Fulfilling
My first internship was with Bombardier, an aerospace company. My first challenge in the Outstanding Delivery Items department was to teach myself to use Excel (there was no one to train me). I made it through that internship well enough, and was invited back for a second internship--this time in their financial department.
While we used Excel in much the same way as we did in my first internship, the data itself was different, and there was more of it. At the time, we were asked to do our reports manually, with a lot of time spent gathering, reviewing, and printing. Annoyed with this lack of efficiency, I wrote my own code to automate the process, which saved a great deal of time. Once I had that automated, what used to be a whole day’s work now took only about five minutes! My supervisors were amazed, especially when they learned I’d taught myself from scratch.
Then they wanted the same done for other reports, which were also inefficient, time-consuming, and frustrating for various teams. I set them up with similar code, and I’m pleased to say that I heard they are still using it. It felt really good to make a lasting, meaningful impact.
That 2nd internship led to a full-time job. Next, I wanted to branch out and took a job with Dollarama, where they had similar challenges. More importantly, they gave me more data than Excel could handle, and that’s when I discovered and began to learn how to use Alteryx Designer, a more modern data analytics and automation platform.
One of the biggest advantages Alteryx has over Excel is versatility. With Alteryx, I can create a data visibility window of five years, as opposed to just six months. When I have a workflow that needs changes, I can clearly see how it’s working, how each small change has ripple effects across the whole. Alteryx visualization tools also really help me communicate more clearly with my requesters. For reports to reveal the most vital insights, the data needs to be from the right sources, and complete, and then it can be compared, cleaned, and aligned for a better understanding the bigger picture. Alteryx makes this entire process much easier.
Alteryx Helps Me Make Positive Impacts
Today, I use Alteryx for both professional and educational purposes. Many of my Concordia University projects benefit from it, and strengthen each other in a symbiotic way. I had helped start a club called the Data Intelligence Society. We host workshops to teach ourselves the data intelligence material, and then make it clearer for other students. Considering that we started with pen-and-paper, adding Alteryx Designer to our learning and coaching activities has been quite an upgrade!
At work at Dollarama, I have developed a good, streamlined reporting process which can ultimately benefit everyone in the organization. For example, in a moment of crisis, a new data report can make or break a vital initiative. As agility becomes ever more important in today’s world, delivering an updated, credible report in minutes instead of hours or days helps me stand out as a true problem-solver.
My Advice to Students?
What I feel many students who consider learning data analytics don’t realize is that they don’t have to be an expert in programming or statistics to be successful. And this is mostly due to Alteryx Designer, which is no-code and code-friendly. My sister, for example, hates math, but loves marketing. Designer helps her work with product and customer data more efficiently than Excel to build more successful marketing strategies.
In today’s job market, there’s a real shortage of data analytics skills. Because the field is still gaining traction in education, fewer people have access to learn it. As the word spreads quickly, students studying anything from supply chain to agriculture are discovering just how much of an impact analytics can have on their careers.
Anyone who brings data analytics skills into their chosen field will have a lot more opportunities to choose from.
Let’s say you have a list of tasks that normally will take about eight hours to complete. If you can find a way to manage it in an hour, that’s seven more hours to focus on other projects, strategies, and innovations. Not to mention how indispensable you can make yourself - when you’ve made the workflows, and can easily share what they reveal, your value as an employee increases. Like a person who speaks many languages, you stand out, and everyone benefits.
Remember, just a few decades ago, most people didn’t know how to use a computer. Now no one questions that we all need one. It’s much the same with modern data analytics: it can be applied anywhere, in any field of study, for any industry or line of business that relies on gathering insights from evolving data types. The value of harnessing data to help justify organizational decisions cannot be overstated.
So be like Sherlock Holmes, discovering puzzles, reverse engineering, and solving problems. Accelerate the upward movement of your career. You’ll be a highly valued collaborator, even across teams, trusted with much more than you were originally hired to do. What better way to exceed expectations?
To learn more about the Alteryx Designer platform, check out the Alteryx SparkED education program, providing higher education (and independent learners) with free academic software licenses, teaching tools, optional faculty training, and self-paced online learning pathways. SparkED is already at colleges and universities all over the world. Find out if it’s available near you, and if not, ask your instructors about it.