What does a data analyst do? A day in the life of a data expert

Organisations are collecting more data than ever before. But how can they make the most of the opportunities this presents?

Data analysis and visualisation makes this new wealth of information easy to understand, explore and act upon. So, we spoke to Halimah Awan, PA analytics expert, to understand how she extracts value from data and find out what a day in the life of a data scientist looks like.

How did you get into data analytics?

I started my digital and technology solutions degree as part of an apprenticeship. I was able to complete my degree while working as a consultant, gaining practical experience across application development, data modelling, business analysis and architecture. And since joining the consulting world, I’ve loved getting hands-on with the databases, especially Structured Query Language (SQL). I’ve used a range of technology, from Google Cloud Platform and Python to MS SQL Server and PowerBi, to model, migrate and visualise data, helping businesses innovate, grow and improve.

Now I’m a data scientist, helping financial services organisations get the most from their complex data.

What does a typical day look like?

I’m currently helping create a data model using complex data sets.

My days start with a stand-up meeting where developers, data scientists and our scrum master review progress and outline our plans for the day. This is where I bring up any blockers or challenges, so I get the right input from the team.

Then I move onto the technical aspect of the role. I work a lot with SQL, which is vital in the data science industry. This is about more than writing queries. It’s about optimising and evaluating them, and ensuring they apply to the context.

Starting with analysing the database, I create SQL queries to pull correct data. From that, I use Python to create insightful graphs and visualisations to show my findings concisely.

I work closely with my client to understand the questions they want their data to answer and the insights they need for a working product. Due to the complexity of the datasets, I’m often in workshops and Q&A sessions with stakeholders to understand them better. I take my assumptions and queries to these sessions and use the feedback to amend my data model.

I use a huge variety of tools to achieve this, my favourite being SQL. I’m now the go-to person on my project for this, which has helped me progress my career and develop vital teaching skills. But I’m always learning. For example, during my first project using Python, the team had created a tool that I broke. I had to speak to the developer and begin to learn how to use Python myself. I now use it alongside SQL, one as a coding language and the other for querying the database, giving me more ways to use data.

Outside of my role in data, I’m a Women in Tech mentor, sharing my experience with others to support their growth and development. I also lead the comms and engagement for the PA Muslim network, which has helped my professional development.

How can others get into data analytics?

Whether you take an apprentice route like I did, or study statistics, computer science or mathematics at university, there are many ways to get into data analytics. Look out for ways you can get practical data analytics experience, develop data visualisations and hone your presentation skills to tell a compelling story with data.

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