How to Break into the Data Industry: Career Advice from Analytics Manager Simon Kelly

The Data and Analytics market is growing rapidly.

By 2030, the global market size for Data and Analytics is projected to reach £266 billion, a CAGR of nearly 30%. This increasing popularity has made the Data and Analytics space extremely competitive and difficult to break into.

Because of this, one of our consultants, Emma Johnson, spoke with hiring manager Simon Kelly to learn how they managed to navigate through this extremely competitive field when they first started.

Kelly is an Analytics Manager who works at Entain, and has been in Data & Analytics since 2011. Kelly has had a very successful career working within Credit Risk, Finance, and now Gambling. Here’s a summary of Kelly and Johnson’s discussion, along with some key insights from their conversation.

Background on Simon Kelly

Q: How did you get into Data and Analytics?

A: After University, I went travelling the world for the most part of a year. Before travelling I went back home and worked in a call centre at Capital One as I knew people there and knew it was a reputable company. After travelling, I joined Capital One again and started in Operations and quickly worked my way up.

It got to the point where with my degree and my background in being naturally good at maths, it meant I was getting more involved with Excel in building reports and working with the analysts. So, I spoke with my boss at the time, who was great, and they created a role for me. This role was a junior analyst role but in between Operations and Analytics, and gradually I was doing more hardcore analytics stuff, including data analyst type (forecasting/controls & MI report building) tasks and more strategy, and it built from there.

Insight #1: You don’t need a technical degree to get into data analytics

Q: What did you study at university?

A: I started off in Mining Engineering which involved a lot of Physics, Chemistry and Maths. After studying this for a year I realised this wasn’t quite the right fit and then moved to Accounting and Finance.

Shortly after the change, I realised I wanted to open it up into business more generally as I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be an accountant or to limit future career opportunities. So, I ended up with a business degree but there were still lots of elements of economics and accountancy in that too.

Insight #2: What you do need, is a love for problem-solving  

Q: What has kept you in Data & Analytics?

 A: I guess quite simply like just being able to understand things and the problem-solving aspect is very rewarding. Data is usually the way to at least get some insight into things within a business and then you can brainstorm and talk to others and figure out what’s really happening. But data is the key to unlocking that and there’s often so much variety within that as well. Sometimes it’s challenging to get what you want out of the data, but once you do it usually makes sense, or it is it’s a starting point, something that you can focus on and then bring in other information to figure out what’s going on.

Insight #3: Data without context is useless

Q: What’s the most important advice would you tell your younger self?

 A: I guess the key thing is when we think about data, data in isolation isn’t very valuable. You need to understand the context of it. You could be a great coder but if you can’t say what the insight is, (the ‘so what’) i.e. what does that mean to the business/customer then the data in itself is only so valuable. Do that storytelling and understand it in the business and customer context, without that there’s only so far you can go with purely just data.

Insight #4: When interviewing for a role. don’t hold back on your answers – hiring managers want to hear your thought process

Q: What advice would you give to candidates interviewing?

A: Don’t hold back. I think sometimes we push to try to get insight from candidates because we think they know it. But maybe they are reluctant to just go out there and say it for fear of saying the wrong answer. A lot of the time we’re not necessarily looking for the right answers. It’s more on the critical thinking and point of view of how they got to the answer.

So, if we ask a question, you’re not sure about, then take us through your thought process explaining bit by bit. And if it’s to go down a path and it’s not quite on track with what we’re looking for, it doesn’t give us enough to get a gauge of your thought process, we’ll ask you a slightly different question to try to bring you back on track. As a hiring manager, understanding this whole process and how a candidate got to an answer, even if it’s completely different to what we expect is way, way better than just saying, oh, I’m not sure.

Insight #5: Data skills are transferable across different industries

Q: What made you make the change from Credit Risk/Finance to working with Gambling? 

A: The change of industry was quite natural because even though I was in credit risk and finance, it was more Consumer Finance – Collections and Recoveries. So, trying to understand people/customers and their financial situation and how can the Creditors help them identify them, segment them, and help them.

In a similar lens what we do in Safer Gambling is the same sort of thing. Trying to identify people who we should be protecting more. Using data to understand a customer’s affordability. Are we doing things correctly and for the benefit of the business and customer? It’s quite similar in that sense. It’s just identifying and understanding that customer using data and helping make the situation better.

Insight #6: You don’t need to know exactly where you’re going next

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years’ time?

A: I’m really enjoying Entain and my role at the moment but longer term, I’m not solely set on one industry or one company or anything like that, so who knows? I want to ensure there’s progression, that I’m enjoying the role that I’m doing, and that it’s a nice balance of challenging and rewarding – then I’ll continue to be happy. There’s no title that I’m aiming for anything like that, I just want a fulfilling and varied role where I can make a difference and slowly continue to progress from a career point of view.

Are you a data professional that’s looking to make a career change, or break into the industry? Get in touch today.

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