Denise McInerney Blog

"I hear mauve has more RAM"

From DBA to Data Analyst

Cross posted from the PASS Blog

There is a lot changing in the data professional’s world these days. More data is being produced and stored. More enterprises are trying to use that data to improve their products and services and understand their customers better. More data platforms and tools seem to be crowding the market.

For a traditional DBA this can be a confusing and perhaps unsettling time. It’s also a time that offers great opportunity for career growth. I speak from personal experience.

We sometimes refer to the “accidental DBA”, the person who finds herself suddenly responsible for managing the database because she has some other technical skills. While it was not accidental, six months ago I was unexpectedly offered a chance to transition out of my DBA role and become a data analyst. I have since come to view this offer as a gift, though at the time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

Throughout my DBA career I’ve gotten support from my PASS friends and colleagues and they were the first ones I turned to for counsel about this new situation. Everyone was encouraging and I received two pieces of valuable advice: first, leverage what I already know about data and second, work to understand the business’ needs.

Bringing the power of data to bear to solve business problems is really the heart of the job. The challenge is figuring out how to do that.

PASS had been the source of much of my technical training as a DBA, so I naturally started there to begin my Business Intelligence education. Once again the Virtual Chapter webinars, local chapter meetings and SQL Saturdays have been invaluable.

I work in a large company where we are fortunate to have some very talented data scientists and analysts. These colleagues have been generous with their time and advice.

I also took a statistics class through Coursera where I got a refresher in statistics and an introduction to the R programming language.

And that’s not the end of the free resources available to someone wanting to acquire new skills. There are many knowledgeable Business Intelligence and Analytics professionals who teach through their blogs. Every day I can learn something new from one of these experts.

Sometimes we plan our next career move and sometimes it just happens. Either way a database professional who follows industry developments and acquires new skills will be better prepared when change comes.

Take the opportunity to learn something about the changing data landscape and attend a Business Intelligence, Business Analytics or Big Data Virtual Chapter meeting. And if you are moving into this new world of data consider attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference in April where you can meet and learn from those who are already on that road.

It’s been said that “the only thing constant is change.” That’s never been more true for the data professional than it is today. But if you are someone who loves data and grasps its potential you are in the right place at the right time.