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How to be an Insight Analyst

Harry Glossop, Senior Strategic Insight Analyst, Team Shell.

Tell us about what your job involves?

Being a data analyst means turning numbers into stories, and seeing the person and the decisions behind the data. The customer makes a decision and leaves some data behind. We need to work out what that decision is and then understand what that means for a business, so we’re a bit like detectives mixed with sales people.

How did you get to where you are now?

I studied Mathematics at university, which gave me a great grounding, but I didn’t really want to go into accounting or actuarial areas so I went for analytics. In the four years since I left university I’ve worked for global retailers, government departments, small start-ups and multi-national fuel firms. Now I have a team of analysts and I’m working to overhaul how our clients use their data, from simple reporting, to fully formed data based strategies. That’s one of the best things about analytics – the applications are endless.

What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

Data is never straightforward. In many ways it’s like being an archaeologist. No one ever leaves behind a piece of pot or a ring to give you an insight into their lives, they just drop it and thousands of years later a story can be pieced together from lots of these accidental clues. The same is true of data. Finding out the useful bits, knowing how to put them together, and then when you have enough of them being able to stand back and find the business opportunity in the story that is being told. You do this by being clear, by always bearing in mind the end goal, and by helping people understand how transformational analytics can be when it is used right.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

When you’re working on a project and for a moment you’re the only person in the world that knows something. You’re the only one who sees different groups of customers or knows exactly how many people are behaving in a certain way. I love that moment of clarity that comes when you realise you have found something important.

What characteristics do you need to do your job?

A clear, analytical mind, a lot of curiosity and a lot of patience is needed to get to the right answers, but then a lot of energy and creativity to sell the story to clients and customers.

How do you think your job will evolve over the next few years?

At the moment data sits in many silos, each company has its own data base. We are moving to a world where everything is connected so data will reach across parts of people’s lives and start to enable people to do things they never thought of doing before.

How are you adapting for this change?

Flexibility is key for this – we’re making sure that our systems are ready but more importantly that we are making the right connections. In a world where what you see on TV, what you read on the internet and what you buy from a supermarket can all be connected and bounce off each other we need flexible data warehouses and flexible marketing ideas to make the most of it.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of doing what you do?

Don’t get scared by the idea of coding, it gets easy very quickly. If you want to be the person that everyone turns to when they need to make a decision because you’re the only one able to get to the facts, or if you want to be able to see stories and strategies where others only see numbers, then give analytics some serious thought.