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Data Analyst wants to change careers

 
Greenhorn
Posts: 4
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Hello Everyone,

So just to give an overview of myself and my career thus far: I'm 34 years old and I graduated with my degree in Mathematics with a concentration in Probability and Statistics in 2013. I have worked mostly in SQL since graduating college, but I have worked with SAS, SPSS, and R as well through my classwork in college.
I got my first job right out of college working for a healthcare company working as an "data analyst." Unfortunately, being a data analyst for me has just been what I call a report jockey just cranking out reports all day long. It's really boring and I just feel as though I have made a mistake in my career and my education.
During my time as an analyst though, I have realized I really enjoy the programming part of my job and really not much else. I like working with SQL to produce what my end users like to see (or maybe not see depending upon the circumstances).
Realizing that I do not think I want to be a data analyst for much longer since I am tired of just producing reports and nothing more than reports, I want to change over to programming since I want to do more and have more challenges in my career.
I started out at Codecademy and I've been bouncing between there and Code School as I learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Really love JavaScript. I hope to get either Ruby or Python down and then move into Java from there.
I do realize that these are web developer languages, but I feel as though that this is at least a good start in getting my feet wet.
What I am worried about is that since I have a Math degree and not a CS degree that I am going to be disregarded regardless of any skills I may obtain. I have been thinking about signing up for classes at a community college that is nearby to either get a certification or an Associates Degree, but I also wonder if that will be worth it to employers who would want to see maybe a four year CS degree instead of a four year Math degree.
I am hoping to see if there is anyone out there that has any thoughts as to how a Math degree would be viewed when applying for a programming position. Is it that big of a deal to have a CS degree or can other majors get programming jobs if they can show they have the chops?
Also, what would be some career paths that I could possibly take from moving from a data analyst position to programmer? I know that I probably wouldn't get into programming right away given my current career experience, but if I could have some ideas about transitional careers, that would be great as well.

Thanks so much!!
 
Marshal
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Welcome to the Ranch

Don't know but I suspect your situation is better than you think. For a start, lots of people want staff with SQL skills, though that may not count as programming.
 
Bartender
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That's an interesting perspective - as you are trying to move in the opposite direction to a lot of people I know right now.

With your strong academic background and practical experience, you would be really well placed to get into data science, which is where a lot of people with far less skill/experience are currently aiming - it's supposed to be the sexiest job of the 21st century after all. Companies and public sector organisations are amassing vast amounts of data and they are struggling to figure out how to analyse, explore and benefit from all this data. Technological developments are also making it possible to do new things or apply existing techniques on a much wider scale and far more cheaply than ever before. This goes far beyond dumb SQL queries: I went to the "Strata Hadoop" conference on Big Data in London two weeks ago, where a lot people of seemed to be looking at things like machine learning and streaming analytics on realtime data etc.

Even allowing for the hype around this allegedly new career path, my impression (from the conference and the job market in general) is there is a real demand for people who can combine statistical analytical skills with practical hands-on coding in languages like R or Python (check out IPython Notebook), especially on some of the newer platforms like Hadoop and Apache Spark. It's not just SQL - there are lots of interesting tools out there, especially for people who are prepared to get their hands dirty and write some code. And there is a real shortage of people with these cross-over skills, which means salaries are much higher than for regular programmers. These are high-end jobs, unlike the low-level grunt programming work that tends to get outsourced to cheap offshore suppliers, which is an important factor to consider if you want to stay in a technical role for several years.

The big consultancies are actively recruiting data scientists, because they want to be able to supply this growing market, so there might well be opportunities to get in there and be trained up in the extra skills you would need. It's much easier to train a mathematician to write programs than to train a programmer to do maths, so applicants with a maths background are in demand for these roles. The universities are also creating Master's courses in various aspects of data science e.g. for the health sector, finance etc, which offer a much quicker route into this field than doing a CS degree, for example. You can also look at online courses on Coursera, EdX and Udacity for a taster of the kind of skills involved.

Obviously, your own goals and preferences must determine which path you take, but I would really think twice about throwing the data science baby out with the SQL bathwater. If you really want to be a mainstream web developer, then go for it and good luck to you. But your current skills/experience also leave you very well placed for a different and potentially more rewarding option if you decide it looks interesting.

Best of luck with your plans, either way.
 
Rancher
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I think you might make a good Product Manager. Almost every company has some sort of reporting need, and hence they need someone to define what the reports should look like. Since, you have spent your life building reports for other people, you must have a good idea of how reports should look like. Also, you have a proven record of talking to non-technical people and understanding their needs. That's a ProdMan skill

And like Chris says, you can get into Data Science too. Data Science is very hot, but you will probably need to learn a lot of new technologies.
 
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