The Data Revolution Is Here. Here’s How to Make It Your Superpower.
You may have heard the phrase “data-driven decision making” used at least once in recent years. Data has become the golden ingredient in forming any kind of strategy, moving outside the realm of math and science and into many different areas of our lives. And with good reason—data is information about the world around us, providing important context and valuable insights that help us make more intelligent choices. With the global supply of data continuing to explode, and more and more tools being developed to help us make sense of it all, one thing is clear—the data revolution is just getting started.
So how can we prepare to thrive in this new data-driven world? It’s no longer just Business Analysts and Data Scientists who will need to know how to speak the language. Now more than ever organizations must work faster and smarter with fewer resources, meaning they’ll need employees across the board to start leveraging data in their minute-to-minute decision making.
There are a number of tools available to work with data, and the ones you end up using will likely depend on preference—either your own or your company’s. But before we get to that, I highly recommend taking a step back and starting with a short refresher of basic statistics. If you haven’t touched statistics in a while, think bar graphs and “mean, median & mode.” It’s really hard to draw useful insights from data if you’re not familiar with all of the ways you can summarize, visualize and interpret it, which is exactly what basic statistics will teach you. I highly recommend at least the first week of lectures in this course taught by the University of Amsterdam, which you can audit free of charge on Coursera.
Once you’ve brushed up your basic stats skills, you’re ready to start exploring some data! I mentioned that there are many choices for which tools to use—far too many to get into here. Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel remain popular options as they’re widely accessible and more than competent in both data manipulation and visualization. If you have access to Google Sheets or Excel, it’s an excellent place to start. Today, however, I want to focus on another tool that is widely used and increasingly in-demand in the business world: the programming language SQL.
SQL (pronounced as either “ess-que-el” or “sequel”) stands for “Structured Query Language” and is code designed to communicate with one or more databases. Many companies rely on SQL because it’s relatively simple to use and incredibly powerful. With even the most basic SQL commands you can quickly combine and explore massive data sets, zero in on specific information you want to investigate, and slice and dice that information in any way you want. Magic!
Being able to quickly explore data with a language like SQL is important, but it’s arguably more important to be able to communicate what you’ve discovered to others. Humans are visual by nature, making charts and graphs an excellent method of telling your data’s story.
Regardless of which tools you decide to use to access and analyze your data, the most important thing is to just get started! Don’t have any data on hand to practice with? There’s plenty of sample data available online. Get comfortable working with it and watch your decision-making confidence will begin to soar. Keep in mind, though, that there are some potential pitfalls when analyzing data—it can be misleading if not interpreted correctly, and you can easily fall into the analysis paralysis trap. But by using it carefully as a compliment to your instincts and experience, you’ll arm yourself with everything you need to make the best “data-driven decisions” possible.
Interested in learning SQL? You’re in luck! Our eighth annual National Ladies Learning Code Day (September 26, 2020) will teach learners how to manage and manipulate data with SQL. For more information and to sign up for a live online SQL workshop, click here.
This year’s National Ladies Code Day is held in partnership with our fantastic funders at Google.org! Their support of our Ladies Learning Code programming enables Canada Learning Code to bring beginner-friendly accessible workshops to adults coast to coast.
Guest blog by Neil Morrison, a tech enthusiast, programming hobbyist and digital entertainment professional living in Toronto, Canada. Neil is also a Canada Learning Code mentor!
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