As an active industry blogger, I get many inquiries each week from folks around the world with similar questions. Although I do enjoy connecting with my readers, it is impossible to meet with all of you. The following are my answers to commonly asked questions. I will continue to update this page over time. Hopefully, this information is helpful.

FAQ 1: Can you help me find a new role in analytics?
FAQ 2: What skills do I need to get started in analytics?
FAQ 3: How can an Analyst or BI Professional become a data scientist?
FAQ 4: How come you stopped writing about Microsoft technology?
FAQ 5: When will you update your Tableau and Power BI comparison?
FAQ 6: How can I start a business or freelance in the gig economy?

 

FAQ 1: Can you help me find a new role in analytics?

If you are a recent college graduate trying to find your first role, consider applying to consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Accenture, Deloitte, Bain & Company and others. My early career experience at KPMG Consulting and Capgemini has been priceless. It helped me see a wide variety of projects big and small, learn how to navigate the business world, present ideas in a compelling manner, explore libraries of interesting work, and fill my brain with free online learning.

My early career consulting experience has been priceless.

 

If you are having trouble landing a role and need work, try reaching out to a staffing agency such as KForce. There are many agencies out there. These groups are motivated to find roles for you. They also have existing connections with local businesses to get you past the online career forms that are a useless waste of your time to fill out. Networking or getting in another way is your best option. Notably as a military spouse, I used staffing agencies super successfully each time I moved around the country to support my husband’s career. After you gain real world work experience, you may not need these groups to find a role.

For more senior level analytics or data science professionals, Burchworks and Smith Hanley specializes in placing analytics talent. I have no relationship or experience with them but I used to get weekly open analytics roles sent to me from them and also icrunchdata.com.

 

FAQ 2: What skills do I need to get started in analytics?
Did you enjoy statistics or math classes in school? If you did like statistics and math, you will most likely enjoy analytics. If you did not, this profession may not be a wonderful fit for you. I totally love crunching numbers and thus I love what I do. That passion is my secret to success.

I love what I do. That passion is my secret to success.

 

To gain basic analytical skills, I recommend getting a solid foundation in statistical concepts, Python and R programming languages. There are plenty of free resources to do that including but not limited to DataCampCoursera, EdX, Big Data University and Udacity. Simply search for free statistics classes on Google and you’ll find them.

Knowing how to query data is also an essential skill, thus learn the SQL language and how to design a database. Dimensional modeling also seems to be in high demand. Again, these types of topics are widely available to learn for free.

Lastly, you will want to have skills in showcasing your analysis and telling stories with data. If you are not already an Excel guru, you will want to become a master of Excel. It is the #1 analytics tool in the world! Also learn Tableau, Qlik, TIBCO Spotfire, or another data discovery tool. For data storytelling, there are many excellent books and SlideShare presentations on that topic.

 

FAQ 3: How can an Analyst or BI Professional become a data scientist?

When I get asked this question, I want to know why a move is desired. Usually data science roles are staffed with a Masters or PhD level statistics or mathematics graduate.

To learn data science myself, I took a specialized course given by my favorite data science guru, Dean Abbott, back in 2006. Then I invested in a two-year post-graduate certificate data science program from University of California San Diego that I aced. Despite my training and passion for data science, I never landed a pure data science role ever. I was always immediately rejected without even getting an interview. I found landing business intelligence roles was much easier to achieve. Reporting projects sometimes allowed me to apply my data mining skills. Although I did not get a lot of data science work, it was fun working in a data related role that aligned to my interests.

Despite my training and passion for data science, I never landed a pure data science role ever.

 

Keep those lessons learned in mind as you hear all the excitement around data science. Try to use free or low cost programs to gain the basic data science knowledge. I do occasionally give a fast-paced, advanced analytics class that summarizes my two-year training in one day.

If you are certain that you want to pursue a career in data science, look into a Masters or PhD program at an accredited university. Those degrees are far more respected than the two-year certificate program that I took, online degree programs or the couple month certificates major technology vendors teach now to help them sell cloud data science solutions. You will be competing with talent around the world for these roles.

 

FAQ 4: How come you stopped writing about Microsoft technology?

Please read the details within FAQ 5. I will never forget my Microsoft experiences. Today I no longer promote Microsoft. I work with many other wonderful analytics and data science firms in the industry.

 

FAQ 5: When will you update your Tableau and Power BI comparison?

I know this is a mega-hot topic, I am literally an expert in both platforms and my compare articles are extremely popular. I am under a Microsoft non-compete contract until March 25, 2017. Microsoft monitors me closely so I have to wait until that date. For those of you that think non-compete is not enforceable, that is not true. Check your state laws. In Florida, non-compete is enforced. I know that because Microsoft field sales pressured me to leave Tableau in 2013 with lawsuit threats. Companies in Florida were proactively called by Microsoft with instructions not to speak with me, report me to Microsoft if I am seen and so on while I was in Tableau orientation/boot camp. To stop it, I was advised to hire a lawyer to sue Microsoft for tortious interference. The issues continued for five months until I opted not to fight it and resigned from Tableau. That event was a turning point in my career.

When my non-compete expired, I wrote a public Microsoft compare article that only further intensified malicious behavior. I felt my compare article was honest and fair…if anything I was easy on Microsoft. That article ended up getting over 3,800 views per day at peak. It was marketed by the competition in sales deals triggering aggressive recruiting efforts to get me to return to Microsoft.

I am not a victim. I freely choose to write articles and I accept responsibility for it.

 

Eventually I did return to an obscure chief evangelist role on the Microsoft Power BI product team where I was isolated and unsupported. The lack of support may have been due to cultural bias but also may have been intentional. I truly believe that I was hired with NO interviews only to silence my valid, honest, public criticism of Microsoft.

Here are a few examples of what I experienced.

  • I was given a broken laptop when I started and told there was no budget to buy one. As a result, I purchased my own work laptop.
  • I was not added to the primary Power BI team email announcement distribution lists for over 10 months. To get added, I escalated the issue outside of my organization. Everyone else that got hired into my same team was immediately added to those email lists.
  • I was denied access to basic tools and needed support to do my job that peers were provided. I used my own tools, social media accounts, blog website and Partner forum account to distribute Power BI content and function in my role.
  • Despite numerous requests to include me from leadership, I was excluded from most meetings and Power BI evangelism activities. I did get to host several webinars after escalating my challenges to the Microsoft diversity team.
  • I was not allowed to teach Power BI after a male peer complained. That man and other peers were allowed to do so.
  • My name was arbitrarily removed from all Power BI white papers that I led or reviewed.
  • Bots sent me pictures of naked women when I tweeted with a #PowerBI tag. It started after I rejoined Microsoft and then strangely stopped for a while after Microsoft received notice of my report from a State of Washington government agency.

The list goes on and on. No one cares about bully targets. It is human nature to blame them. I should have left right away when I knew that I was in a bad situation. My manager asked me to give them more time, every single time I resigned. My manager even promoted me. Giving them more time was another mistake…I waited way too long to leave. The situation only got worse over time.

No one cares about bully targets. It is human nature to blame them.

 

The most healing conversation that I had in regards to this matter was with the man that won his $11.6 million bullying lawsuit against Microsoft. In talking to him, I learned that I was assigned to the same Microsoft legal team that he and 238 other women were assigned after reporting my experiences. Now I know with 100% certainty that Microsoft bullies get protected and bully targets do not get protected. I also learned that there are more of us out here that have been targeted, harassed and forced out of work. When you go through an experience like mine, you begin to question yourself, who to believe and what is real.

When you go through an experience like mine, you begin to question yourself, who to believe and what is real.

 

I am happier now that I am out of the toxic environment. I reported my Microsoft experiences to legal organizations and government agencies. I also provided witness testimony in the Microsoft Gender Case class action lawsuit. Although my experiences with Microsoft have been professionally and financially devastating, speaking up and agreeing to testify has made a positive difference.

Several people, managers and at least two executives involved in my case were “moved on” to other Microsoft organizations, laid off or left Microsoft, the top Microsoft diversity leader is no longer there, silencing arbitration agreements were recently eliminated, more women are presenting at official events, changes were made to hiring/promotion procedures, and a women in tech public relations campaign led by Melinda Gates was launched in 2016.

Today I no longer work with anything Power BI related nor do I promote Microsoft. I struggle with PTSD and still fear what might happen next. Prior to this nightmare, I was a top #1 ranked pre-sales engineer that loved my profession, gave back to the community and enjoyed helping other people learn new technology. Now… I rarely leave my house.

75% of workers are affected by bullying as a target or witness.

 

If you or someone else is being bullied at work, see the Signs of Bullying, the most helpful things that I have done to move forward is leave the company, seek counseling, reach out to friends, and learn how to cope. The best resources for me have been Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying, and The PTSD Workbook. It is imperative that you take care of yourself. HR is there to protect the company…not you. If your safety is at risk, notify police.

If you still want to see excellent, unbiased, public compare articles, I recommend Ken Black’s blog. He is brilliant, thorough and fair in his real world tests of both Tableau and Microsoft Power BI. He has been warned about comparing but I don’t think it has stopped him yet. I don’t know.

 

FAQ 6: How can I start a business to freelance in the gig economy?

Starting a business is not easy. Don’t underestimate what is needed and required of you to make it. Owning a business takes a strong mind, tenacious spirit and great people skills. It also can be expensive…to do it right.

Minimally you will want to have at least six months salary in the bank to “float” payments since most clients do not work on a retainer basis and only some provide a deposit. It is not unusual to wait three or four months before you see any income on a project. Sometimes you may never collect payment. In the meantime, you will be incurring extra monthly bills, travel and start up costs.

According to the 2016 Upwork / Freelancers Union study, 55 million or 35% of the US workforce of 159 million are freelancers. A growing part of the US economy, freelance earnings are estimated at $1 trillion, or 6% of the $18+ trillion US economy – with a sizable amount transacted online.

2016 Upwork / Freelancers Union study, 35% of US workforce are freelancers.

 

When I started my business, I registered with the State of Florida and also the IRS to get an employer id for taxes. I bought several types of insurances for general and professional liability. I set up several business bank accounts for paying invoices and receiving payments. I bought a domain name, upgraded my web servers, designed my branding, web site, business cards and basic sales collateral. I also invested in an Office 365 E3 subscription, remote storage for disaster recovery, a business phone line, QuickBooks Pro, CRM, webinar service since Skype is unreliable, mass email service, fancy survey software, Tableau Desktop, electronic payment processing, and other software subscriptions or cloud services.

Plan to spend at least $1,000 and possibly up to $6,000 per month on your business to get it up and running.

 

To be able to contract project work, I also had to establish a library of forms and contracts including but not limited to the following.

  • Services Offering Overview
  • Mutual Non-disclosure Agreement
  • Statement of Work
  • Subcontractor Agreements
  • Referral Agreements
  • Invoices and Collection Letters
  • W9 for Taxes

 

When you work for yourself, you need to submit quarterly estimated self-employment taxes to the IRS. Do not forget to do it or ignore it! Look up the IRS quarterly payment schedule and mark it on your calendar.

There is so much more entailed when starting a new business. Essentially the items I shared above should get you functional. I also encourage you to talk to other business owners to hear about lessons learned.

I have found that people that want to work with me do and those that don’t simply won’t call. You can usually tell a good client from a not so good one just by gut feel. However, pulling D&B business credit reports is another priceless tip. Don’t provide credit to a company without seeing that report. It ranges from $50 to $150 and is worth every penny.

If you are not good at marketing and sales, starting your own business is going to be incredibly difficult. You may want to consider going 1099 or W2 through a staffing agency or another consulting firm that finds work for you.

I hope that helps give you an idea of what is entailed in starting your own company. It is not at all easy but essentially you drive your own destiny. Your are your own boss. Anything is possible.

You drive your own destiny…
Anything is possible.

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