Reigniting a Career in Data

Strategy   |   Mel Erbes   |   May 14, 2020

Can you share your experience working with data?

Editor’s Note: I sat down with fellow data enthusiast Balraj Oates to discuss her experience transitioning back into the world of data. 

My degree was in Computer Science, so I have always had an interest and understood the basics of programming and databases.

My previous work experience lies in investment banking, where I started out as an application support analyst, and subsequently moved over to the equities trading floor in a business capacity.

During my career, I’ve worked in a number of technology departments, mainly supporting either in-house developed applications or vendor installed systems where I developed a broader skills set, ranging from process monitoring, perl scripting, to SQL report writing.

Supporting systems meant that my natural career progression was to move over to the business side, giving me a more client-centric focus. By the time I left work, I was account managing clients and working in a pre-sales capacity, leaving my technology days behind.

“I’ve always been around data in some way, shape, or form.” 

— Balraj Oates, Alteryx Developer

I took an extended career break to have a family. Now that all three of my children (6, 8, 11) are well-settled into primary school, I am looking at restarting my own career journey. Fast-forward twelve years, and I began looking for something that is exciting, but also works alongside family commitments.

Do your children share your love of tech?

Yes, they like anything to do with tech! Although for today’s kids, that seems to be the new norm. While they don’t understand the power of data just yet, my oldest enjoys coding, my daughter is into block language programming, and my youngest enjoys putting games together

How have you seen the industry evolve since you started?

It’s been slowly changing over time; when I first started, I was the only girl among 37 employees. I was also the only Asian girl and the rest of the team were all men from a wide age range. By the time I left, more females started trickling in. I feel that in terms of gender there is definitely a marked difference. We have a long way to go, but the fact that it’s changing is positive.

Tell us about your transition back into the world of data?

I originally joined the TrueCue Women in Data Hackathon to pick up new skills, network, and also because I thought it could be fun and interesting to be part of a community! I did not expect to kick-start a transition into data.

“Having had a career break for such a long time, I finally feel as though I have found a path that I find not only interesting, but meaningful too.”

— Balraj Oates, Alteryx Developer

Throughout the Hackathon, I had so much fun learning a little about both Alteryx and Tableau, that I decided to formally start my journey in the data industry, and see where it will lead me.

“I found the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform very easy to use and powerful. The learning curve in general is quite easy — you can do simple data profiling work in a dataset and immediately see how the data is put together/made up. Plus, there is so much info and help in the Alteryx Community!”

— Balraj Oates, Alteryx Developer

Since completing the Hackathon, I have been following the “Alteryx for Good — Getting started path”. The Advancing Data and Analytics Potential Together (ADAPT) program is amazing! It’s very well put together, easy to follow, and the fact that it’s free is also a bonus for people like me who aren’t working at the moment. I am so thankful it’s available to anyone.

I’m proud to say that today I am Alteryx “Core Certified”. (She passed on her first go! Great job, Balraj!)

I am definitely enjoying the process of learning, and have already found that I am now so much more open and flexible in my approach to all things “life”.

—Balraj Oates, Alteryx Developer

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in data?

Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things, even if it doesn’t appear to align with your dream goal. Use your network, as you may be surprised at the unlikely mentors and doors that can pop open.

What’s next for you?

I have been interviewing with a major financial institution — a door that would have remained closed for me given my extended career break and the current recruiting environment. Having the Alteryx Core certification under my belt has presented me with the opportunity to be considered for a completely new career and opened doors that I would not have thought possible.

We know what you’re thinking … so, how did it go? We were just as curious. a follow up with Balraj, she was happy to report that she landed the job! 

The ADAPT program has really worked for me and enabled me to reignite my career — I wouldn’t ever have made it to the interview stage, never mind an actual job offer if I had not had the opportunity to self-study for the Core certification. The program is so well laid out and easy to follow. The biggest plus — it’s clearly a well-recognized product certification that employers actually look for. While I appreciate that the Core certification is only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Alteryx functionality, it certainly does lay out the basic foundations to build on.
Congratulations, and we wish you the very best success.

Read This Next. 

Learn more about the ADAPT program here.

Want to hear more of Balraj’s story? Join us at Global Virtual Inspire for an inspiring talk by Libby Duane Adams, Alteryx Co-Founder and Chief Advocacy Officer.