Data analysis is one of the hottest fields in the world right now, and growing all the time. Get an inside look at the data analysis industry.
Dr Claire Davis-Reddy is our iX LaunchPad Data Analytics Head Teacher, alongside her day job of Software Engineering Manager at Derivco, a software development company based in South Africa. After spending a decade working in academics, Claire took her love for data and pivoted into a successful career in data science. Since then, she has worked at SAEON (the South African Environmental Observation Network) as a Head of Data and Data Science Team Lead, before transitioning to her current role.
Today, we sat down for a chat about her journey into data science, what she loves and finds challenging about her job, and why she loves to teach with iX LaunchPad.
Hi Claire, thanks for joining us today. To start with, how did you get into data analytics?
After university, my career path was focused on academic research in the field of climate change. This research, as with all scientific work, involves collecting, processing, and analysing data and then presenting these findings. After 10 years in the research space — and after completion of my PhD — I moved formally into data science after getting a role as a data science team lead.
What excites you about your job?
Data, data and more data! I find analysing data so exciting because of what can be discovered through the process. I really enjoy analysing data and then presenting these findings to people to enable better decision-making.
Do your days have a regular cadence or are days all different?
Every single day is different. As a person, we have good and productive days and then not-so-productive days and you have to learn to balance this. You may also be working on different projects or tasks throughout the week and your energy will change depending on what you are working on.
Do you work in-office, remotely, or hybrid? Has it changed since the pandemic? Do you have a preference?
I have been working remotely for the last several years, but I have just started a new job in January where I am working on a hybrid basis. I prefer working from home, but I also understand that some collaboration comes best when people are together.
What are some of the best parts of your job?
Working with smart and energetic data scientists, engineers, and analysts. Getting to work in a field that drives change, has an impact.
What are some of the more challenging parts?
The work that data analysts and scientists do is usually within big organisations or companies and sometimes it can feel as though my work doesn’t contribute or filter up to the management or decision-making level and that the pressures and expectations from management are unrealistic, based on the data we have. For example, it is not possible for the data we have available to project 20 years from now but that is what’s required.
What’s your favourite part about teaching with iXperience?
I love teaching students, I love the excitement they feel when learning about the tools that I’ve used throughout the last 15 years. It’s so exhilarating to know that they are exploring these tools for the first time that they’ve never heard of or used before. In the last course I taught, my students had never used Tableau Public before. When you look at data analytics jobs, they always require some knowledge of a data analytics tool, and this is one these students could easily find themselves using in the course of a career in data.
Why do you think high school students should learn data analytics?
Data analytics is just growing, day by day, every single company out there has a data team. It’s such a growing field, even the NBA, and soccer – every sport has a data team sitting in the back room analysing every play, replay, and activity in order to select players or even win the next game. I’m a quantitative person – I’ve always just loved numbers and data – but, more importantly, data is driving everything we do in business
What are students most surprised about when they learn data analytics with you?
In my last class, students were most surprised about the fact that you don’t have to be a super analytical person, a left-brain person, to be a data analyst. You need to bring both your creativity and your quantitative analysis skills with you. And if your maths isn’t great, that’s also fine. There are amazing careers in data visualisation and storytelling, where you’ll create infographics, social media posts, and presentations to help tell the story of data.
And to round out our chat today, if you could tell your 16-year-old self anything about your future career, what would it be?
I’d tell myself that marks don’t matter! By all means strive for the A, for the 100%, but they aren’t necessary to get into data analytics. There are so many varied avenues and sub-fields within data, there’s no need to worry so much about the grades in high school.
On that high note, we’ll say goodbye to Dr Claire Davis-Reddy for today. Thanks so much, Claire, for taking the time to share a bit about your life in data analytics with us. We’ve loved getting to know you a bit better and sharing your amazing insights into this ever-growing field.
If you like the sound of data analytics, keep an eye out for our next article when we explore a day in the life of a data analyst. Want to explore data analytics and find out if this is the career for you? Apply for our Term Two Data Analytics Course & Micro-Internship Programme. Remember, GEMS students are automatically accepted pending payment of the subsidised course fee.