A day in the life of a Junior Data Analyst at Wood for Trees

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Dan Henly is our newest recruit in the analysis team and has kindly shared his experience as a Junior Data Analyst since joining Wood for Trees earlier this year. Here’s what he’s learned so far…

I joined Wood for Trees in early April 2022, ready to start my journey through the metaphorical data-verse – think of the Multiverse from Doctor Strange but bigger, with less magic and more numbers. My first challenge was to discover all the tools a Data Analyst might wield in their quest for knowledge. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far…

There have been many pairs of adversaries throughout history. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, and Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker all spring to mind. However, the greatest rivalry today exists between me and obtaining useful information from a database.

This is where the first and most important tool, Structured Query Language (SQL) comes into play. SQL is the language of databases. With its simple syntax, SQL allows you to extract exactly the information you want from a database. You can then pipe this data into Tableau or Power BI (more on these later) and create visualisations to your heart’s content. It was at this point I also became familiar with database architecture. Architecture links different tables together with keys and schemas within databases. This becomes very useful when you start thinking about the best way to store your data.

Swiftly after learning about data engineering and data hygiene, I began to use SQL for more complex processes. SQL helps speed up arduous data tidying for ingestion into Wood for Trees’ Core Charity Data Model (CCDM). À la Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier”, the CCDM allows for swift integration of data into the InsightHub charity reporting and benchmarking portal, and stored procedures written in SQL help make this process as painless as possible. The CCDM allows for a whole host of quick analyses, from information like income by channel to which supporters are contactable. Charities and businesses can then see how they’re performing against numerous key performance indicators (KPIs). Choosing the right KPIs is a whole other can of worms I won’t open here but our webinar ‘How to measure your charity’s fundraising activity’ with Charity Digital explains more – watch it here. I’ve found some of the most often used KPIs include the following, but this depends on each client and their individual needs.

  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Average gift
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)

Sticking with our theme of rivalries, I now present the visualisation tools Power BI and Tableau. I was introduced to these powerful tools at Wood for Trees and quickly discovered that both are an essential part of an analyst’s arsenal. Both help convey information to an audience. The power of a simple graph makes it much easier to share narratives and help people conceptualise the message being put to them. There is somewhat of a divide in the analytical population between Tableau and Power BI users. From my brief exposure to both, I find myself leaning towards Tableau. I’m basing this choice on the UI and usability alone, not empirical data (how ironic). Based purely on anecdotal evidence, Power BI seems to be the tool to use when you need a quick fix. Whereas Tableau appears better suited for larger datasets where you may need to format data a bit more. There’s also matplotlib in Python but I’ll leave that out of the equation for now as it requires more setup (i.e. coding) than the other two. In keeping with my mathematical roots, I shall leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which tool they prefer.

Having settled into the analysis team, now’s a great opportunity to think about what else I wish to learn at Wood for Trees. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Data tells us “the need for more research is clearly indicated.” In this vain, I’m very interested in the Python programming language. Its large number of libraries can be implemented in both a visualisation and automation capacity. I’m also interested in using Power Apps to create web apps with minimal HTML and CSS scripting. From previous experience, this is time consuming and irksome. Power Apps allows you to create forms and different views all at the touch of a ‘button’ (yes, hilarious HTML joke, laughing is compulsory). On a more SQL related note, I plan on learning more about Common Table Expressions (CTEs) and Temporary Tables. I’m also interested in Stored Procedures for running queries I find myself using often to save rewriting whole chunks of code. As Bill Gates once said: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

At Wood for Trees, we’re always on the lookout for fresh, new talent working with data to join our growing team. Whether you’re interested in working within data engineering, analysis or solutions, we’d like to hear from you. Check out our current vacancies here or send your CV to getinfo@woodfortrees.net for future consideration.