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Business Intelligence Skills

Cross-Training to Learn Analytics Skills and Increase Your Value

4 min readView all articles
By John Pauler
Apr 14, 2020

One of the best things you can do for your career is cross-training.

In a world that's moving pretty fast these days, being flexible, and bringing a diverse set of skills is one of the best ways to make yourself valuable for the long haul.

It's also pretty fun and rewarding to learn new complementary skills.

What do we mean by cross-training? Here are some concrete examples…

  • A Marketing Analyst could learn about Paid Search, and get some hands-on experience managing small campaigns
  • An Excel guru could pick up SQL analysis skills so they can expose themselves to a wider range of datasets and business needs
  • Someone who considers themselves an expert in analysis using Excel or SQL could learn some basic SQL DBA skills to build a stronger understanding of the data structures they are working with. That same Analyst could also dive into business intelligence tools like Microsoft Power BI

I am a big advocate of cross-training. Picking up new complementary skills has a number of potential benefits. You may find that you really enjoy the new skill and that it directly adds a lot of value to your business. It is also very likely that an understanding of related skills will make you stronger within your core competency. You will certainly become more flexible in the way you contribute value to a business, and will have another skill to market yourself with.

Cross-training technical skills has made a big difference in my career

Personally, I started my career as an Excel jockey. Analyzing datasets and creating dashboards in Excel was my original core competency. I was pretty good at it, but the ways in which I knew how to add value to a business were narrow, so my opportunities were fairly limited.

My career hit its first major inflection point when I did some technical cross-training and learned how to implement website experiments and enable web tracking with platforms like Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst. At the agency I was working for at the time, I was the only Analyst with these skills, so I started getting pulled into every client project to help out. The additional exposure was great for my business acumen, gave me a chance to practice and refine my new skills, and elevated my position within the company. It was all because I spent a little time cross-training and picked up some complimentary skills.

Another major career inflection point for me was learning SQL. I picked up a book and learned the basics(didn’t know about online learning at the time), and it opened up a whole new world of datasets that were available to me. This was a total game changer. I went from mostly working in Excel and needing to work with pre-packaged data sets, to being able to access, extract, and manipulate literally every datapoint stored by my organization. Cross-training with SQL gave me new opportunities to contribute to the business and to practice my skills. This new technical skill that was initially challenging for me eventually became second nature, and has probably had the largest impact on the contributions I am able to make to businesses.

I could tell similar stories about how cross-training into Marketing P&L ownership and Product Management have similarly opened up career opportunities for me, but I think you get the point already.

How can cross-training help you?

My advice to you is to be thoughtful and proactive about how you cross-train your technical skills. Think about which skills could open up immediate and long-term opportunities for you, and then get to work learning! Doing this can make all the difference in your career.

Maybe you are an Excel jockey who could widen your scope of influence by learning SQL and gaining access to more datasets and business applications. You could be an Excel or SQL Analyst who could benefit from deepening your understanding of the work a Database Administrator does and how relational databases are managed. You may want to become a better storyteller, leveraging data visualization tools like Tableau. Maybe you want to learn one of the most powerful business intelligence platforms like Microsoft Power BI. There is no wrong answer here. Just identify some skills that sound fun and can make you more valuable, and get after it. You’ll be glad you did.

Keep going!

-John

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Author

John Pauler

John brings over 15 years of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

John brings over 15 years of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

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