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Business Intelligence Careers

Student Spotlight with Justin Grabowski

7 min readView all articles
By Aaron Parry
Dec 21, 2020

Maven students are the best. Period.

And honestly it would be a shame to keep their journeys, paths, and stories all to ourselves. So, in an effort to share, I’m really excited to debut a new series of posts that are dedicated to our amazing students: Maven Student Spotlights.

In this first post, you’ll meet Justin Grabowski and learn all about his “why”, his goals and objectives, his experience with Maven, and much, much more.

Before we dig into the Q&A, here are a couple of reasons why Justin is such a standout student. Not only has he completed ALL of the courses in the Maven library, but Justin has also helped John Pauler identify a bug in a recent MySQL release (it’s a funny story that John should share at some point), marketed himself in an extremely smart way, maintained a positive and winning attitude during some interview setbacks, and (spoiler) ultimately ended up landing a sweet analytics job.

Honestly, there’s so much we could say about Justin but figured we’d let him do the talking. You can hear directly below, and you can also read the transcript of a separate Q&A after the video. Enjoy!

Now let's dive into the Q&A...

Aaron: How did you first hear about Maven Analytics, and why did you decide to sign-up?

Justin: I first heard about Maven through one of Chris Dutton's Excel courses on Udemy, which I signed up for to help fill some skill gaps for an Excel-heavy project I was managing. I took a close look at Maven's offering after completing a few of those Excel courses on the other platform and was immediately interested in the breadth of the course content on the Maven platform - it clearly covered more than just Excel. I spent some time deliberating, after which I felt confident in trying out the platform as a subscriber. Relative to what I'd be getting access to, the price to subscribe felt low-risk, and if the content for non-Excel courses was as good as the Excel material I'd already worked through, it would be a no-brainer to subscribe. My hope was that I'd be getting very engaging, focused, and curated teaching by believable people on a handful of priority tools, and Maven certainly didn't disappoint.

Aaron: What is your "why"? Saying that a bit differently, what was your primary objective or goal as a Maven student?

Justin: When I first became a Maven student, my goal was to equip myself with the skills needed to launch a career in analytics. In hindsight, there was something funny about my approach: I thought that the only thing that separated me from an analyst role was knowing how to do something - like writing JOIN statements in SQL or combining INDEX and MATCH functions in Excel to create lookups. I eventually learned that it wasn't only a matter of knowing which buttons to press - I needed to demonstrate an ability to ask good questions and think critically to generate answers. Now that I'm working in an analytical role, it's clear to me that the thinking and problem-solving abilities I strengthened in the advanced, project-based courses at Maven (especially the Advanced SQL Analysis course) are so essential. Those skills don't just help you use analytical tools well; they empower you to deliver results through leveraging insights. Developing that "muscle" is now my primary goal.

Aaron: How would you describe your past work experience and your current career aspirations? Where would you like to be in the next 5-10 years?

Justin: Oh man, I've worn a lot of hats. I started off in pre-sales prospecting and pipeline generation before spending a few years as a quota-bearing salesperson. Sensing an appetite for something outside of sales, I accepted a hybrid project manager/business analyst position at a hedge fund, which then transitioned into working in a team management partner capacity for a group of research analysts. This past spring, I was reflecting on the type of impact that I wanted to have in my work and realized that I was most interested in leveraging insights to deliver better results. In the next 5-10 years, I'd like to have established a track record of doing exactly that, while also being fully capable of collecting, storing, loading, manipulating, and analyzing data to answer questions that I find interesting.

Aaron: How would you describe your experience on the Maven platform so far?

Justin: My experience on the Maven platform has been world-class. I've spent thousands of dollars on courses, on a variety of platforms, and Maven's course content is top tier. That's a large part of why I've completed every course they offer... except for the brand-new Advanced DAX and Advanced Tableau courses they just launched. The structure of the courses, engagement style of the instructors, and the assessments make it very easy to parse what you know vs. what you don't, which is a huge benefit to experienced students. Beyond the course content, I've appreciated the access to the instructors (via the Chat feature on the website) and the pathing mechanisms (that help with optimal course sequencing) on the site. A quick story on the instructors - at one point, I found myself unsure of which course to pursue next, given my goals and what I had already learned. I opened the Chat feature on the site and sent a message to the instructors, and within short order had clarity on what would be the next best course for me individually. Even beyond that one instance, I've found that it's incredibly easy to get answers to questions (and see past exchanges, for reference). I regularly reference the material for my job and personal projects and can't imagine not having access to this material whenever I need it.

Aaron: Do you have favorite courses? What makes them your favorite?

Justin: My favorite courses were the Excel Pivot Table & Pivot Charts course and the Advanced MySQL Analysis course. They're my favorites because they both provide what I consider to be fundamental thinking concepts related to analyzing data. For example, both CASE COUNT features and Pivot Table "Summarize By" features allow you to leverage counting stats for dimensions, which effectively mean you can distill insights from the data that are not obvious from the outset. Finishing both of those courses left me with new analytical thought patterns that I can apply to any dataset in pursuit of answers to critical questions.

Aaron: In your opinion, what sets Maven apart from other online learning platforms?

Justin: In my opinion, Maven does an excellent job selecting high "bang-for-buck" content to feature in courses. These courses have given me a strong foundation in fundamental concepts that I can build on down the road. Here's an example: I'm currently spending a lot of time wrapping my head around accessing data from web APIs, which is a topic that Maven's courses don't teach (though it is acknowledged briefly as a data connection type in some courses). The web API learning that I'm doing doesn't include any information about how to structure data for analysis, how to apply analytical concepts to datasets, or how to visualize that data. If I were starting over in my learning journey, I wouldn't spend ANY time on understanding web APIs - I'd focus on MySQL analysis, key Excel functionality, and visualization tools, all of which Maven covers excellently. I've bought and taken the popular courses on these from other platforms - none of them come close to Maven in setting you up for success.

Aaron: How have you been able to apply what you've learned at Maven in the real world?

Justin: I've had several opportunities to apply what I've learned. Because I used the skills I acquired from Maven to get a job in analytics, I had a few chances to use my new skills in the interview process for different roles. Most recently, I leveraged the string functions covered in the Advanced Functions & Formulas Excel course to help with a survey data analysis I did as part of a practical panel interview for a Business Intelligence Analyst position. My goal was to explore whether survey comments mentioning audio quality correlated with lower reviews and consider whether that correlation explained a perceived decline in webinar ratings as captured by the survey. Beyond the job search, I've enjoyed applying the things I've learned to my fantasy football hobby as well.

Aaron: Have you been able to accomplish your primary goal?

Justin: Definitely, yes. I launched a career in analytics with the things I learned from Maven. I'd even say I'm accomplishing my new goal, which is to develop that muscle for driving results through generating and leveraging insights. I'm super appreciative of the work that everyone at Maven puts in and looking forward to seeing what's next!

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Aaron Parry

Aaron is a professional analytics consultant and Microsoft Power BI expert, with 10+ years working in business intelligence and marketing analytics. He is an instructor, coach and mentor for aspiring analysts, and has deep experience helping companies develop and implement full-stack BI solutions.

Aaron is a professional analytics consultant and Microsoft Power BI expert, with 10+ years working in business intelligence and marketing analytics. He is an instructor, coach and mentor for aspiring analysts, and has deep experience helping companies develop and implement full-stack BI solutions.

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