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Business Intelligence Careers

Jim's Analytics Career Journey

7 min read
By John Pauler
Jun 28, 2021

Today, we're talking with Jim Carnegie about how he launched his Analytics consulting business.

Jim was unhappy at work.

Then he learned new skills.

Then he got offered a new role.

He turned it down, and started his own Analytics consulting company instead.

Now he loves what he does, and he is continuing to grow all the time.

I am a huge fan of Jim, and his story. If you are unhappy with what you are doing, you don't have to accept it. You can change your situation. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. You just need to put in the work and stick with it.

Hoping Jim's story will be an inspiration to anyone who is feeling like he was.

Let's get into it...

Q: Getting right to the point, you mentioned Maven has made a major impact on your career. Can you tell us more about that?

I was languishing as a Human Resources Generalist. I’d been unhappy for a while. I was disengaged and it was being noticed.

I was lucky enough to get a new leader who encouraged me to take one of Maven’s Power Query courses (more about that later).

I put my head down and even part way through the course the subject matter had practical applications in my role. I completed the course fairly quickly, however as this was happening, COVID struck, my organization restructured and my role was made redundant. I was asked to stick around for a few months.

I continued on my learning journey and completed some additional courses (Maven and otherwise). I continued to add improvements and cost savings though data transformation and analysis and was being noticed again. It got to the point where my employer offered me a newly created position shortly before my departure date. I politely declined without even hearing the offer, as all of the compliments I had been receiving had filled me with the confidence to open a boutique HR data consultancy. I've been busy ever since.

Q: Let's jump back in time. Think about yourself on the day you started your first Maven course. How long ago was that? What was your job at the time? How would you rank your data skills on a scale of 1-10 back then?

I started my first course in early May, 2020. I was a career Human Resources professional, which had turned into an HR systems and org management role. I'd always enjoyed problem solving and data, but was very "aggricultural" in my approach. In previous roles I had performed tasks such as large scale; complex rostering, flight and accommodation modeling and analysis for thousands of remote employees, etc. Based on the scale of some of the work I had done, I thought I was doing pretty good, and would have rated my skills then as a 6 or 7. After starting the course I was very quickly humbled. Upon reflection, a 2 would have been more appropriate. I had always been daunted by complex excel formulas and had never even heard of PowerQuery or Power BI.

My leader assured me Chris' style was incredibly engaging, which made the course material easy to follow and learn from. After an hour or so of the course I was completely engaged. I just wish I had done it earlier - I cringed at the ways I'd worked in the past.

Q: Professionally speaking, what do you do today? How important is data mastery to your current professional role?

I'm now the Principal Consultant of my own HR data consultancy (Mosaic People Analytics). My value proposition is offering practical and measurable solutions to problems I'm very familiar with as an HR professional with 13 years experience.

I do anything from trending HR metrics via dashboards, to helping with budgeting and forecasting, to transforming data that is going from one system in to another. I have just finished automating an annual diversity report for a client that previously took the equivalent of a month's FTE within the business plus a hefty consultant bill. Now each year they just have to extract a little data and press a button. I'm also doing some work with a professional workforce analytics firm to assist with data visualisations. It's a long way from someone who 18 months ago dreaded going to work.

Learning how to tame data has enabled me to deploy and demonstrate my HR capabilities in ways not previously possible in my career. It's also allowing me to spend more time at home with my daughter which is great!

Q: What do you think have been some of the key factors in your success?

The position I'm in now has been the result of a combination of encouragement, hard work, and finding something that I love doing.

The push from my leader was the spark I required to get things going. My wife has been completing her Masters and we've welcomed a gorgeous baby girl to our family. Seeing my wife do all this has been very inspiring and wifey has been amazing in helping me find time to learn. I managed to use the time during lockdown pretty well but had to knuckle down and make sacrifices.

It's all culminated in being equipped with the skills to be able to provide value, automate processes, and solve problems to the point where I can generally wow most people with what can be achieved.

I'm also lucky enough to have an amazingly supportive network who have helped me get set up and point me in the right direction as I've gotten things off the ground.

Q: Which Maven courses have you taken? Do you have any particular favorites that you think have helped you the most?

For me it's all been about the first course I did - Business Intelligence w/ Power Query and DAX. I'd like to talk about the catalyst to me taking the course. We had a major data incident at work that caused huge disruptions and cost lots of money. Hundreds of employees were affected by way of loss of systems access, changes in their reporting lines, and/or changes in their cost centers. It took 4 people 3 days to clean it up. The cause was a very complex and manual process that didn’t have to be.

I recognised this in my weekly one on one with my leader, with a comment along the lines of "there has to be a better way". He agreed. He'd done some Maven courses in the past, and with his knowledge we set about improving the process.

Using the data transformation skills he'd picked up in the courses, we ended up completely transforming the process. We took it from one that was very high risk, high touch and rarely used, into an automated, largely risk free process able to be deployed in many more situations.

Seeing the raw power that the software was capable of, my head started spinning thinking of all of the possible improvements to our department's day to day processes based on these skills my leader had acquired. I immediately enrolled in several Maven courses and began my journey.

Taking the Power Query course and learning to transform data is the single most pivotal thing I have done in my career. I've also taken PowerBI Desktop for Business Intelligence, which taught me heaps about displaying the data. I'm also currently working my way through Advanced Dax for BI. In the last 12 months, my leader and I have enhanced all manner of things. People love pretty dashboards, but the underlying way the courses teach you to think is what has provided me with the most value.

I've tried some non-Maven courses, but I always come back here. I'm also currently watching a couple of people with keen interest who I have insisted take the first course I did.

Q: Is there anything else you think would be valuable for our audience to hear about your career journey?

As is the case in most industries, there are heaps of qualified professionals, and many general data specialists. However, the Venn diagram of where the two intersect is almost non-existent. There is a huge gap in every industry for career professionals to move in to the data area. I am living proof that adding data skills to your existing portfolio can completely change your career for the better.

Q: If you could only give one piece of advice to someone aspiring to a career in data, what would it be?

If you're looking for that next career move, learning this stuff opens some serious doorways. You can solve problems and make your life so much easier in ways that you would never have dreamt were possible.

For the recent graduates, who are facing an incredibly tough job market, you will come out head and shoulders above the competition if you can show them dashboard relevant to their industry.

If you work with computers and have to do any reporting or work with data, invest the time to learn it. Being able to perform basic data transformation will provide immediate benefits to most people. We are living in the information age.

Q: If our readers are interested in getting in touch with you, what is the best way for them to connect or find more information?

If you've got any HR related data issues or needs, please reach out to me by:

Following Mosaic People Analytics on LinkedIn.

Contacting me personally on LinkedIn or by emailing me at jim.carnegie@mosaicdata.com.au.

This is such a fun and inspiring story from Jim!

If you're looking to launch your own career in data, check out Maven's brand new bootcamp offering. First cohort starts in September!

Maven's Fully Immersive Data Analyst Bootcamp

Author

John Pauler

John brings over a decade 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 a decade 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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