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Business Intelligence Careers

Aaron Parry's Analytics Career Path

8 min readView all articles
By Aaron Parry
Nov 17, 2020

Have you ever wondered how someone arrived in their current role or job? I mean really thought about it?

Maybe you've thought about it and asked questions like: what decisions did they make? Where did they go to school? What other jobs have they held? Is this where they saw themselves 5, 10, 15 years ago? Did they always know exactly what they wanted to do?

The answers to these questions are likely just as varied - and interesting - as the path the person took to get there.

Over the course of this post, I’d like to share my winding and varied path. A path that has consisted of distinct career changes, continued learning, and many difficult choices, some small and some big. If you’re interested in hearing more, stick with me, there are likely similarities between your path and mine.

There’s only been one time in my life where I knew with 100% certainty what I wanted to do, and that was join the military advance (sorry high school guidance counselor). So, the summer before my senior year of high school started, I enlisted in the Army. As a young kid, I always dreamed about being in the Army, it was something I was drawn toward and it was one of the first times in my life where I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do.

Military Service

There are a lot of outcomes from serving in the military, some expected and some not. What I expected to learn was basic soldiering skills, discipline, a strong work ethic, and, most importantly to me at the time, leadership skills like integrity, being the example and knowing myself (strengths and weaknesses) - all critical foundations of leadership.

One of the most profound pieces I learned about leadership is that it isn’t a singular thing. Leadership is a relationship and relationships are formed from trust, conversation, solving problems, checking your ego, knowing your soldiers (or employees, direct reports, coworkers, friends, etc.), and much more. Learning all of this was fantastic but what I wasn’t expecting to learn, as an outcome of leadership, was mentorship.

A couple years in and a few promotions later, I found myself in a position where I was responsible for the health and welfare of soldiers. This meant a lot of different things, chief among them was mentorship and training. I worked with other NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) to develop training plans and curriculums to ensure our soldiers were trained and capable of executing their jobs at a high level. Throughout this process I realized that I loved teaching and training other soldiers. The one-to-one direct coaching, the real and direct conversations, and the look of satisfaction on a soldier's face after completing a task or objective was very rewarding and fulfilling.

Looking back, it was the first time I remember experiencing my flow state; that perfect balance between challenge and skill, where you feel like you’re doing exactly what you’ve been set on this earth to do (something Chris also talks about in his Founder's Story). But all things must come to an end and, for a variety of reasons, I decided to move on.

Heavy Equipment

So, now what?

To be completely honest I didn’t have a great exit strategy, and by that I mean I didn’t have one at all.

I left the military without a job prospect or really knowing what I wanted to do next. So, I took a break for a while and hiked, played golf, camped, and caught up with friends. It was fun but wasn’t amounting to much. One day, kind of out of the blue, my girlfriend's mother said she had found me a job opportunity. She had been at a friend's wedding and while talking with a group of people asked one of them - the owner of a local heavy equipment dealer - if they were looking for help. Turns out they were, and after a short interview process I was given the opportunity to become a heavy equipment technician. A relationship provided me an opportunity for a new career.

To be honest, I didn’t know the first thing about hydraulics, valve bodies, variable displacement pumps, controller area networks, electrical schematics or how to adjust the values on a diesel engine. But I knew I could learn.

I became infatuated with learning as much as I could as quickly as I could and dug deep into technical manuals to learn how these systems worked independently and together. I couldn’t get enough. I loved learning about all the technical aspects of these systems (and I still do). Things were going well and after a little while, one of the owners said they needed a new manager to run a store they recently opened. It was another opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I embraced this new opportunity and faced the new challenges of this role head-on. Not only was I expected to still be a technician, but I would also manage the service, parts, and rental profit centers for the dealership. This meant learning inventory management, parts margins, service work orders, employee time sheets and payroll, local rental laws, and rental contracts.

Oh, and customer service.

If you’ve ever been in a customer facing role you know the importance of accurate and timely communication. This role allowed me to practice, refine and hone how I communicated with customers. My goal for every conversation was to try and understand their needs and ultimately approach each customer with empathy.

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with real and direct customer conversations, helping solve their problems, and knowing they’ll be able to return to working on their own projects. Helping customers and teaching soldiers is very similar – it just requires a slight change in your perspective and approach.

I was learning a lot while helping the dealership stay profitable, but it felt like I just “had a job” and I was looking for more. So, I set a new goal and decided that it was time to head back to school for my undergrad degree.


Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and held yourself accountable for a goal you knew would be uncomfortable to achieve?

Truth be told, I was nervous about starting college (queue the inner dialogue between my rational and emotional brain). I knew I wasn’t living up to my potential and just “having a job” wasn’t something that I was interested in any longer. So, while working a full-time job and going to school at night, I took three courses a semester (Fall, Spring & Summer) and was able to complete my degree within 5 years. This was one of the first times, in a long time, that I realized I was capable of more - but what was next?

The Agency

Relationships (there it is, there’s that word again) matter a lot. This time a close friend of mine knew the work I was doing in school, knew I was looking for a new job opportunity, and suggested that I interview for an associate analyst position at the Boston-based advertising agency he worked for. Spoiler alert - I got the job. This marked the beginning of another new career, this time as a marketing analyst. I was excited to say the least!

I’ll never forget walking into the office on my first day, sitting at my desk, being given a computer and a list of tools and software to start downloading, many of which I’d never heard of; Tableau, MySQL Workbench, SQL Pro, an FTP client, remote desktop to connect to a remote server running an ETL tool...Huh?

In those first moments I was wondering if I had made the right choice.

My boss was the chief technologist for the agency (it was a small agency at this point), and I was out of my comfort zone, not by a little but by a lot. But that’s what’s interesting about comfort zones - they’re useless. Growth doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable.

I didn’t know the first thing about Tableau, relational databases, proper data structures and ETL best practices. Then again, I didn’t know anything about hydraulic and electrical systems or diesel engines but learned those. So, I did what I had done throughout my career - I learned. I employed the same approach and devoured everything I could to learn as much as possible about these tools, systems and how they work together.

Fast forward two years and in walks a consultant to help with an analytics project. His name? Chris Dutton.

Over the course of our many conversations, we started talking about the Excel training and course development he was doing and my interest piqued. I can honestly say I wasn’t initially sold on the whole idea of online learning. It felt like a big gamble to invest a significant amount of time in something that may never be impactful. However, the more we talked about teaching, the more I realized the potential and thought about other times in my life where I’d felt like I was doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do. So with that, I decided to dive in and help teach Power BI courses with Chris.

After launching my Power BI Service course, while still working at the same agency, I was eventually promoted and given the opportunity to coach, teach and manage a team of analysts. This provided an opportunity to put into practice many of the leadership and customer service skills I learned in previous positions. I adopted a “responsible for the health and welfare of my team” approach and did my best to make sure we learned and trained in a way to execute at the highest level possible. It was a fun time in my career, and it was fulfilling, but another potential opportunity was looming in the distance.

Maven Analytics

One of the things that’s suited me well throughout my career(s) is finding awesome people to work with and then finding ways to continue working with them (remember, people and relationships matter), and the Maven team is no exception.

I came on board at Maven as the lead Power BI instructor and Head of Student Success, tasked with supporting our amazing students around the world. It was a perfect balance of everything I’d done throughout my career - learning, teaching and supporting. My flow state.

So, how about you? Are you on the path you want to be on? Are you finding or making opportunities to find your flow state?

I’ll end with this: as someone who has started over multiple times with new careers, I was never truly starting over. I was just learning. Never be afraid to take a new opportunity because it feels like you’re “starting over” again. All the lessons you've learned - leadership, relationships, technical skills, problem solving - will carry over. Trust yourself, dig in, and keep learning.

Learn On 🤘🏼


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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's 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's 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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