How to become a data analyst without joining a boot camp

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Our Learn & Earn Series takes you behind the scenes of our collaborative creative residency with Floreo Labs. Floreo Labs runs a paid creative residency for individuals looking to expand their skills in tech while working on real-time tech initiatives and building their creative tech portfolio.

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I’m a photographer and nanny in NYC who loves to create things and figure out solutions to problems, moment by moment. When the COVID pandemic began, I was tired of working full time as a nanny and I had to come to terms with the reality that my burgeoning career as a freelance portrait photographer would be on pause.

Uju Montanya, Creative Technologist (Photography / Data Analysis)

I’d been tossing around the idea of getting into tech, either through web development, UX design, or data analysis. I also had a desire to freelance and leave the rigid full-time work behind me for a more flexible lifestyle.

While I have a degree in biology, I lacked the experience needed to pivot to a different field like Software Development. I considered boot-camps like General Assembly, Thinkful, Springboard, Bloc and Lambda. These boot camps generally cost around $8K-15K if you pay upfront. Some schools require no upfront payment until you get a job, but they then tax you at a high rate with long-term contracts and monthly minimum payments once you start earning a paycheck. I thought endlessly about how I could afford these programs that were way outside of my budget.

I wanted a new career but I knew accruing tons of debt wasn’t the way to do it. So after thinking creatively about my options, I reached out to Naomi (fellow photographer, and Co-Founder of Floreo Labs and Founder of All Eyez Media) and decided to join Floreo Labs and take the opportunity to learn for free. I’m sharing my process (and FREE resources) for forging my own affordable path in tech as a data analyst.

The Process

The team at Floreo labs gave me the opportunity to jump into tech as a data analyst and help them create data management solutions for their marketing division. After I looked into how important data analysis was in understanding human behavior, I knew that the work would be necessary and useful for upcoming product launches they were incubating. Choosing to learn more about data analytics was somewhat of a no-brainer, as I was inspired by the work of data journalist Mona Chalabi.

Artwork by Mona Chalabi

Mona turns data into animations and illustrations to tell a story, like in the Mandatory Paid Vacation graph above. Her work confirmed for me that data analysis could be both a creative outlet in addition to a pathway to a lifestyle more aligned with my values.

So what exactly is a data analyst?

Data analysts derive meaning from data. They are responsible for organizing, cleaning, and modeling data sets in order to unearth patterns and inform decision-making processes. Data analysts help teams to draw conclusions and understand the deeper story behind the numbers. If you're someone who gets a kick out of storytelling through the data (say for instance you enjoy learning about sporting statistics, stock market figures, or how to hack the IG algorithm) then the field of data analysis might be for you!

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Data analysis is useful because businesses, brands, artists, solopreneurs all want to work smarter not harder. Nothing is smarter than being able to set and execute on data-driven business development goals.

With Floreo Labs, I currently focus on marketing data and have learned a great deal about the importance of data for successful product launches. If you launch a new product, like a new blog, you'll often have several data sets to work with:

  • Mail chimp data reports for email marketing campaigns

  • Social media click-through data and post-performance insights

  • Empathy maps for understanding user pain points

  • Qualitative data from feedback forms/surveys

It was my goal to organize the data and look for ways we could expand and better meet the needs of our community base. The process of studying data sets over time helped me predict the outcomes of the THC website relaunch, which helped the marketing team plan accordingly and make adjustments to their email marketing efforts and social media strategy.

More broadly speaking, data analysts provide insight on how companies can boost customer acquisition and retention, push the development of key product features, and help designers create seamless, user experiences backed by data. All of these things make data analysis a very in demand and lucrative skill to grow in. A Data Analyst salary is about $67,000 per year on average in NYC and $113,000 per year on average for a Data Scientist.

What I've learned so far

It's really been a joy to more formally begin my education as a technologist and one of the primary things I’m learning at Floreo Labs has been how to research more effectively. My residency offers me the space to research relevant statistics and metrics on consumer behavior, customer journeys and engagement.

One of the datasets I'm working with is from Mailchimp. Through Mailchimp, users can gain a better understanding of how their audience interacts with individual marketing campaigns. I've learned what key performance indicators Mailchimp tracks and how they visualize customer journeys on the THC website. Wix and Sprout Social have also been useful in learning the demographics of the user audience and how they engage with the content.

While built-in Mailchimp data reports provide a great overview of the user audience, there’s still gaps in how much information you can get from its reporting services. We created a main user list from our most active members and began to strategize on how we could be be more intentional about our marketing efforts on a number of channels, such as Twitter, Instagram, Slack, etc. I also learned some data scraping, a technique in which a computer program extracts data from human-readable output coming from another program​ to then parse common keywords used in customer surveys.

Typeform is the platform we‘ve been using to find common keywords from lead generative surveys. I am also learning how to clean the data to provide optimal results. The qualitative data could be used for increasing user engagement, customer journeys, or providing useful keywords to use in a search engine to boost brand awareness.

Data scientists create algorithms and use scientific methods to extract data and provide more insight into it, whether the data is processed or unprocessed. I was able to learn how to do this using python (W3 schools has been a helpful resource for learning python). These two data sets have allowed me to more deeply understand the interests and needs of a subscriber base.

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I have been able to get lots of help from The Lab, and they’ve been great in guiding me through what key data I should be looking for. They have also helped me stay motivated and consistent when learning something new. I have meetings with them during the week to discuss the questions I have and update them on work and ideas I may have. Their support is especially helpful when I get stuck. This creative residency also provided support by way of a monthly stipend, which is part of Floreo Lab's