A day in the life of a data analyst storyteller at Avora

 

I’m a data analyst at Avora. 

But my role is probably the opposite of what most people imagine when they think of a data analyst. 

I don’t sit in front of a spreadsheet all day crunching numbers and not talking to anyone, sipping tea out of an “I love spreadsheets” mug and making jokes like “There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.” (Admit it though – you laughed.)

 

The modern data analyst is a storyteller. That’s what I am. 

Let me explain.

I’ve always always loved strategy computer games, especially those to do with history and managing countries like the Civilisation and Total War franchises. So macro-economics has always had that same draw for me. There’s an element of storytelling within the field that weaves maths in perfectly and combines all of my interests. 

Back in Australia, I had a slower-paced job in the public sector and the first time I worked on a report that was going to be published, I had an epiphany. We were brainstorming and plotting ideas on how we were going to condense all this data and research into one or two insights that a) got straight to the point and b) would actually have a direct impact on people’s lives. And I thought, heck yeah – this is actually kinda fun and interesting. I could get into this. 

Since then, I’ve been following a data storytelling path where I can combine analysis with talking to people to help them figure out answers to problems they need to solve or questions they have. Relocating to London and working at Avora has enabled me to do exactly that. I work in pre-sales, so I deliver a lot of demos to prospective customers, or to customers who want to broaden their use of Avora. It’s fun – I get to meet so many different prospects, from all kinds of businesses and with unique challenges, on a daily basis. It’s the best way to learn – and I get to work with some of the best and brightest minds in data science along the way. I also work on a lot of the proof of value projects – the projects where we take a sample of data from a prospect and show them how much value they can gain, quickly, by running it through Avora.  

I worked with one client who had terabytes worth of data across multiple international sources. This data had the potential to be incredibly valuable to them, but potential value isn’t value at all unless it’s realised. They were struggling with a number of the common challenges that come with big data. Like fine tuning the aggregation of the various sources into a usable format that enables cross comparisons and minimises load times (or in other words, pulling all the data together and making it usable). Or validating it all against source (aka making sure the output matches the input).  

Our team were able to combine and aggregate all of this data for them. This was amazing because suddenly they went from struggling to getting insights, to figuring out exactly where in the customer journey any shortfalls or peaks in revenue could be attributed to. Then we ran root cause analysis over some key metrics and displayed everything succinctly in the most appropriate visualisations on a shareable dashboard. For the first time, the customer could overlay their traffic, advertisement and consequential revenue data on a single, unifying dashboard. They could cut and slice the outputs by important categories like region, web-page and user demographics. It gave them an important tool: the evidence they needed to back up any theories they had previously had. And the icing on the cake? They could now find out quickly if anything went wrong, and understand why pretty much immediately. The data analysts became the storytellers. 

Another time, I was working with an up-and-coming prospect in a relatively new sector. They needed a solution that brought them insights quickly but was flexible to be able to incorporate future data sources. And that was easily adaptable so it could fit their current use case and any potential ideas they would have in the future. They gave us quite the challenge of setting up a data model that incorporated a dozen plus tables with a time limit of a week, and to carve out a detailed customer journey from that. We did it in less than a week and everything just went so smoothly. Despite us having never met the prospect in person, we worked seamlessly as a team. They were able to swiftly answer all my questions which really made a difference. And the data itself was really interesting – this is why the modern data analyst is a storyteller. It was my favourite proof of value project. That feeling you get when your work gives your client the missing pieces of the jigsaw, and suddenly they have a narrative about their business that they didn’t have before – that’s what data storytelling is really about, not just charts and graphs. 

Working on the narrative is my favourite part of the job. I also spend a fair bit of time re-formatting data to make sure it’s correct, and in an optimal structure. It’s not boring to do this, because I get to see it through and decide what to do with the outcome, so I’m not just doing a job a robot could do. I also spend time visualising data and carefully planning how to tell  use case stories in demos. That’s another example of how a data analyst is the new storyteller. I might be talking to a room full of people with a variety of experience in data and I need to be able to explain the value shown in the demo to everyone. 

Being at a fast paced SaaS business like Avora has exposed me to all manner of different use cases for data warehousing and analytics, across a wide range of industries. 

I won’t sugar coat it, a role like this isn’t for the faint-hearted. There are days when you see a final set of numbers not lining up with the raw and you feel like flipping your desk and calling it quits – but it’s at those moments when you know the solution is just round the corner. Because we have such a collaborative spirit in the company, there are always clever and insightful ideas from my colleagues and together we can always overcome and learn from the challenges we get. I’m not 100% sure where my path will take me in the future, but I know that it will always involve using data to create narratives and tell stories that really matter and make a difference to people and businesses.