At university, I studied chemistry as an undergraduate and eventually did my Masters in Chemical Engineering. After working as a process engineer including a stint on a uranium mine in South Australia, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I loved the analytics side of engineering.
That brought me to Accenture’s Applied Intelligence Team and I’ve been here 5 years. As the name implies, it’s about making companies more intelligent. We do this by combining artificial intelligence (AI) with analytics, big data capabilities and data visualisation, which is what I specialise in. I create visual stories with my client’s data to help them transform their business, become more competitive or make their most important decisions. Visualisation is where the creativity comes in; turning complex data into tangible insights people can see, understand, and act on.
We’re increasingly using AI with visualisation to make reports smarter. There are some great examples where you can interact with a chat bot and ask it to show you something as specific as which customers are likely to move to a competitor and then get directions to that customer through google maps. That’s a fun one to play with.
Turning the creative into concrete results
When it comes to data, a lot of companies don't know what they’ve got. Only 24% of people who make business decisions consider themselves data literate. This means decisions are being made by people who may have tonnes of data but don’t know what to look for. It’s our job to help them become data literate and know how to use it.
There’s an art form to going in and finding out what the data can tell you. Data comes in so many different shapes and forms. Once you’ve got it, you need to get creative to pull out the key insights and find the story.
For instance, we were digging through one company’s data and found one product which was frequently used by sales representatives as they were not aware of the negative impact it was having. By removing this product, we’ve saved the company $1.5 million dollars per year. You find these tiny little things, and if you look at them from the right angle, they can have a big impact.
If being able to do that sounds interesting to you, here are the skills I would recommend:
Top three skills for aspiring Data Visualisation experts:
You need to know how to get to the nitty gritty of analytics and data management. If you don’t understand the data you can’t use it to find the story. I’d recommend basic SQL to get started.
Software such as Tableau or Qlik will help you turn data into an actual message you can pull insights from. Both of these are available with free trials and plenty of free online training.
Human centred design
You need to make sure what you’re creating is intuitive and meets user needs. A great example is, people often use red and green to show good and bad but 10 per cent of the population is colour blind and can’t read a red/green report. We need to rethink things so everything we design is based on human needs.
If you’ve just started out in the industry, I’d also recommend some self-learning. General Assembly do some amazing design courses. I also use Qlik Continuous Classroom- they have a great data literacy program to help companies understand how to foster literacy within their organisation. And of course, there are plenty of free resources you can find through Google.
I love playing around with this stuff and I’m always learning something new. So whether you’re an engineer or an artist, creative or analytical, it’s an exciting career option with so many avenues to explore.