Amanda Spencer, analytics manager at Merkle has been working in the data analytics industry since her first sandwich year role calculating crime statistics at The Home Office.
Now responsible for managing the onsite analytics team for one of Merkle’s largest clients, a mobile provider, delivering solutions, consultancy and support to stakeholders across the world, she has a wealth of experience to share with women looking to dive into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) roles. Here, she gives her top CV and career tips for working in data analytics and generally landing your dream job.
Maths or statistics courses are door-openers
At school, I was always more maths and science orientated. These kinds of subjects catered to my logical, methodical way of thinking and have since prepared me for roles devoted to studying data and providing insight into business performance and customer journeys, while also suggesting methods for improving operations.
Gaining the right skills can be more effective than taking courses
Although maths or statistics degrees are probably best suited to roles in data analytics, I must also emphasise that it’s possible to gain the right skills learning on the job. Most Merkle employees do have maths degrees or similar, but the workspace is becoming more and more mixed and we’re beginning to see a variety of educational backgrounds amongst our staff. Any additional qualifications on top of any degree are also beneficial. IDM courses always stand out to me as, alongside technical skills being taught, in varied aspects of data and analytics, they always have an element of practical, business applications for what has been learnt, which is invaluable when dealing with clients and understanding their needs.
Make your CV stand out
When I’m recruiting, I always look for something unique on a candidate’s CV that makes it different from other applicants’. Whether it’s a glimmer of personality or something slightly controversial, it’s important to me that the candidate demonstrates an ability to be personable. We need people who can be client-facing and build strong relationships with them. After all, technical skills can be taught and there’s undoubtedly a wealth of knowledge ready to be passed on here, but at our company, we need someone who can share their knowledge strategically and manipulate it in the right way.
Highlight your biggest career achievements
We’ve all had a moment in our careers that’s made us particularly proud, so make sure it’s on your CV! An interviewer only has what’s on paper to start the conversation, so make sure they focus on the work that really demonstrates your talents. I’ve always thought of my first customer segmentation and presentation to Argos as a stand out moment as it was the first time I truly took ownership of a project end to end early on in my career. I’m also proud of a project with Compare the Market in which my knowledge was tested and I had to think about what technically was the best way to design and deliver a customer journey programme. Despite the challenges, I was able to push on with confidence. These are the testing and trying times that interviewers want to discuss and know you can deal with.
Listen to advice throughout your career
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received throughout my career was from a strong, female boss at an advertising agency, who taught me to be pragmatic. This has definitely served me well in a number of situations and saved time and effort focussing in the wrong areas. The main piece of advice I would give to women thinking about their careers is not to be put off by jobs in STEM, which is generally perceived as a male dominated field. In fact, I would say that this industry hones in women’s common qualities, such as the need for clarity and accuracy. At Merkle, most of the senior analyst roles are held by women.
In an interview, as well as on paper, don’t be afraid to mention your achievements and put across as much personality as possible. Listen to a question, breathe, take you time and think about what you want to say before you start talking. You can rest assured you’ll automatically be far more at ease and prepared to answer. In a data analytics environment, it’s always good to see a candidate’s human elements come out, not just data nerdiness! That way, we can trust the interviewee will perform well in client-facing scenarios. I can assure you, there have been many times I have left an interview thinking ‘Why did I say that?!’
Do your research
To anyone considering a data analytics role, I would recommend researching and considering which options suit you best. I’ve worked both in-house at brands such as Arcadia, as well as agency-side and felt the benefits of both. I’d also advise budding STEM applicants to look past more traditional roles. In technology, new positions are being created all the time and although you might fall into a role that wasn’t part of your original plan, it might just be your dream job.
Love your job
I’m very lucky to have a job I love and genuinely find interesting. It was my maths degree that initially got me through the door, but working on great brands and being surrounded by great people willing to share their knowledge and make a difference, has been a big help and made it even more enjoyable.