Humans around the world generate huge amounts of data on a daily basis. In a society where even fruit juicers are connected to the internet, every click, purchase, and phone tap is collected and stored as data. To put this into some context, the 2014 Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that the firm had amassed up to 5,000 data points per person for political campaigning. The volume of personal data points has surely grown since then.
While raw data is certainly a valuable resource, it remains exactly that— raw. This is where data analysts come in. Data analysts clean, analyze, interpret, and present data in order to gather business insights, drive business decisions, or create explanatory reports on observed phenomena. This role clearly encompasses a broad array of responsibilities and raises the obvious question: is data analyst a stressful job?
Whether the role of a data analyst is stressful, let’s expand on the core responsibilities and functions of this profession. Data analysts play a pivotal role in today’s data-driven world, bridging the gap between raw data and actionable insights. Here’s a closer look at what data analysts typically do:
It’s common to hear that data analytics is 90% cleaning and 10% actual analysis. This phrase is as ubiquitous as it is true. While data cleaning is an important step in data analytics, it can certainly feel very boring and mundane, since cleaning, while complex and challenging, is not necessarily the most fulfilling of tasks.
Differing levels of data complexity can also create stress. With data analytics, the dataset you’ll work with can be as simple as sales data, or as complicated as image data. Considering how data analytics as a field is making sense of numerical data and turning them into valuable analytics, the domain of knowledge needed can be broad. This may require frequent transitions between very different datasets, taxing anyone’s abilities.
Another key contributor to the stress of data analytics are the deadlines. Deadlines are not specific to the data analytics domain, yet nevertheless they remain as a key stressor in the workplace, and with the wide array of project types can lead to some serious juggling to pull everything off at the right time.
Lastly, a key stressor is the constant need to upskill (learn new systems, approaches, and techniques). Because data analytics as a field has close ties to the quickly evolving tech industry, needing to upskill regularly presents real pressure, especially for those who were brought up in much more mature fields such as mathematics.
Those of us not adhering to this culture of constant improvement may seem “lazy” and “unmotivated”, which can impact job advancement or create a pressure cooker environment. All of these expectations to learn new skills in your personal time can be incredibly stressful, especially when it seems like all our colleagues are grinding away.
In our exploration of factors mitigating stress, it’s clear that data analysts thrive in a supportive work environment where teamwork and mentorship are encouraged. Collaborative efforts and the wisdom of experienced colleagues provide a valuable shield against stress, while continuous training keeps us sharp.
Effective communication is another vital tool in our arsenal, as we set clear expectations with stakeholders and engage in regular feedback sessions. This not only grants us a sense of control, but also dissipates the anxiety stemming from ambiguous goals, or goalposts being moved at the end of a project.
In our pursuit of balance, we’re grateful for companies that recognize the importance of work-life balance. Flexible hours, mental health support, and well-deserved breaks are lifelines that help us keep stress at bay and maintain our overall well-being. Data analysts also often enjoy robust paid time off policies as part of their compensation packages, and teams are often good about making teammates feel comfortable to use them throughout the year.
But perhaps our greatest weapon against stress is our authentic, deep passion for data. It’s in the intricate dance of data where we find intrinsic satisfaction, solving complex puzzles and uncovering meaningful insights. This genuine love affair transforms challenges into rewarding experiences, reminding us why we embarked on this data-driven journey in the first place. Just be careful not to let an employer try to turn this passion into a pay cut or the piling on of projects.
Some factors worth exploring more deeply are the work environment, flexibility, and culture in the role of a data analyst. These can significantly influence the level of stress associated with the job.
Data analysts often work in office settings, but the rise of remote work options has become increasingly prevalent. The choice between a traditional desk job and remote work can impact an individual’s stress levels for different people, depending on how your company handles each of these arrangements.
Desk Jobs: Working in an office provides a structured environment with face-to-face interactions with colleagues. This can be beneficial for those who thrive on routine and social interaction but also creates opportunities for micro-management by supervisors or longer hours when you see colleagues burning the midnight oil.
Remote Work: Remote data analysts have the flexibility to work from anywhere, which can reduce commuting stress. However, remote work may require strong self-discipline and the ability to manage one’s own schedule effectively. You are unlikely to feel the need to stay an extra few hours under social pressure, but your manager may think you aren’t pulling your weight if they can’t see you at your desk from 9-5.
Collaboration is a key aspect of many data analyst roles. The extent to which you interact with a team can highly influence job stress.
Team-Based Roles: Some data analysts work closely with cross-functional teams, which can foster a sense of camaraderie, but may also introduce stress related to toxic teamwork dynamics. It can also be challenging to lean on teammates when deadlines or complex tasks require good execution on their part, especially if you’ve had issues with them in the past.
Independent Roles: Others may have more independent roles, where they primarily work alone. While this can reduce interpersonal stress or dependency on tasks, it may also lead to a feeling of isolation and a long-term lack of cohesion.
The culture of the organization you work for can play a significant role in job stress. You may encounter the following two corporate cultures, but regardless of their approach, companies will expect you to produce results.
Balanced: This approach prioritizes work-life balance and employee well-being. This environment promotes long-term welfare and synergy but may have fewer opportunities for extremely ambitious workers to race ahead of the pack.
Intense: At these companies, you’ll find high-pressure environments with tight deadlines. This can foster unhealthy competition or burnout, but if you are results-driven and eager to prove yourself, you can rise to the ranks quickly.
It is often useful to read testimonies of current or former employees to determine the character of the companies you are applying to or dreaming of working for. If possible, grab a coffee with them, and let them speak directly to their experience. Often, smaller nuances will emerge after you’ve built rapport and trust.
Managing stress as a data analyst is essential for both personal well-being and professional success. To effectively navigate the challenges of the role, it’s crucial to take some of the following steps:
By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage stress and enhance your overall job satisfaction as a data analyst.
While data analytics undeniably comes with its fair share of stressors, it is a career path that can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. The ability to extract valuable insights from vast amounts of data and subsequently witness the tangible impact of your analysis on a company’s success can be truly gratifying.
If you have the determination and passion to become a data analyst, there are numerous resources and learning paths available to help you thrive in this dynamic field. Explore the Data Analyst Learning Path to embark on your journey toward becoming a successful data analyst. Embrace the challenges, continuously expand your skill set, and discover the immense satisfaction that comes from unraveling the stories hidden within data.
At Interview Query, we offer a wide range of resources to help you improve your skills and gain analytics experience. Check out these resources: