Skip to content

The 3 Specific Professional Skills That Every Data Analyst Must Learn – With Real-World Example Scenarios

Today, I’m sharing the 3 specific professional skills that every data analyst must learn to earn more in their careers, plus the online resources to learn each one.

Professional skills (also known as soft skills) are the things you do in your job that aren’t technical skills. In your job, you’ll use data to solve problems for lots of people:

  • Clients
  • Your boss
  • Co-workers
  • People outside your company

Unfortunately, most data analysts don’t realize there are professional skills that make working with others much easier.

Professional skills are the key to a successful, long-term career in data analytics.

Without these skills, here’s what your career will look like:

  1. Become an “order taker” and work on simple tasks only
  2. Never move ahead in your career
  3. Get passed up for promotions

There are a TON of professional skills you can focus on, but here are the ones that are most important (based on my experience of working in all sorts of data leadership roles over the past 15 years).

  1. Collaboration
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Problem-solving

Here are the exact resources I recommend:

Skill #1: Collaboration

Collaboration skills are something that can be learned. You’ll use these skills every single day as you work with others.

  1. Meetings with your boss, clients, or coworkers
  2. Gathering and refining requirements for a data project
  3. Working across teams to get a bug fixed or new data feature completed

The great thing about learning how to collaborate is that you don’t need to know everything. It’s pretty simple once you keep the 80/20 rule in mind.

The 80/20 Rule For Collaborating With Others

  • 80% of the time, actively listening to other people
  • 20% of the time, you talk

Unfortunately, so many people can’t even follow this simple rule. 

Here’s a real-world example: As a data analyst, you join a 30-minute meeting with a project manager to work through requirements, and identify milestones and key tasks. Spend 45 minutes actively listening to others and 15 minutes speaking.

Learn more about collaboration:

Skill # 2: Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to work through problems with creativity, curiosity, and logic. Good news: it’s a skill that you can learn by breaking it down into 3 parts:

The 3 Elements Of Critical Thinking:

  1. Creativity: Use data in creative ways to analyze a sales problem that nobody has thought of yet.
  2. Curiosity: Create “What If” scenarios to show different outcomes based on different calculations.
  3. Logic: Be able to back up any solution you propose or insight you come up with.

Most people don’t tell you, but applying these 3 components to a data problem is the first step to actually solving the problem.

Here’s a real-world example of how critical thinking can help solve a data problem:

A client came to me to let me know that a ton of duplicate items were being loaded into her eCommerce website. I applied some critical thinking and had some questions:

  • How do we identify duplicate records?
  • Which record needs to be deleted?
  • Should we keep the deleted records in a backup, just in case?
  • What if we delete a record for an item that has sales information?

By working through the problem creatively, with curiosity, and logic I gave 3 options:

  • Option 1: analyze the data to identify the duplicate records
  • Option 2: take it a step further and clean up the duplicate records
  • Option 3: take it one step FURTHER and fix the root cause of the problem

Learn more about critical thinking:

Skill #3: Problem-solving

Data analysts solve problems with data every single day.

One of the things I love most about data analytics is solving problems that are complex and difficult. It’s a skill that can be learned, too.

6 basic types of problems to solve with data

  1. Predicting something
  2. Understanding patterns
  3. Putting things into categories
  4. Uncovering themes in a dataset
  5. Making connections between ideas
  6. Drawing attention to something unusual

Being able to apply your experience to a data analytics project and solve real-world problems is a must-have skill.

How I solved a data problem by making connections nobody else had thought of:

  • The problem was related to a data migration effort. The client had to move millions of complex records in about 20 categories from one system to another. 
  • Every month that the records were one the old system was another few million dollars in support costs (ouch!)
  • The original approach was just to start with the simplest category and work their way toward the most complex category. Not a bad strategy, since you can learn as you go.
  • However, after analyzing the data, I was able to show that there were a group of categories that were relatively simple to migrate but accounted for 40% of the total volume of records that needed to be migrated!
  • Simply put, they could spend the same amount of effort and complete the project faster, which saved tons of money for the company.

That’s the power of having top-notch problem-solving skills as a data analyst.

Problem-solving for data analysts:

That’s it! 

Master these 3 professional skills to stand out from the crowd as a data analyst:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Problem-solving

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tableau & Google Sheets Checklist

This one-page checklist PDF will help you learn how to upload your data into Google Sheets and build an awesome Tableau dashboard without wasting time.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

4 Things For Every Tableau Dashboard Creator

This free 4-page eBook PDF will walk you through the 4 most important steps for creating a Tableau dashboard

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Massive List of Tableau Tools

Tableau is even more powerful with these 20 tools you might not know about. The 2-page PDF includes a description and helpful links for each tool to get you started.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Career Boosting Business Analytics Trends

Use this list as a road map to take you from boring data job to the GO-TO PERSON in your company that knows the answers to all the questions.

All set! Check your email :)

Massive List of Free Data Viz Books

List of 10 Awesome Data Visualization Books

All set! Check your email to download.

Tableau Dashboards
Beginner’s Guide

Get the full 2-page PDF with the 5 steps outlined in this guide + 3 bonuses to help you along the way

BONUS #1: 5 Beginner mistakes to avoid

BONUS #2: Video walkthrough

BONUS #3: Links to the the Google Sheet and final Dashboard

All set! Check your email :)

How to Create 6 Different Tableau Bar Charts (Free Guide)

Get the step-by-step guide to create all 6 different types of Tableau Bar Charts (with copy-and-paste calculated fields included) for free.


All set! Check your email :)

Massive List of Tableau Web Data Connectors

Download the list of 21 different Web Data Connectors for Tableau in this Google Sheet (save a copy for yourself, too!) 

All set! Check your email :)

Slope Graph Examples PDF + Dashboard Walkthrough Video

4-page PDF showing 10 slope graph examples + a video walkthrough

All set! Check your email to download the bonus materials.

Tableau Tutorial Chart Redesign

Download the Tableau Tutorial PDF Checklist & Workbook

The step-by-step checklist for fixing busted charts with Tableau PLUS the full workbook with all of my formatting and calculations for free.

All set! Check your email to download.

Download the TableauHighlight Tables PDF Guide

The step-by-step guide for creating Tableau highlight tables
(plus direct links to the YouTube video walkthrough and link to final Tableau workbook)

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Tableau Scatter Plots: The Complete Guide

Get the step-by-step checklist guide to create scatter plots with Tableau


All set! Check your email :)

Rebuild a Busted Chart with Tableau

Enter your best email to get the PDF version of this tutorial + the companion Tableau workbook for free

All set! Check your email to download.

Download the Bonus Materials

Enter your best email to get the PDF checklist version of this guide and the companion Tableau workbook for free.

All set! Check your email :)