Tell us a little bit about your career path and what attracted you to data analysis. (You have a BA in Psychology – how did you make that leap?)
My first jobs out of college were in the psychology field, working with adolescents in residential treatment facilities. While my intention and purpose was to help kids, I became increasingly frustrated with the business decisions and political gamesmanship that so often seemed to interfere. From there, I followed a path of opportunities that presented themselves.
My current job title is the fourth I have claimed within the same company, a regional electrical distribution and sales organization with over 40 locations in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Each of these positions had a need for reporting or tracking for which I quickly became the “go-to” as far as developing. Early on, the process usually began with some type of “data dump” report from our ERP system that I then used Excel on to clean up, organize, and display pertinent information. I quickly became motivated to find new reasons to explore our data, looking for the answers to business questions we had every day. When an actual analyst position opened up, I jumped at the chance, knowing I had a lot to learn, having minimal experience with anything outside the Excel world.
Can you tell us a bit about your role as a Sales Data Analyst and some of the main tools you use in your job?
My current role involves pulling data from our CRM and/or ERP system databases to create reports, scorecards, and dashboards depicting progress by sales hierarchy, by product grouping or by special program area (among any other requests our executive, marketing or sales teams may dream up). I have become a point person for data exploration requests based on problems that arise or suspected issues.
Early on in this role I attended Rob Collie’s PowerPivot training class where I gained not only information, but also renewed energy and enthusiasm for what I would be able to do upon returning to my job. My toolkit is heavy on the entire Power BI suite, which allows me to do so much with the data I have access to, and is so flexible that the inevitable changes and additions that come with every report request can often be done on the fly. I use Power Query to select, combine, shape, and clean data so that file sizes remain manageable. We frequently compare YTD to previous YTD, or R12 to previous R12, sometimes needing to be juxtaposed with fiscal year information from one of our vendors. The DAX formulas within Power Pivot make that a breeze to set up and all those measures can be reused, already formatted anywhere in the report. Power Update has been the answer for scheduled data refreshing. It allows me to keep always-current versions of reporting on various SharePoint or OneDrive locations without our IT department having to manage data gateways. Our internal consumers either access entire report files from SharePoint or view dashboards and reports from Power BI.com or the mobile app.
The unexpected benefit to my psychology/liberal arts background is that I have found myself with the ability to act as an interpreter between the needs of the business user and our IT department.
Looks like you’re returning to this year’s PASS Business Analytics Conference; what topics are you looking forward to learning more about?
Last year’s conference only served to fuel my passion for understanding more fully the potential, flexibility, and power of the tools at our disposal. I returned to my office excited about trying things I had learned, and with valuable resources for assistance or new ideas on directions to explore.
Since last year there has been such an explosion of new development and new options just within the Microsoft Power BI suite I feel like I can’t keep up. I am looking forward to being immersed in the knowledge and insights from the experts in each area so that I can improve my own process. Our IT department has started their initial investigation into setting up data gateways into Power BI using multidimensional cube data, and I would like to be able to contribute to that discussion.
What are some things you like to do in your free time? (Hobbies, activities, etc.)
I am a University of Tennessee alumni, which also means I am a huge college football fan. I spent my formative years in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and they remain my happy place to this day. I love to hike on the lesser-traveled trails, where all you can hear is water or woodpeckers and may not pass other humans for hours at a time. My newest free-time practice is yoga. I find that the quiet balance it provides helps to offset the chaos that is often in my mind – and makes me a nicer person in general (according to my husband!).
Kelly enjoys hiking in her spare time.