Here’s How To Start A Career In Business Intelligence

Do you want to get a career in the Business Intelligence field?

Are you interested in Analytics, Big Data, Data Warehousing, Data Modeling, ETL and reporting? Do you want to work on the functional side or on the technical side? I started out doing both back-end programming and reporting for my first job in Business Intelligence. At my job now, I work with everything from analytics to data warehousing.

If this will be your first job, then I recommend seeing if you can start at a company as an intern. On the other hand, if you’re planning on switching careers then I would suggest seeing if you can get a role as a Junior BI Analyst to start. Either way you don’t have to be a top level database developer immediately to get into the business intelligence field. If you like to solve business problems and ask questions, that’s the most important skill to start out with.

More and more companies are turning to analytics to give their company an edge over the competition. Those that haven’t invested in Business Intelligence yet will have to in order to keep pace with the market. That being said, it’s a great time to get into this field.


Functional Business Intelligence Skills


If you’re going for a non-technical BI role I recommend being a whiz in Excel. You will also need strong communication skills as you will be presenting to both technical and non-technical employees. Learn what verbiage to include in presentations to that both parties can understand the message that you will be trying to get across. Since you likely will be presenting to executives, you have more of an opportunity for advancement if you do well.  This is an advantage of being in a business intelligence role.


I recommend trying to learn how to ask the best questions about the business. Really trying to discover areas of need/growth. If you have great communication skills, are able to present your findings in a clear way; and also have a fair amount of technical knowledge, then that will make you an incredibly valuable member of the team.



Technical Business Intelligence Skills


If you are pursuing a technical BI role then make sure you’re familiar with programs such as Tableau, Power BI, Excel VBA, SSRS and of course SQL or other database development experience.

I would definitely recommend knowing more than one way to visualize the data since there are a broad range of products out there. Try looking into the top trends on google and focus on learning those skills. R and Python are also really popular right now in the BI field. Maybe give those a try. Take a course, set up your own tests and get your hands dirty. Learning by doing is often the best way to master a new skill.

It all really comes down to what you’re able to do for the company. Learning how to take a project from start to finish obviously makes you a lot more versatile and useful. If you pair the technical knowledge with the analytical, that’s a powerful combination.

Learn SQL


What’s the main function of BI? Data Analysis. To be skilled at data analysis, you need to learn SQL and understand the basic methods of retrieving and manipulating data.

The reason it’s beneficial is because if a complex issue comes up with something you’re working on, you have an advantage by knowing how to pull that data yourself. This especially goes for those pursuing an ETL (Extracting, Transforming and Loading) type of role, feeding that data into reports. Being able to manipulate the data you’re working with in SQL directly will be extremely helpful.

If you’re in a role where your main responsibility is reporting, then you should know at least a minimal amount of SQL. If you’re just starting out in the BI world, you can certainly make SQL more of a long-term goal for the time being… but learn more every day!

Understanding Different Industries


Learning about the business and how they use BI within the company is key to building the perfect reporting. Different industries face different problems… crazy, right?!! Kidding. But seriously… the point here is: it’s important to not only become an expert in the technical and analytical, but also to become an expert in a particular industry.

You should research how BI can solve problems for the industry that you’re interested in. How can they get the most out of the data and resources that they have available at the company? Advertising companies may be pulling in data from thousands of sources, but what are the right areas to look into? Healthcare data could be used for flagging members who are potentially at risk for cancer before they even have it. Both these scenarios require experts in the field and ultimately those who can ask the right questions.

A good BI analyst will go above and beyond what’s required of them to narrow things down to the perfect analysis. You will need to know how to analyze what the business or customer needs based off their request to determine the data best results. It will also help you know if you need to suggest a different course of action other than what was specifically asked. Focus on the data you’re working with and how it will represent the business.