I'm a New Zealand based Data Analyst and Career Switcher, Ask Me Anything!

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I posted about my strategy when it came to career switching this week and the journey I've taken to land a career in a data team in tech. Ask me anything and everything.

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Hey Helen, I've been considering New Zealand as an option to move to from South Africa.

What is the IT industry like over there?

I'm also very curious about whether the 'foreigners' integrate into the local culture in your experience.

 

Hey Jaaki

That's great to hear. Tech is one of our biggest industries and there are plenty of opportunities.

Real-life Stories:

NZ did a recruitment campaign recently to encourage international talent to make the move. Here are some of their stories:

I find that everyone here is also really open-minded and it’s part of the culture to be really inclusive so people feel safe to share their opinions and know that they’re being listened to. One of the great aspects of the Xero culture is that everyone is really friendly, part of being an expat is having to make new friends and I can honestly say that I was easily able to make my new best friends at work.

NZ Resources

To get more of a feel for NZ here are some resources:

Wellington tech companies who are hiring

Good luck!

 

wow. that ´s very good news.. and I know I will not sleep for a few nights now. dreaming of moving to NZ. I was there on vacation in 1998. fell in love with the country and people and then quit my job in 2001 to do a sabbatical all over the country. I found a really good friend in Otaki beach that actually inspired me to dive into programming. My dream is to come back sooner or later, dunno if my wife and I will have the guts to move there with our 2 kids though.. we already move from Milan to Hamburg breaking their grandparents heart... NZ would definetely be too far for them. but who knows ( actually i am hoping that our kids will - in less than 10 years - move to study to NZ - and we will follow them! :-)

 

That's a great summary of the tech scene in NZ. Thanks!

One thing I noticed looking at the job board is that salaries seem low compared to Seattle, where I live. Poking around, cost of living in Wellington seems similar, but the jobs on that board that are in my current salary band (a bit over $200k/year) are for CTOs, General Managers, and the like, not for engineers. Is that an accurate impression?

Glad you found it useful :)

Cost of Living

I'm not personally familiar with the Seattle tech scene or cost of living but found Numbeo helpful when considering the cost of living differences between countries. The prices on the Wellington side look accurate to me.

I live in the city with two housemates and pay $NZD1000 / $USD687 a month for my rent and all bills. This is considered high but I don't own a car and walk ten minutes to work. This is half of my cost of living in London so seems like a bargain in comparison to that time of my life.

Our top personal tax rate is 33% for income over $NZD70,000. At the other end of the scale, the tax rate is 10.5% on income up to $NZD14,000. Healthcare and Education up to a secondary level is publicly funded so no need to worry about health insurance as you do in the US. Something else to keep in mind.

Salaries

  • The median salaries for a Software Dev in Wellington is $NZ63633 / $USD43764, with a high of $NZD95000 / $USD65337.
  • Senior Software Engineers can expect a median of $NZD95000 / $USD65337, with a high of $NZD117000 /$USD80467 according to Payscale.

Doing a quick Seek search roles that pay over $NZD150000 in IT that aren't C suite are:

Hope that helps put things in perspective.

 

Wow Helen, you're a star!

Lot's of info for me to go through, so thanks in advance.
Yes, NZ has recently done a campaign to get some 6000 teachers too, that's how it got on my radar again.

That, and of-course New Zealand being well known a friendly bunch, apparently even friendlier than South Africans!! haha

 

Tell me about wev development how to make career in it?

 
 

Thanks for your feedback dear!!.
What's your area of interest?

You're welcome.

I'm a Data Analyst, so back end development rather than front end :)

I'd recommend learning:

  • SQL
  • Excel
  • Data Visualisation
  • How to gather requirements
  • How to manage stakeholder relationships

I wrote more in this post if you're interested:

Happy to chat here if you need more info :)

I am in serious need of help and i access this site very often

Happy to answer any more questions you have here if you think I can help :)

 

What are your tips on landing the first job as a data analyst?

 

If you've gone through some beginner SQL online training like CodeAcademy or PluralSight now is the time to start applying for junior roles.

When I'm part of the hiring process for a junior analyst I would rather see an enthusiastic candidate with solid basic skills and people skills rather than someone who has done more and more online training.

Once you are in your first job the learning curve ramps up and you are faced with real-world issues - dirty data, complex data models, legacy issues that mean that the data is not always in the pristine format of the online tutorials. The sooner you get into the real world the better.

You are going to learn so much more on the job than going through online tutorials, so once you've got the basics down, get interviewing :)

 

Thanks for your advice :D Usually for a junior analyst role, what are some interview questions recruiter would potentially ask? Could you give some examples? I really want to know the specifics.

Sure thing. Here are some examples of what I'd be asking a junior - intermediate analyst:

Business and Career

  • What unique skills you think can you add on to our team?

  • Where do you sit on the Data Analyst (business analysis, lower-end technical) ←→ Data Science scale (mathematics, statistics, programming, technical)

  • What do you actively do to keep your technical skills up to date?

  • Describe an example you worked on where you played an active role in solving a business problem through an innovative approach.

Understanding Requirements

  • Can you briefly explain how you go about understanding requirements? Do you follow a specific process or framework?

  • Give an example of a particularly difficult situation where you successfully delivered a solution.

  • Can you provide an example where you had a customer extend the scope of work after the scoping had been completed and signed off? If so, what was the situation, how did you handle it, what was the result?

  • Give an example of where you struggled and it wasn’t successful

  • While most of our customers are great, we do often have to set boundaries and expectations around tasks, can you please provide an example of a time where you had to manage a strong willed stakeholder, how did you go about managing expectations while protecting the relationship(s)?

Data collection, Data exploration, Data preparation, Modelling

  • Is more data always better? Do you prefer raw or enriched (e.g. Data Warehouse) data more - why?

  • What're the largest datasets you have had to use? What types of systems did these come from e.g. financial, customer, usage, operational etc.

  • Describe the different types of data formats you have worked with.

Cleanse, Shape, Transform and Enrich

  • When dealing with ambiguity and data quality challenges what do you do? What level of accuracy is enough?

  • List out some of the best practices for data cleaning, especially for large datasets?

  • Give an example of when you proposed changes to improve data reliability and quality. Did these changes end up being implemented? If not, why not?

Data Analytics

  • Which tools are you familiar with? What’s your preference?

  • Describe an example of a complex analysis that you ran that you are particularly proud of, your approach and the insights gained

  • Give a couple of examples where you had to create advanced metrics - what were these and why were they advanced?

  • What’s the most advanced data analysis techniques have you applied to determine one or more insights?

Publish

  • What tools have you used to publish data to end users?

  • Do you have any examples of visualisations/charts that you thought made a big difference (beyond the column/bar, line, geospatial scatterplot etc)?

  • Have you ever used D3 or other javascript based visualisations?

  • What form of supporting user help would you include?

  • Have you had to deal with data that is inappropriate to share with the intended audience? How do you determine this?

  • Have you ever increased the value of a dataset/dashboard after you have published the dataset, say a few months later?

That's really helpful! I really appreciate your advice.

Could I ask one more question?

When you were applying for a data analyst job, did you go through a standard process? How could you stand out of the large pool of applicants applying for the same role?

Thank you very much!

No worries :)

I went through the standard process for a DA role here in NZ. This usually consists of a screening interview over the phone from HR/recruiter, then a technical interview/take-home test, then an interview for cultural fit.

Technical interviews

These are more about talking through how and why you would do something or which approach you would take, rather than the 'whiteboard' interview that the Devs here talk about.

The generally cover:

  • SQL Skills
  • Requirements gathering
  • Visualisations

To prepare I would recommend knowing the projects you have worked on really well:

  • what went right,
  • what went wrong,
  • how you would improve,
  • the SQL skills you used in your code,
  • the way you visualised the results set at the end,
  • how you would communicate to the final stakeholder

SQL Skills

  • The testing site we use at my workplace is Hackerrank, I'd recommend giving it a go to test your skills - hackerrank.com/domains/sql

  • I'd also recommend downloading the free version of SQL Server and SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) if you have only used a browser based tutorial so far.

Download SQL Server - this is the query engine
Download SSMS - this is the UI you interact with
Download and restore the backup of the AdventureWorks DB
Work through some of the examples

Good luck in your preparation

Your recommendations are extremely valuable! Thank you so muchhh!

 

"Ask me anything"...

What's your "go-to" dev drink to get you all prepped for digging into solving some big problems? (coffee, espresso, tea, etc.)

You may gain or lose some fans over this one - careful...

 

Challenge accepted ...

It's 9am and I've just landed my desk with two Flat Whites. One to wake up and one to keep me going :D

 

That sounds amazing... ☕

I read that link (I am compelled to read anything related to coffee) - had no idea the flat white finds it's origins in NZ. Very cool.

I also had no idea what it was - anything with espresso is gold. Thanks for my morning coffee education 🎉

👌

 

Hi Helen,
Thank you very much for this Q&A service, I have so many questions. I have seen your profile and wanted to ping you.

I am trying to finish my masters in Bioinformatics and I keep thinking about jumping ship to data science. I have been working on a project that I describe as a fairly straight forward (and maybe too basic) "Compare & Contrast". I found a paper of "Top 10 Algos in DM" and now I am comparing and contrasting those algos with a my own data set. The project is not necessarily brilliant but I think very useful to me.

Anyway, I am looking for ways to 'market' / 'couch' this work from a DS viewpoint. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Cheers,
Matt
mockrun@gmail.com

 

Hi Matt :)

Sorry for the late reply.

I think anything you do that interests you and you feel is 'useful' is definitely worthwhile.

What appeals to you about Data Science?

 

I was introduced to data science thru econometrics. Have you seen Hans Rosling s ted talks ?

I haven't but I'll check them out :)

Thanks for sharing

 

How would you describe the local software culture in contrast to what you know about cultures elsewhere in the world?

 

Hi Ben,

I've lived in London for a few years and have colleagues in San Fran and Denver. The biggest difference between the New Zealand tech industry and these cities, specifically in Wellington where most tech companies are, is population. New Zealand is only 4.7M people and Wellington is 400k.

Scale

Some of NZs biggest tech companies are in Wellington. Xero and Trademe are across the road from each other. It's a close-knit place where everyone knows everyone. It's become so much of joke that one of our biggest telcomm companies is called 'Two Degrees' a play of Six Degress of Kevin Bacon.

Flat Structure

In the NZ tech industry and NZ companies in general, the structure is a lot flatter from what I've experienced elsewhere. It's not common to see someone with the title of President, SVP or VP. If you're a Developer you are likely to be just that. A Developer, Senior Developer or Developer + People Lead.

Team Work

Because the industry is so tight-knit and friendly there are opportunities everywhere to work together. Earlier this year JD from Raygun wanted to have a chat about building a data team. Because everyone is keen to work together, my manager and I went for a coffee and chat to talk about what we know and how we can help. Plus because most tech companies are within a ten-minute walk from each other we met halfway by simply crossing the road.

The Wellington tech industry is close-knit and everyone is happy to help each other. Although there aren't the opportunities to visit Google or Twitter for Meetups and go to the big international Conferences the community makes it a really nice place to be.

I'm glad I'm back.

 

Should a web/mobile developer try to become an AI developer after 30 years of age?

 

If you want to then you should :) Age is irrelevant :)

 

Now that you've successfully made "the switch" - do you have any future aspirations or career goals?

 

Yes! Lots!

I'm excited to be on my first project to build a data model and using Python and Github at work. Working on a 'real' project is so different from tinkering around on personal projects.

 

Awesome! I've also found the difference between personal projects and real "work" projects to be huge. I've learned tons from being on work projects that involved new stuff.

I've been wanting to look into Python in my personal time but doesn't look like that'll happen for a while 😥

Super excited for you! I'm sure it'll be lots of fun.

 

What do you do, at first, when you get out of your bed?

 

I'm sad to say that I check Slack and email. I work closely with my colleagues in the UK who are 12 hours behind so I'm quick to check in and see what's happened while I've been sleeping.

 

Do you like Programming? If it's so, which language?

What about the technology world?

 

I use SQL for my day to day work and am learning Python right now to add more skills to my 'stack'

The tech I'm learning about at the moment is AWS, we use it in my team for some specific things but I'm enjoying learning more about what else they offer.

 
 

Hi Helen,
I am currently in India doing a course in Data science. I was wondering how are the opportunities for Data scienitists in NZ for a foreigner?
Thanks in advance ,
Elizabeth :)

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Data Enthusiast, Analyst Advocate and builder of AWS things.