One of the beautiful things about analytics is that it’s usually a core function in most organizations. This means you can explore a lot of avenues to discover how your data analytics experience can expand your career path based on being exposed to so much of the business. 

Over the years, I’ve had analysts seek advice from me on expanding or pivoting their roles based on my experience. I generally see two types of avenues for expansion.

The first is pivoting from data analytics to the business side. You can move into areas such as business operations, marketing, growth and program or product management. The second is moving to the technical side. This path might take you to data engineering roles that allow you to move even deeper into that process.  

Resist the urge to go
Although talent hoarding goes on in companies today, where managers sometimes resist their employees moving on to new roles, evolving your remit beyond core analytics shouldn’t mean having to leave your company. Sometimes the best way to grow is to stick with your current company because you know best where the opportunities are. People know your work. You’ve built up credibility and established a network. Starting over at a new company means rebuilding these things. I think it’s easier to be proactive and find in-house opportunities by getting more exposure to teams that interest you and finding projects that allow you to contribute based on your skills.

Certainly you may encounter cultures where everyone is very set on what a specific role should be doing, or your manager is making it hard to evolve your career, in which case going somewhere else may make sense. But I've generally found it to be easier to move within your current company, leverage goodwill, and expand your role further.

Four strategies for stretch opportunities
Think you’ve found a more business- or technically-oriented role that might appeal to you? Here are a few best practices for making it work.

  1. Be proactive. Even in your current role, you’re likely to find plenty of opportunity to lean into. Understand the business needs and goals driving analytics requests. Get closer to the overall business strategy to help define it by making recommendations, and use data as your secret weapon to drive the direction. After all, a lot of the value of data analytics is being able to translate data into a narrative of business insights and ideally ones that will bring forth optimization and results. Similarly, on the technical side, seek understanding of how the data pipelines and infrastructure were built and what is required to know how to do that.  Seek opportunities for cross-functional projects and volunteer for them.  In other words: don’t wait for opportunity, make your opportunity. 
  2. Build relationships. Build relationships with colleagues from other departments or teams. Come with curiosity and learn more about the aspects of how these teams run. Reach out to mentors and build new mentor relationships across different domains with people who will champion you talking to those who lie outside analytics and will help advocate for you on the business or technical side. 
  3. Learn relevant skills. Build up your skills by learning on the job but also by taking courses. Training programs, certifications, workshops, and online courses in the areas relevant to the scope you want to pursue can help give you a good foundation to hit the ground running.
  4. Be transparent and communicate your goals. Have an open and honest conversation with your manager about your career goals. This doesn’t mean that you’re not doing your job currently but communicating where you want to go. During the discussion, focus on the types of experiences you’d like to gain as an overall growth goal and ideally come with recommendations of how that could be possible while maintaining your role. This could mean taking on more work and scope up front depending on business needs, but that investment should pay tenfold if it’s the direction you ultimately want to go. 

It can feel difficult to get off the starting blocks when you want to change up or expand your job in a significant way, but if you feel the urge to do it, don’t talk yourself out of it. Remember, as a data analytics professional you’ve got one of the best vantage points in the organization to identify what might be next for you. Take that leap by owning those next steps to put you on a path towards your goals.