Big Data, Big Jobs: Follow Nikitha Rao’s Journey to a Data Analyst Position at Sephora

When she was a programming analyst for an investment management firm, Nikitha Rao’s role included cleaning, fetching, and standardizing data. “It was the part that happens before data analysts even look at data,” she said.

This experience sparked her interest in data analytics. But researching data analyst opportunities made her realize she didn’t have the skills to break into such a specialized role. “I started looking at courses for data analytics, when I came across a data analysis and visualization boot camp,” she said.

The data boot camp is a part-time, six-month program powered by Trilogy Education Services, a 2U Inc. brand, that enabled Niki to rapidly pivot. When her family decided to relocate from Boston to California, she saw it as her big chance to reinvent herself. So she did. 

Data to predict profits and build a better world

Data is great, but it doesn’t really mean anything until someone comes along to consolidate and interpret it. Niki describes her experience in the boot camp as teaching her to do just that.

For her first group project, Niki and her team analyzed the profitability of AirBnB locations in New York City based on factors like public transportation, restaurants, and safety.

“This project was more than analysis — we had to figure out how to write code that would retrieve information from different websites,” she said, adding that the team’s work could be applied to any city in the world.

For Niki’s second project, her team wanted to identify factors that might influence women’s literacy rates in India. 

One of their hypotheses was based on an assumption that made sense but had not yet been proven. “We were looking at cities with the highest rates of education to see if that correlated to higher literacy rates among women,” she said. “For example, we found that in cities where there were agriculture-based industries, women’s literacy was negatively correlated.”

“We also wanted to find out what age women stopped studying, so we looked at cities with lower education rates. There were lots of fallouts after 10th grade,” she added, explaining that NGOs were working to increase women’s literacy rates — and the team’s insights could help them achieve their goals.

Data to reduce waste and boost efficiency

For their final project, Niki’s team built an inventory management tool with a dashboard called Instacart Market Basket Analysis. She says that a grocery store could track their inventory to limit food waste by understanding customers’ purchasing behavior — and restocking accordingly.

“They could also look at customer’s shopping patterns to target ads and predict what products the customers would buy next,” she said, adding that stores would know when to give which customers specific promotions. 

Niki says that the boot camp projects helped her gain confidence during her eventual interviews with employers. “They were asking me technical questions, and the projects were still very fresh in my mind. Because I had worked on these projects, it was not something I was scared about,” she said, adding that she also passed a round of SQL tests with ease. 

The journey to her new role

When prepping her resume, Niki was hesitant to remove projects she had worked on in her previous role. But her boot camp instructor, Anastasiya Kochepasova, informed her that if she didn’t, then job search algorithms would keep showing her jobs that were too similar to her old role.

“Anastasiya told me to just remove all of it, and that helped me,” she said.

As a result of Anastasia’s tips and Niki’s own ability to speak about her new projects, she landed a role as a data analyst contractor at Sephora.

“For some reason I had it in my head that I could only take full-time jobs—but talking to my instructor made me open to [the idea of contracting],” she said. 

The six-month contracting job did lead to a full-time analyst position. Niki is now working with the skincare team at Sephora to figure out how to increase the online business. 

Learning to get the most out of boot camp

The vast number of coding languages Niki learned at boot camp provided a strong foundation for her to learn new technologies in her role. She’s grateful that she went above and beyond learning the course materials to get the most out of her program. 

“It requires a lot of commitment. If your job is pretty hectic, and you’re not able to give the boot camp a lot of time, then you’re going to lose out,” she said, adding that missing a couple classes would make it hard to catch up given the pace of the class.

Her advice? “Do your assignments. Come half an hour early to class. Brainstorm with other people. That’s helped me a lot,” she said, adding that if you can give this boot camp your highest priority it’s going to be more beneficial.

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