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Analytic professionals: are we detailed-oriented or do we think "big picture", or both?

Hiring managers always assumed that I was a very detailed-oriented person. It turns out that this is not the case: I'm certainly a very analytic person, yet I always think "big picture", and everybody who knows me well would say that I am everything but detail-oriented.

Since I clearly lack this skill, I surround myself with truly detail-oriented people, in particular for filing tax forms and keeping track of financial transactions. I do have a number of strengths, being detailed-oriented is just not one of them:

  • I'm good at being organized (my desk looks like a pile of garbage, but it is extremely organized garbage - please don't try to clean it)
  • I conceive, design (algorithms or great visual dashboards), model, investigate, solve, optimize
  • I use good judgment more so than insights from statistical reports, to boost revenue and growth
  • I use craftsmanship skills more so than recipes learned at university or some other training, to manage my operations / client operations
  • My brain uses fuzzy logic to solve problems
  • I don't like coding (except in Perl), but I have designed a few systems, even distributed systems, without writing one line of code
  • I have a strong sense of intuition, and can "feel" patterns in big data sets using simple visual techniques or data dictionaries
  • I sometimes "feel" what the future will be (for a specific issue), without running any predictive models.
  • Typically, I combine statistical modeling with intuition and use of external data sources. For instance, I like to combine data from sales, advertising, finance, sales from competitors, social networks (to measure brand trends), industry trends, external data agencies (providing market share trends), economic data, etc. to answer a question about sales forecasts.

I believe that the above strengths are more typical of a senior analytic professional, and I want your opinion on this.

Question: Do you think that typical analytic professionals are detailed-oriented but lack the big picture and vision? Or do you think it is possible to have both (I don't think so). Or do you think there are two types of analytic professionals: detailed-oriented vs. visionaries / big picture thinkers.

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Comment by Larry on December 21, 2011 at 7:01am

I definitely look at myself as thinking about the "big picture" .  I think there are different types of analytics professionals.  I work on a team that has statistician modelers and BI analysts.  Both sets are analytics professionals.  Modelers tend naturally to look at the big picture.  BI and database folks tend to be detailed oriented. 

Comment by Ed Dodds on December 20, 2011 at 10:24am

Since you brought up hiring manager let's answer the meta-question: Q: should hiring managers be earning their money by hiring teams to solve project-based challenges. A: Yes. Successful problem solvers self (or with help) identify their own blind spots and find resources (people, procedures, tools (languages, repositories, etc.) so that repetition and rapidity prevail. Our education system teaches some collaboration, individualized testing, teams at work, and individualized compensation. We are caught in a culture shift which is just beginning to recognize the economic role of collaboration, especially in innovation. And interesting question might be: what does the market value more, systems or detail thinking; and is their enough disclosure/transparency for us to make an insightful determination.

You mention data dictionaries so I'll observe that folks are extrapolators and inferrers -- their accuracy depends, in large part, on whether they have internalized knowledge skeletons (ontologies, taxonomies, folksonomies, etc. ) and whether those systems were sufficient (culturally blinded by wealth assumptions, world view [cyclic vs linear time], other blinders, etc.)

Comment by billyzhou on December 19, 2011 at 10:12pm

Good question, in my opinion, have both of detailed-oriented and big picture and viseion is possible,  and the key is who do you want to be , an excellent analyst or a professional leader!

Comment by Oleg Mazukabzov on December 19, 2011 at 4:50pm

The future already exists in the present and - usually - in the form of questions ... -Which is reflected in the language of rights - if we ask - ask what the future - it's the law ... . Man is able to ask questions and answer them - it means - that the person lives and the future is able to perceive it - and this important - that determines thereasonableness of man - then that is an analytical abilities - like the ability to ask questions and give answers ... But - there is the question - what could be the perfectanalytics??

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