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  • Writer's pictureKelly Adams

A Guide to Creating a Well Rounded Data Analytics Portfolio


busy woman working at night in front of computer taking notes writing on notebook annual reports on a computer

Introduction

People always ask me what types of projects they should have in their portfolio. But first, what is a data analytics portfolio. A data analytics portfolio is a collection of projects that showcase your skills in data analytics (check out my portfolio for an example). The goal of having a data analytics portfolio: demonstrates your skills and the unique value you can bring to a company. Not only does it showcase your technical skills but also your ability to get meaningful insights from data that can drive real-world business decisions. The projects you choose to include should highlight your problem solving-abilities and expertise in working with complex data sets. Below I'll be going into what types of projects to have in your portfolio.


General Recommendations

Below are some general recommendations for projects. Also not every project you do has to be on your current portfolio. I've done about 8 projects but only 4 of my best projects are in my portfolio.

How many projects?

First, I recommend having at least 3 projects in your portfolio. One for each skill you're trying to demonstrate. Here's a typical tech stack that is recommended: Excel, SQL and Power BI. In theory you would want to have a project for each. So your portfolio should have:

  1. For Excel, a project to clean and analyze a dataset to find trends and insights.

  2. In your SQL project, you could create queries to extract and analyze data from a database.

  3. And using Power BI build a dashboard or report that visually represents data and insights.

Complexity of Projects

I recommend having either personal projects (ones where you create your own dataset) and/or projects where you analyze a given dataset. I don't mean popular ones like the titanic dataset. Why? To be honest hiring managers have seen a lot of these types of projects, and in this current market (this article was written in October 2023) it's best to stand out. It's not wrong to do a guided project or analyze the titanic dataset for practice, but it shouldn't go in your portfolio.

Jumping straight into creating and analyzing your own dataset can be overwhelming, especially for new data analysts. I suggest approaching portfolio building in three stages or levels. It will help you ease into the process, and gradually increase the complexity and individuality of your projects. The three levels are:

  1. Guided Projects - This is from a course where you follow along with the instructor on the project. Like this video: Full Project in Excel | Excel Tutorials for Beginners from Alex the Analyst where he walks you through an Excel project.

  2. Popular Projects - These are popular data projects like analyzing the titanic dataset. There are a lot of resources on these projects and examples to look at.

  3. Personal Projects - These are typically more unique and individual. You either create your own dataset or find a (different) dataset to analyze. Check out this project from Abe Diaz where he analyzes his performance in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament.

Once you get comfortable with level you move onto the other, so eventually your portfolio is filled with personal projects. If you're ambitious you can start at level 2 or even 3, this is just a recommendation for people who need a bit more guidance.


What's next?

Now that's out of the way. I want to go into the categorizes of projects you have. There are 3 main ones I recommend. When I was job searching I had one of each but feel free to mix and match what types you have. The three are:

  1. Business Problem

  2. Background Knowledge

  3. Personal Project

Types

Below I'll be going into these categories more in depth.


Business Problem

A business problem project is designed to address a specific challenge or issue faced by a company or industry. These projects showcase your problem-solving abilities, your understanding of how businesses work, and your capability to translate data insights into actionable business strategies. They also demonstrate to employers that you can apply your technical skills to real-world business problems, making an impact on the company's strategy. Your project should clearly highlight the practical solutions you bring, making an impact on the company's strategy.


Examples:

  • I created a LinkedIn dashboard to showcase and analyze my LinkedIn metrics and create an effective content strategy. This is a similar dashboard I use for my part-time marketing role. In this case it's my own LinkedIn data to avoid privacy issues.

  • Explore the factors that contribute to customer churn in a subscription-based service, and develop recommendations to minimize it.

  • Investigate the variables influencing sales in a retail environment, and give strategies to improve sales numbers.

Background Knowledge

A background knowledge project draws on your personal experiences, education, or professional journey. This allows you to demonstrate how your past experiences have given you transferrable skills. These projects are an great way to highlight your expertise in a specific domain, but also your flexibility and adaptability.

Note: It's best to use dummy data or fake data especially if it's related to your work. And check out what paperwork you may have signed, most companies don't want you sharing how companies calculate things or any trade secrets.


Examples:

  • I developed an AP Exam Scores dashboard to display AP scores for a school, to understand where student's need to improve their performance and show trends for the school. I studied to be a teacher in college so I used my educational background.

  • Examine the effectiveness of different marketing strategies based on your experience in the marketing field.

  • A project that analyzes patient wait times and satisfaction scores at a healthcare clinic, utilizing data to provide actionable insights for improving patient experience and operational efficiency

Personal Project

A personal project is based on your interests or passions and is an opportunity to showcase your creativity, initiative, and unique perspective. These projects highlight your ability to pursue self-driven projects, adding a personal touch to your professional story. Always remember to keep the content professional and appropriate for a work-related context.


Examples:

  • I made a Weightlifting Dashboard to display KPIs for 5 of my main barbell lifts, and I used this to analyze how I can get stronger and build more muscle. Out of all of my portfolio projects this is the one that got the most questions from hiring managers.

  • Dive into an analysis of your favorite sports team's performance, identifying key areas for improvement or achievements.

  • Compare the popularity of your two favorite musical artists by looking at number of songs listened to or followers on Spotify (like Margaret Efron did with comparing Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande.

Conclusion

Overall, having a portfolio that has a wide variety of projects will showcase your skills, interests, and personality. It will also demonstrate to potential employers that you can bring value to their organization. Don't be afraid to showcase your unique interests and passions through your projects. A strong portfolio will help you stand out. Don't wait to start your portfolio, even if you're starting out, a portfolio is always changing and evolving as you get better. Take that first step and start working on your first project now.

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