New skills in a new world: unlocking the power of data

Economic Development | Insights

With the launch of AVADO’s Data Analyst Apprenticeships in Guernsey, we sat down with graduate Mel Kingston, Principal Consultant at Agilisys, to discuss how the programme transformed her interactions with colleagues and client stakeholders.

What is your role within Agilisys?

I am a Principal Consultant within the Customer Experience Management (CXM) Practice at Agilisys. As a Principal Consultant, I work with our clients across a variety of projects, primarily focused on building digital solutions that help the public sector interact with and provide services to their residents.

In my role, I focus on the business analysis and service design elements of CXM, so my job is to understand how a service is operating, where the pain points are and identifying where there is potential to do things differently.

How did you come to take up an apprenticeship, and what were the benefits of learning in this way?

Data is an area I have always been interested in developing, and I saw an opportunity to develop my skills advertised in our Agilisys corporate communications. Up until then, I’d always assumed that apprenticeships were only available for entry-level roles, so was pleased to find that it was available to everyone regardless of role or experience.

Many of us will have examples of training courses we have attended where you never put into practice what you learn, and before long have forgotten the contents of the course totally! The benefit of an apprenticeship is that you have to evidence how you are applying the new skills every month, which means you really do embed the things you learn into your way of working.

How is the Data Analyst Apprenticeship structured?

My apprenticeship ran over 18 months, with four classroom training blocks, each a week-long. The rest of the time, I was encouraged to learn on the job - applying the new skills I’d developed to a number of different projects.

I had regular monthly check-ins with my learning coordinator to help me monitor my progress, raise any questions and refresh areas I needed to develop further. There were also two formal exams I needed to pass

The structure of the apprenticeship really worked well for me, and the support from my learning coordinator was fantastic. It was sometimes challenging to balance my job with my study, particularly as we had several projects go live at work, but my coordinator was always helpful and supportive.

What skills have you learned through the programme?

Through the apprenticeship, I learned SQL and R skills – two languages used often when working with data. R is a programming language that is really good for statistical analysis. For example, predicting demand: if I know how many applications for a certain type of benefit have been received over the last five years, I can use R to predict the number of applications that will be received next year.

SQL is a language used for managing and querying databases, which effectively helps to make sense of huge volumes of data.

Beyond that, I have used the Excel data analysis pack – giving me a much better understanding of the power of Excel, and just how much versatility there is that many people miss out on.

Aside from querying data and analysis, I have been able to use Tableau to create data visualisations that really bring the data and analysis to life.

My knowledge and understanding of data and databases has hugely improved – and I’m far more confident using the common language (using the right technical terms used by our development teams) when building out solutions around data.

What are the benefits of understanding and leveraging data?

Being able to bring together multiple data sources enables teams and organisations to really understand how they are operating and, most importantly, helping them identify future demand on services.

The quality of data and design of data flows underpins so many of projects, and if this isn’t slick it can cause a lot of downstream issues. I also see how this can influence an organisation’s interactions with its customers, both positively and negatively, depending on the quality and access to data.

Do you have any advice for somebody interested in undertaking the Data Analyst Apprenticeship?

Give it a go!

Data is incredibly interesting and leveraging data insights has been a growth area for many businesses over recent years – a trend which doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, Gartner expects that more than half of new major business systems will incorporate continuous intelligence that uses real-time context data to improve decisions.

Being able to see and understand data and spot patterns and trends is incredibly powerful, bringing to life what can often be perceived as a deeply technical area. It is a challenging course and you will need to be disciplined to complete coursework alongside your existing work commitments, but the support from AVADO and the trainers has been fantastic. You really will get out as much as you put into it.

Finally, developing my understanding and increasing my confidence in data and analysis has also confirmed that this is an area in which I enjoy working and want to continue developing my skills.

Mel Kingston is a Principal Consultant at Agilisys experienced in public sector projects and transformation programmes. Having previously worked with the NHS and Department of Health before joining Agilisys in 2014, Mel is passionate about embedding excellent information governance in the public sector and helping organisations to plan and implement business intelligence and data science initiatives to improve outcomes for citizens.

Mel Kingston