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Technical Skills for the Analyst

By Abigail Lindner posted 02-08-2020 23:55

I am fairly new to the operations research world. In fact, as of writing I am only halfway through my undergraduate years to earn a B.S. in Mathematics. The OR/MS career came to my attention in the middle of my freshman year when I was exploring mathematics-based career options that weren't actuarial science. Since then, I have tried to learn what I can about the vision of the field and the steps I can take to prepare for entry.

The advice I read online emphasizes gaining technical skills. Given the increasing digitization of society and the reliance of OR/MS on the volumes of data to which technology gives us access, this doesn't come as a surprise. Knowing that you need to develop technical skills, however, is one matter; committing to the task requires a bit more work. For one, the technology boom has brought us a panoply of statistical, mathematical, visualization, and analytical tools, and we can't learn all of them. Furthermore, the tools that data folks herald today may be obsolete five years from now. (Consider the decline in popularity of SPSS.) 

Where is an OR/MS novice to start?

I recently wrote a short article on my personal site on 5 basic but key technical skills that someone should be proficient in using before delving into others. You can find it here. I describe R, Python, SQL, Tableau, and Excel, and provide links to a few online beginner courses for each.

I have gathered this information from personal research on skill set expectations for analysts and from the perspective of an undergraduate student. Given my junior experience, I would be happy to hear thoughts from more experienced OR/MS professionals on this topic.