After a short course in data at university alongside her undergraduate degree in maths and economics, Ausrine kickstarted her data career with an internship at BMW where she taught her colleagues how to use Tableau software. She shared with DataIQ her passion for data and what non-technical people can gain from becoming data literate.
“My data journey began at university. A maths and economics undergraduate, I was arguably more predisposed to data than some and, after taking a short course on the subject, I was hooked! However, it very nearly wasn’t so - I had originally contemplated studying philosophy. In the end, I opted for maths and economics as I thought it would better serve my career goals in a crowded jobs market. But having interests that spanned arts and science did help me understand that not everyone felt so comfortable handling data or was so naturally attuned to its infinite possibilities.
Now, alongside my current role as a business intelligence engineer at one of the world’s leading technology companies, I am a Tableau ambassador. I was a student Tableau ambassador originally and I organised and led Tableau workshops on college and university campuses. One of the things I really railed against was this idea that data was optional – that it was a “nice to have” or the preserve of those like me studying things like maths and economics.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that data is playing an increasingly important role in all our lives and that this is permeating the jobs market and society at large. Where it isn’t already, soon data literacy will be a fundamental skill, not a distinguishing attribute.
It’s not black and white: the world isn’t just divided into those who do data and those who don’t. I have made it my goal to introduce people from a non-numerical, STEM background to data. I even helped people use data on their dissertations! Data analytics is a universal skill.
The other way of looking at it is that data really does have endless possible applications. Rather than try and convince people of the importance of data in the job market, I like to meet people where they are and start with their interests.
One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed showing people is just how wide-ranging the applications of data can be. During lockdown, I’ve used data to analyse my Netflix viewing habits and some under-reported trends relating to my native Lithuania that don’t get airtime in the global media.
My work as a student ambassador was great preparation for a data internship with BMW, which was, in turn, an excellent grounding for my current role. As a business intelligence engineer, I now look more at the logic of data and what sort of data is presented - designing logic, presenting data, implementing decisions based on data and, for that reason, ensuring that the data is clean.
My advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career in data would be to get hands-on. There are lots of tools freely available that allow you to immerse yourself in data. Not that I’m biased, but I’d also recommend immersing yourself in the Tableau community. I spoke at the Tableau conference last year and it was a great experience. I’ve said it before, but the Tableau community will never let you fail. I’ve now posted my first dashboard on the community page and everyone has been so helpful with their feedback.
In terms of trends - personalisation, for sure. People might have historically thought of data as cold or impersonal, but as with the previous examples, data can be immensely personal: whether it’s what you choose to watch in your free time, or what is happening in your homeland. More everyday examples might include how much sleep you’re getting or miles you’re running. And yes, those suggestions you’re fed on Netflix are powered by data.
I’m so glad that when I was starting uni, the data boom was really taking off. It’s a trend I observed and one on which I based my choice of subject. And I only see it going one way.
Data has introduced me to amazing people and also helped me make sense of the world. From a pure business point of view, data helps inform decision-making. It helps business leaders see how things are working in the here and now and plot a course to a data-driven future. It’s a future I’m really excited about.”