I am a data person

For the past few months I've been teaching the Data Analysis course at General Assembly to online learners from all over the world -- and just last week I began teaching in-person in Washington, DC. In my experience, I have found that most students qualify their questions the same way, “I’m not really a data person, but…”

The qualification suggests a feeling of intimidation, similar to that of a young girl who is told she can’t play baseball or a middle school student who thinks they are not very good at math. Somewhere, someone along the way made it clear that there are data people and there are not data people, and you are most likely not part of the data club.


Say it with me, I AM A DATA PERSON.


Everyday we are all data people, whether or not we ever open a spreadsheet, have ‘analyst’ in our title, or know what the acronym SQL stands for.

We ask questions– Does it look like it is going to rain today? Is the bus running on time?

We observe the world around us and collect information– The sky is grey; the ground is damp; people around me are carrying umbrellas. Or, the 70 bus ran late four days last week.

And make decisions – I think it will rain today. Or I’m going to take a different route.

We must believe that we are data people because if we wait for someone else to qualify our talent, we miss opportunities. We must empower those around us to apply their knowledge and learn the tools that will make them dangerous. There are vast amounts of open data about everyday occurrences, from police citations to permit requests, that are waiting for us to simply believe we are all data people.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Normand