Fahim Kazmi, MS ’19, is passionate about data analysis.
“When I was first researching the field, I realized how amazing these skills were—you can create miracles working in pharmaceuticals, create new medicines and help with the creation of a vaccine,” he says.
With a bachelor’s degree in engineering and experience working as a mechanical engineer in Pakistan, Kazmi knows the importance of data. During his time as an engineer, he had the opportunity to modify his company’s maintenance regime, analyzing failure rates and preventive maintenance processes using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
“Based on that list and my analysis, my company saved a lot of money,” he says. “It was this epiphany for me, realizing the impact that analyzing data, even on a tool as basic as Excel, can have on expenses like labor costs.”
From there, Kazmi was inspired to immerse himself in the world of data analytics, focusing specifically on business. He applied to universities in the U.S., chasing the passion that would drive his future career.
When he found the Fox School of Business, the path became clear. “I’ve always loved Philadelphia. I am a fan of Rocky. Being able to live by, and run on, the ‘Rocky Steps’ (at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) every day and work in data analysis in the pharmaceutical industry—that was the kind of life I had always imagined.”
He was also impressed by the MS in Business Analytics curriculum. He says that over the course of the program, students gain knowledge about the majority of data analytics problems they will encounter in the workplace.
“It involves data mining, data visualization, data cleaning, data scrubbing, decision-modeling,” Kazmi says. “When you study at Fox, you are given examples of case studies. We practiced on real-world data sets. That gives you a concrete background and base of knowledge, like learning to drive a car.”
Kazmi works as a data analyst at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). In his current role, he develops reports and dashboards to help the maintenance department identify gaps or room for improvement in their processes.
For those who want to follow in Kazmi’s career footsteps, he has a few pieces of critical advice.
“Every person has different goals. So the first thing I would suggest is for someone who thinks they might want to be a data analyst is to do their homework,” he says. “Because data analysis can be applied to so many industries, find your target industry. Identify the field you might be most passionate about working in because this career requires a lot of attention to detail and responsibility.”
His second piece of advice hinges on a similar concept: carve out a niche. Identify an area of the field where you want to be an expert, and set yourself apart from the crowd by being able to illustrate that expertise.
After Kazmi’s first semester in the program, he learned he was not as interested in advanced coding as he was in data visualization—he wanted to be able to develop dashboards, present and translate them for an audience, based on their needs.
“I became an expert in (the data visualization tool) Tableau,” he says. “During my interview at GSK, I presented various dashboards in Tableau. When they asked if I used the tool Power BI, I was honest in saying that, no, I had not. But I explained how I would solve a variety of problems using Tableau and that the basic problem-solving concepts remain the same, no matter what tool you are using. It goes back to the example of driving a car—once you have a license, learning to drive a new type of car might have a learning curve, but the skill set remains the same. Once you have that basic knowledge, you can easily transition from one analytical tool to another.”
LinkedIn and other networking sites are helpful in finding someone who already has the job that a student wants. Kazmi, of course, advocates for collecting and analyzing more detail to find some clarity about the potential career pathways ahead.
“Keep on analyzing your interests,” Kazmi adds. “Keep on analyzing whatever area in analytics you feel is right for you. And if you do that, automatically, you would apply to those particular jobs which interest you and where you are confident.”