Analytics Profile: Jay Lewis
Last week I brought you a profile of Tri Ngo. Tri made the move into analytics from grad school. This week I wanted to bring you a profile of someone who did it differently, and that made me think of Jay Lewis. Jay did not have an analytical education or prior background in analysis. Jay was working in what I would refer to as an execution type role at BofA. He did a fantastic job and used his success in that role and strong work ethic to make a jump to an analytics role when an opportunity came up. He did not have an educational or working background in data or analytics; he learned the skills on his own.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the mentor he mentions.
What did you do in the Army?
I spent 5 years as a Cavalry Officer, and I’ve continued that service into the National Guard where I’m currently an Infantry Company Commander. The military taught me to influence people; first as a Platoon Leader influencing subordinates, as an Executive Officer influencing peers supporting my organization, then as a Staff Officer influencing my management team.
How did you end up at BofA, and what was your first job there?
Leaving the military, I interviewed and had job offers from 6 large corporations across the country, in roles ranging from Production Supervisor at a manufacturer to Medical Device sales. Ultimately I landed at Bank of America solely because it offered the best work life balance, and good proximity to my home town. My first role was in Mortgage Servicing as a Process Designer (70%), and a Project Manager (30%).
Why did you decide to make an internal move to a more analytics focused role?
The mortgage crisis brought incredible expansion to Mortgage Servicing as the Financial Institutions struggled to meet new regulatory requirements and to service a portfolio of loans in default 10x the size of previous years. In 2016 that inventory of loans in default had returned to levels only about 2x the normal level, and so the organization was overflowing with employees, which is a horrible position if you’re seeking growth opportunity. I was lucky, and had been paired with a Mentor as a part of a pilot mentoring program within an extracurricular group that Bank of America sponsored. That mentor introduced me to his role in analytics through casual conversation, I got exposed to some of the problems that his team would solve, and when a position opened, I ran towards the opportunity.
What did you do to get caught up to speed on the coding and analytics you would need for the strategy job?
SAS offers a free version of their software, the University Edition, on their website. They also offer both Fundamentals training, and advanced analytics training at very fair prices. I took two weeks leading towards my interview date, and I spent about 3 hours every day teaching myself the basics within SAS. The training teaches you the coding language, but if you stop and think about each of the practical exercises that leverage real world examples, you can recognize the possible connections to work you already do or to the positions you’re applying to fill. As I went through the training and identified these relationships, I would stop and jot down responses to common interview questions that would include these analytics techniques.
What aspects of your current role do you like most?
I love solving problems. Every business and every organization has their problems, but most of them lack someone that wants to spend the time required to fix them. There are two types of analysts, those that assess what they’re asked to assess, and those that seek out opportunity that they recognize through the course of normal work. I’ve been able to craft my role and my position into one that allows me to spend 75% of my time solving the problems that I’ve personally chosen to solve. I entered this position with absolutely zero formal training in analytics, either in a classroom or on the job, and so I’m learning new things every day. There are so many free resources online that I can type basic questions on Google, and almost always find an article explaining exactly the analytics concept that I’m hoping to learn, and the coding language that I’ll need in order to make it happen. As an example, I was told that a scorecard used to evaluate call center employees had been in place for about 3 years, and that it evaluated the best performance metrics for driving bottom line results. I spent a day or two reading articles on how to design employee scorecards, and how to evaluate the relationship between performance metrics and the bottom line, and I went to work using the analytics techniques and the coding concepts in the articles, and I proved that the scorecard’s metrics were actually not optimal. Every problem is unique, and so this role is intellectually challenging every day, and I love that!
Do you feel like the experience in analytics and strategy that you have gained has benefited your career?
Every position and every experience will benefit your career, and make you more marketable for future roles. My time as a Strategy Analyst has taught me to question statements and concepts that may seem logical but that aren’t laid out clearly with data. On those same lines, it has taught me the skills to prove my own ideas will benefit an organization (or not), before I stand up to present it. Every organization has a dozen leaders campaigning for funding to expand their world and fuel their initiatives, and the ability to tie your own ideas to a dollar figure that it will deliver in the next year will distinguish you from the pack.
Is there any advice you would give to someone who does not have a significant analytical background and wants to learn analytical skills or find a role in analytics?
I believe that we all fall into one of four categories: Willing & Capable, Willing & Incapable, Unwilling & Capable, and Unwilling & Incapable. Your position on that matrix is relative to the task being assessed, and very few people fall into the same category with great frequency (imagine comparing your ability to be a dog walker to your ability to design aircraft). For those that are willing to take the time and invest the effort required to learn something new, and at the same time possess the aptitude to grasp fairly complex mathematics concepts, a role in analytics can be tremendously rewarding! All of the resources you could want are out there on the internet, and most are free to use. Just a few weeks can take you from ‘ground zero’ to ‘ready to interview’. There is such a demand for analysts with SAS/SQL experience that the question really is not can you find a role in analytics, but will you find a role in analytics.