Katie Smith - Data Apprentice at CAP

Topic

[apprentice, workforce development]

Katie is a Data Analyst working in the charity sector with Christians Against Poverty. She completed her Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship in June 2020, as part of her ongoing professional development.

We caught up with Katie to share her experiences of working with data and completing an apprenticeship with Baltic.

Q: How did you start your data career?

I started at CAP four and a half years ago as an Events Coordinator, doing something completely unrelated to data. I was really drawn to CAP as a charity for what they do, who they serve, and for giving practical help to the poor in this country.

After about a year or so in Events, the opportunity came up to do some data work. I started doing that part-time.

Q: Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

For the first year or so, I was only doing data work a few days a week. There wasn't that much time to think about development, or where it would lead. Eventually, it became a full-time role and it felt like there was a lot more scope for me to get to grips with proper data practices and how things work.

When the opportunity to do an apprenticeship came up, it felt as though it was going to be a really good training and development thing - both for me, and for CAP too. I thought it would be good for them to have someone in a role who properly understood what they were doing... rather than just giving it their best shot!

Q: What is it you enjoy most about working with data?

It's like solving a puzzle, but you're not really sure what the puzzle will be until you get started, which I really like. You can be given a data set, and within it you can find so much stuff going on. 

There's often an answer or conclusion that becomes evident. I really like coming up with an answer, and being able to say, "OK, this is what the data is telling us - how can we influence change," or "how can we be sure that we're doing a good job?" Growing up, I was always the Maths Kid, so was definitely more inclined to this kind of thing than I was to English or History.

 Q: What were your main responsibilities as a level 4 data apprentice?

I'm based in the Fundraising team, so a lot of my work was focused around our campaigns. This includes monthly reporting, putting together information for management, doing data reviews - mainly for Direct Mail campaigns - to see if our approach was working the way we wanted it to. 

I also did a lot of database maintenance - so cleaning data, tracking down missing data from legacy systems and helping the team migrate to Salesforce. Alongside this I was working on various projects for future fundraising, helping the team to better understand our supporters and how we raise money.

Q: What was it like to do a data apprenticeship with Baltic?

My Learning Mentor, David, was really great. We had regular check in sessions and he was very personable - always willing to get back to me quickly if I ever emailed him or wanted to chat on the phone. The same for all the people who provided training: if I ever had questions about something specific, they were always more than willing to provide extra help. 

The training itself happens online through the SMART Classroom. It was really good to be able to see the presentation that the trainer is using, hear their voice, and type your questions in a chat box which was really helpful. It was good to be able to talk to other people doing the apprenticeship and go into breakout rooms to get to know people a little bit better. You could develop relationships with people over time, which was really encouraging. 

Baltic were a great support throughout. They clearly knew how to provide online training, which was really good.

Q: What support did you have from your manager during the apprenticeship?

I'd say it's important to have the right balance between the apprenticeship provider and the employer. For me, being able to do it from a workplace that I knew really supported me, and was keen for me to develop was brilliant. I didn't feel as if there was any kind of strain between my work time and the time I spent on my apprenticeship because I knew that CAP were behind me every step of the way.

My manager, Dan, was a really great source of support. We've worked together for quite a long time and he was always willing to catch up with me on a weekly basis, check how things were going, offer help and guidance where he could - and remind me to get my Assessment Plans in!

Q: How do you think you have progressed throughout your apprenticeship?

I think for me the main thing I have taken away from the apprenticeship is a confidence in what I do. I know now that if I say something, I'm right: I have confidence in the method I've used to come to my conclusion. This means I'm more comfortable to try new things, look at data in different ways and not be afraid of more complex techniques.

It was really helpful to be taught how to use some specialist data programmes that I now use more effectively at work. Overall, I think my ability to analyse data has increased. There are a few areas that I would never have done before, like statistical modelling. Now I'm happy to go ahead, give it a go and see what comes out at the other end!

I get people coming to me for advice on using data in different projects, which has definitely happened a lot more since I did the apprenticeship.

 Q: What did you do after completing the apprenticeship?

I'm still at CAP, and not planning on going anywhere anytime soon! I've been doing a lot of the same kind of things - continuing to push people to make data informed decisions, both in fundraising and across the rest of the charity too.

I also have a bit more time now to think about the long-term data projects I want to carry out. I'm really excited about this, as they will hopefully give us even more insight into our supporters, how they behave, and how they donate.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a career in data?

If you like maths and stats, data offers a really good opportunity to do something that you like, and that you're naturally good at in a professional capacity.

I think one of the biggest things I've learned from doing a data role is that it's not just about how good you are at data, you also need to maintain good relationships with people. You need to have the ability to be - not quite a teacher - but to be able to explain what data means in a way that people can understand. That kind of relational aspect is really important and wasn't something I'd thought much about before I took on this role.

Q: Would you recommend Baltic to other people interested in a data career?

Yes, definitely!

Find out more

If you'd like to learn more about Baltic Apprenticeships' data programmes, you can search for current vacancies or browse our programme outlines here:

Related Blog: A Career in Data - Q&A with the Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data