A permanent choice to a temporary problem

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Nicholas “Nick” Taylor is a data analytics and Business Intelligence leader from Texas, US. Nick is a United States Air Force Veteran with over 18 years of experience building scalable analytics strategies, frameworks, tools, data pipelines, ETL processes, and reports. He considers himself a progressive Christian liberal who believes in equality for all demographics in the USA.

Biggest fuck up

I have 2 of them that lingered with me my entire adult life.

My very first fuck up happened back in 2012 when I decided to become a civilian instead of staying in the service. I never considered myself a “lifer”, but looking back on it, if I’d stayed in, I would be retiring in 3 weeks from this very moment (April 2024). Several of my friends that I’m still actively engaged with are announcing their retirements, and it’s slightly triggering for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m VERY happy to see all my brothers and sisters retiring, but knowing that I made a permanent choice to a temporary problem has swelled my mind with regret.

Nicholas Taylor

Maybe one day I’ll divulge the culmination of reasons why I left the Air Force, yet the milk has already spilled so why cry about it?

My second biggest career fuck up occurred in 2019. I’ve worked in data analytics and business intelligence for 20 years. When I enlisted, I enlisted as an “open general” Airman. This means, based on my ASVAB scores, the Air Force would provide me with a list of AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Codes) in Basic Training for me to choose from. I selected 2R0X1, or Maintenance Management Analyst. This is a fancy phrase for a Data Analyst.

I started in Tech School in 2004 and have been in the industry ever since. After moving to Austin in 2017, I found myself with an interesting job choice; option A was a technology company in the oil & gas industry seeking a Senior Data Analyst on a newly centralized analytics team. Option B was a prosthetics company based in Austin seeking to establish an analytics culture.

With Option B, I would have been the first hire on the team, helping leadership understand and build an analytics team with an area of responsibility across the entire company, whereas Option A paid more money but was a standard Senior Data Analyst role.

I ended up choosing the money, and it annoys me to this day. I knew the opportunity was greater with Option B, yet I failed to have the willpower strong enough to make less money in the short term, knowing full well the opportunity to make more money in the future was present. I truly believe that decision has led to years of stunted career growth, and I pay that penance every single day.


What pisses me off about my industry is the consistent gaslighting and antiquated thinking.

Data is often controversial because context matters, and most individuals do not take the necessary steps to ensure that the data they’re using/quoting/referencing tells a complete story.

On top of that, there’s not enough conversation in 2024 around technical aptitude. Allow me to provide an example: I was once turned down for a role I applied for (by a hiring manager unfamiliar with how my role works and was non-technical) because I had a wealth of experience in Tableau but not in Looker (at that time). Now, for those of you not in analytics, these are what we call “business intelligence tools”.

Essentially, these tools receive structured data from external sources and allow you to create reports (“insights”) to drive decision-making and company processes. Most of these tools have the same UX in theory, but the UIs are typically different. This is where you get into the talk of features between software.

However, at the end of the day, they receive data, structure it, and provide you with the tools necessary to create reports for your users or enable your users to create their own. If you have a wealth of experience in one, your only learning curve will be understanding the features and UI of another. The hiring manager didn’t understand this basic premise and felt like they needed someone who knew the ins and outs of that particular system.

Another example is the ridiculous notion that a person in data analytics requires a degree to be successful over real-world experience. Were you aware that degree programs specific to data analytics didn’t become popular until circa 2015? Even still, those degree programs flood you with unnecessary core classes before you reach the actual program.

Could someone explain how in the hell a hiring manager believes that a “degree in any relevant field plus 3-5 years experience” is better than someone with 7+ years of directly relevant experience and no degree?

The logic is insufferable, and it’s something still in practice to this very day. Hiring managers have taken the hiring process and implemented long, inefficient rounds to “screen” candidates, all while suffering higher rates of attrition internally. This industry needs to evaluate what’s actually important and balance the scales to ensure that they don’t lose out on high-quality candidates because they’re focused on the wrong factors of success and quality.

Useful advice

Life is an airplane that you’re the pilot of.

No matter how big or expensive your plane is, it takes off (and lands) the same as everyone else’s.

No matter how amazing your piloting skills are, turbulence is bound to happen regardless of the weather or season.

As the pilot of your plane, you realize that each passenger with you on your trip may not be there until your final destination…some people are taking a connecting flight, and others are simply there until they reach their destination. It doesn’t matter when someone boards either because sometimes those who have boarded your flight during their layover end up riding with you to that final destination.

While we’re speaking about passengers, every single one of them has baggage. It’s up to you to decide if that baggage can fit in the overhead bins or be checked. All planes have their weight limits, and you shouldn’t feel bad for denying a passenger the chance to board if you don’t have space for their baggage. Like any terminal, a no now doesn’t mean they won’t have an opportunity later, whether it’s from another terminal or when they’ve rid themselves of excess baggage.

Looking at life in this way has helped me process a lot of things. I hope it does the same for you.


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