No Experience, No Problem: Why Every Data Newbie Needs a Portfolio

You don’t need a college degree to start getting paid to work with data, but it can help. However, what really helps you stand out from other candidates is a good portfolio. Here are a few things you’ll need to help you get started.


GitHub is a free portfolio that does a great job at showcasing your coding skills. It allows code formatting, repository management, and a straightforward profile for companies to review.

Having a GitHub is a perfect way to help you stand out from other candidates, as employers can see your coding skillset to see how that translates to their business practices.

Software and Coding Languages to Learn

Depending on what company you want to work at or if you want to work for yourself. You’ll have to know a few things to get started. Do keep in mind that not every company is going to ask for everything from the list below. Check the job posting for what skills they are looking for; the most common things to know are going to be Python, SQL, Excel, and maybe some visualization software.

  • Python; perfect for automation, data analysis, graphs, etc.
  • SQL
  • SAS; more common in the healthcare industry
  • R: Most companies are stepping away from this, and moving towards Python
  • Tableau
  • Power BI
  • Excel

Personal Website

Creating a personal website is very reasonably priced. My domain costs me roughly $12.00 a year, and my monthly hosting costs me less than $5.00 a month. Because of NameCheap’s dependability and customer support, I use them. You may practice your Python and SQL abilities as part of their hosting, which lets you see how it functions on a real server. For those who would want to gain practical experience over using a third-party SQL/Python server that would probably incur higher monthly costs, this is a great smart practice. Employers are also pleased when you practice using your own SQL server since it demonstrates to them your independence and information-finding skills.

When you look at it from the outside, it’s difficult to imagine that this is all you actually need to start working with data. But it’s true, I learned Tableau and SAS while at university and SQL and Python on my own because they didn’t have classes. I made a portfolio because I wanted to stand out, even though no employer asked for it. During my job search journey, I noticed a lot of people who wanted to work with data had no portfolio to showcase their work done in class or on their own. Because of my portfolio it took about 4 months for me to get an offer after graduation and while I was searching, I was still learning.

You may review my GitHub and personal website for ideas on projects and ways to help you stand out from other candidates.