8 Questions with an Expert: Google Financial Data Analyst

Written by Jessica Schulze • Updated on

Tony Francis didn’t start in data analytics, but today, he’s a field expert at one of the world’s leading tech companies. He has over 20 years of experience, and we have the details.

[Featured image] A portrait of Google Senior Program Manager Tony Francis

Tony Francis is a seasoned mentor, senior financial program manager, and data analytics expert with over 20 years of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Business Administration with a minor in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). At Coursera, we know him as the friendly face leading Google’s Data Analytics Professional Certificate program. Delve into this Q&A for expert-level insight whether you’re transitioning into financial data analytics or still charting your career path. 

“Personally, I didn’t jump right into the data analytics field. I thought data analysis was for computer engineers. Instead, I started my career very excited about opportunities in finance. I always dreamed of being a CFO," Francis says. "But as I progressed through my finance career, I could see the field changing in front of me, and I knew I needed to expand my expertise to grow as a professional and achieve my career goals.” 

In the following interview, Francis discusses how he broke into data analytics, shares early stage career tips, and highlights the critical skills he’s relied on throughout his career. 

Breaking into the field

It can take time to find your footing professionally. Many change their minds about majors, jobs, or career paths at varying life stages. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports older millennials held an average of nine jobs between 18 and 36 years old, with more than half being held between 18 and 23 [1]. Additionally, more than half of Americans would change at least one education decision if presented with the opportunity to do it again [2]. 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self as you were seeking your first role?

I would encourage my younger self to keep an open mind and heart to all opportunities, meaning I would push myself to stay open to all locations and role types. Moreover, I would encourage myself to evaluate each opportunity from an unbiased place where I think thoughtfully about how the decision can impact my long-term goals and the path that I will be on. 

I didn't select the best job for my future goals at the time. I selected the job that met some very biased criteria. If I had accepted the role with the company that would have best put me in a position for future success based on my goals, I likely would have had to navigate fewer bumps in the road early in my career.

Is there anything else someone just starting out should know?

I always tell folks starting their careers or making a career shift to remain optimistic while being patient. In other words, give yourself grace. If you know you are trying to do the best thing for yourself, don't judge it, just move forward with a growth mindset. Also, always remember there will be things that are out of your control, so don't let "no's" or delays force you to lose sight of your goal. 

Always remember there will be things that are out of your control, so don't let "no's" or delays force you to lose sight of your goal.

The early career grind

Before settling into his role at Google, Francis gained experience in a variety of industries, ranging from transportation to hospitality to youth development and the performing arts. His background across such diverse industries demonstrates the significance of transferable skills. The questions below outline some of the more technical aspects of his education and skill set. 

What type of education was most helpful as you were beginning your career?

My bachelor's degree was critical to launching my career in finance and accounting. It provided me with the subject matter exposure and the resources to connect with companies that were hiring in my field. 

What tools have you had to master to be successful in your career?

Some of the tools I had to master throughout my career include spreadsheet tools (e.g., Excel and Sheets); SQL, word processing tools (e.g., Word and Docs); presentation tools (e.g., PowerPoint and Slides); database tools; ERP systems like Oracle and SAP; and other more ad hoc company/role-specific productivity tools.

Read more: 7 Data Analysis Software Applications You Need to Know

Mastering the craft

Francis’ first role with Google was as a Senior Financial Analyst. In under three years, he received a promotion to Program Manager, a leadership role he fulfilled for five years. 

Read more: What Is a Financial Analyst? (+ How to Become One)

Which skills are you surprised that you utilize most often in your role?

Probably the most important skill that has supported my career progression is actually communication, and even more specifically, communication supported by developing active listening skills. Particularly in large organizations, everything is not said directly, and so much can be left up to interpretation. This requires one to have a strong understanding of both the macro and micro issues impacting their area of focus. This deeper and more holistic understanding is incredibly useful when communicating goals, wins, and solving problems when there is a lot of ambiguity.

How do you continue learning and growing in your field?

At this point in my career, it is important for me to stay on top of the issues that impact my company and, downstream, impact my department the most. I try to stay current with industry news and maintain regular touch points with leaders in my org so I can anticipate changes that may be coming or forecast drivers that can impact our organization.

Did you know 73 percent of employers are prioritizing hiring candidates with AI skills right now [3]? Stand out in a competitive job market by gaining hands-on AI experience with a tech industry leader in Google’s AI Essentials course. For a limited time, you can access it with enrollment in any Google Professional Certificate program, including the Data Analytics Professional Certificate led by Tony Francis. 


Success in retrospect

Today, Francis holds a Senior Program Manager position in the Google Financial Department. 

What three key things have made this stage of your career possible?

Three key things that have made this stage of my career possible are experiences (successes and failures), strong relationships with peers, which have had as much, if not more, impact now than relationships with leaders, and developing a strong understanding of the type of work that both leans into my strengths and gives me joy.

Which of your job tasks do you find to be the most engaging?

Today, I am most engaged when I am coaching my team. Obviously, I did not have the experience or expertise to do this in the early years of my career, but a huge benefit of time and staying patient is being able to develop and empower others to enable them for successful careers.

Learn more from Tony Francis and the Googlers

Fun fact: Google employees refer to themselves as Googlers. You can gain more insider knowledge about how Francis and the Googlers collect, cleanse, and calculate data using industry-standard tools like SQL and R Markdown with the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate program. For a limited time, get access to Google’s AI Essentials course when you enroll in this or any Google Professional Certificate. 

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “LABOR MARKET EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, PARTNER STATUS, AND HEALTH FOR THOSE BORN 1980-1984, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/nlsyth.pdf.” Accessed May 16, 2024

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Jessica is a technical writer who specializes in computer science and information technology. Equipp...

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