The One with Chandler’s Job

Posted : November 4, 2022 -

Blog by Mark Foy, AphA Executive Director of Programmes


Despite watching every episode several times, I only realised after watching Only Connect (great quiz show, check it out) recently that Chandler Bing from Friends was a Data Analyst. Or to give him his occupation on Wikipedia, Statistical Analysis and Data Reconfiguration. I cannot believe I missed that for so long, admittedly I’ve not rewatched Friends for quite a few years. I then started thinking about the episode (The One with The Embryos) where it is Joey and Chandler versus Monica and Rachel in a quiz to see who gets to live in the nice apartment. The final question for those who do not remember the episode is “What is Chandlers job?” to which Rachel confidently proclaims “Transponster.”  It was a continuation of a running joke in the series that his closest friends had no idea what he does for a living. I find that quite relatable and I suspect some of you reading this do too.

I dread meeting new people and having to explain what I do in a concise sentence. My wife is a teacher, I am envious of such an unambiguous occupation to convey. Sometimes “I work in the NHS” suffices, they suss out quite quickly I am not a medical professional because I’d had confidently said nurse or doctor etc if I was.  If they pry further, I may offer them my job title or say I work in analytics or information, which is often met with a blank face. I’ll then start to cobble together some incoherent sentence about data or performance.

It could be worse though, I once worked with someone who appeared on a popular day time quiz show. I tuned in excitedly to see them on TV. During the introductions, the host asked them the classic quiz question of ‘where are you from and what do you do?’  This person who worked in an NHS Information department, had the peak daytime tv audience waiting for their answer and the response they gave was “I work in the NHS on computers.”  Part of my soul was crushed hearing that. What a platform to promote the profession that was. Like Chandler and my pointless colleague, the world was not ready to understand what a data analyst is in simple terms.

We are all aware of the rich lexicon of analyst family job titles. If you told someone you were a data engineer, or a data scientist would that tell the listener everything they need to know about your job, or would it lead to a confused look and a reply of “so what’s that then?”  I would guess the latter for the average person on the street. If anyone has a snappy way to describe your role, please let me know.

The analyst profile is getting bigger but there is a still a lot of work to be done. Telling someone you are an analyst should be as definitive as telling them you are a teacher, accountant, or nurse.  It is AphA’s aim to develop this profile further. It would be incredible for analyst roles to be mainstream and acknowledged in their own right. The bigger the community grows the greater chance of this happening.

Which brings us back to Chandler. Alongside it being a forgettable profession, it is also a running joke how much he hates his job. Despite being the most stable and well paid of all the jobs of the main characters, meaning he is the only person who could realistically afford to live in Greenwich Village. The character of Ross has a career (Palaeontologist) which is also often ridiculed, however there seemed to be a lot more time devoted to his enthusiastic defences of that job and how much he loved it. I wish that opportunity was given to Chandler and for the hundreds of millions of viewers to learn about a career in data analytics.  But I suppose dinosaurs will always be cool and a greater source of comedy. A half-arsed google search has uncovered there is a grand total of 66 palaeontologists employed in the United States, I guess if there was only a handful employed when Friends first aired in 1994 then maybe there was a boom in that area.  But I’m sceptical.  I cannot help but think analytics could’ve really capitalised on such a famous advocate.

So next time you are asked to describe your job (by anyone over 25), say you have the same job as Chandler from Friends and how the mocking of analysts is one of the plethora of things that has not aged well from that show. Then keep the conversation going by speculating with them about how the series would have looked with more of a focus on Chandler’s career.


Rejected Friends Episode Titles

  • The one with the incompatible date field
  • The one with the missing bracket
  • The one with the impossible deadline
  • The one with the ambiguous dataset
  • The one with the weekend sitrep
  • The one with the proper PIVOT!
  • The one with the painful DAX
  • The one with the problem with one or more formula references in this worksheet
  • The one with the incomplete data
  • The one with the changing requirements
  • The one with the IG issue
  • The one with blocked work-related website
  • The one with the unexpected output
  • The one with the 3-hour running query
  • The one with the conflicting stakeholders
  • The one with the warehouse failure