So, what do you do? It’s a question we’ve all been asked. An easy way to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the airplane, meeting at a networking event, or with friends you haven’t seen since high school.
It should be an easy question to answer, considering it’s something most of us spend over 2,000 hours a year doing. So after 13 years — 26,000 hours and counting — well past Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours mark for subject mastery, why is this still a question I struggle answering succinctly?
Having recently joined Merkle, my first venture to the agency side, the question has become a little more complex. While people still may not have been familiar with what an analytics expert does when I worked for Fortune 100 companies like Nationwide Insurance or JP Morgan Chase, at least they could associate the brands with experiences in their everyday life.
At the most basic level, I consider myself a problem solver. OK, probably not that unique from you and what you do. So what types of problems am I in the business of solving? As a Director of Analytics at Merkle, a performance marketing agency, my focus is on helping companies connect with customers or yet-to-be customers in a relevant and effective way. You’ll hear jobs like this described as analyst, data scientist, marketing analyst — and according to Forbes, one of the top 10 jobs out there.What does it take to do my job? I can break down my day into several roles. Ability to understand the business problem, access the correct data, interpret information, present summarized findings in a relatable and meaningful way, and put resulting conclusions into action. Very similar to a process famous military strategist John Boyd describes as OODA — observe, orient, decide, act. The cycle continues, my involvement in any one of those phases changes depending on the situation. Since the landscape of analytics and big data is constantly changing, especially in today’s digital marketing world, I can’t be an expert in any single system, data source, or solution and nor do I want to be. I must be proficient in all of them as tools to extract information. It used to be that SQL knowledge was enough, and SAS was great. Now, with every platform producing data in its own format, you have to be comfortable talking about matching data from web analytics tools to transactional systems, to mobile platforms, and then make sense of both anonymous data and known data.
I am lucky enough to work in an amazing environment that enables me to excel in all of these areas and get experience on the latest technologies and practices. I get to work with a lot of different clients across a broad spectrum of industries that are all struggling with similar yet unique challenges — perfect for a problem solver. And it is true, you are only as good as the people your surround yourself with; all of the people I have interacted are smart, curious, and passionate employees (intentionally hired for those traits) who are willing to collaborate in any problem-solving exercise. A seemingly endless thirst for exercising those creative solution-finding mental muscles seems to be in the DNA of each team member. Since Merkle’s approach is data agnostic/tool agnostic, there is always someone who is on the leading edge of using a wide array of data, tools, or approaches to help businesses improve their efficiency.
So, what do I do? I understand what drives consumer behavior, find the right data to back up those hypotheses, and determine the best method to operationalize that data to ensure a cohesive customer experience and positive return on investment. Constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s been done, bringing my best thinking to a collaborative process. This is what fuels me and I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.