Next Up

Lately, it seems like there's a bit of a #measure meme happening around me, with some truly awesome people I know moving on to new jobs and posting about the experience. Rudi Shumpert flew to the moon, Matt Wright ended a chapter, Michele Kiss became a demystifier, and Tim Patten started new adventures. And those are just the posts I know about, sorry if I missed yours. Since I'm a bit superstitious and I don't want to break the chain, I'll give it a shot.

I'm very excited to start a new phase of my career tomorrow, when I join the team at Search Discovery. I'll be helping out with the Satellite technology management platform there. It's an understatement to say I'm humbled by this move. Of all the people working to make the Web better, these are some of the smartest and most talented people around. I'm very grateful for the chance to work with them, and I hope some of their smarts rub off on me.

But enough about me, I thought this might be a good chance to put together some thoughts that might be useful to others in this little niche of the Web. If you're thinking about your career in Digital Analytics, or a new career in this area, I hope it helps get you thinking.

I have a friend who was in the Air Force during the first Gulf war, and I asked him what it was like to fly fighter planes. He said it was like playing a video game while riding a rollercoaster with your hair on fire. And, of course, people shoot at you. There are times when this industry feels like that, minus the bullets. Things move crazy fast and if we don't make a serious effort to be students of the game, the changes will run us over and leave us behind. Everyone I know in this field struggles to separate the signals from the noise, to separate the truly important changes from the fads, and to keep up with the relentless pace of technological "advancement".


The half-life of some topics in our space feels the same, about 6 weeks or so. When I first started in this field about six years ago, someone told me it was a "multi-disciplinary" area, and I would never get bored because there was so much to learn and so many different things involved. Bit of a double-edged sword there, for sure - some days you're the windshield, and some days you're the bug. Either way, if you have to work, it's a lot of fun and there are a lot of awesome people around.

These are just a few of the areas we might deal with as analytics professionals, a few bullet points I use to remember how broad and deep this little analytics space can reach. A few of the skills we learn and manage during our careers in this niche.

  • Analytics
    • Site tagging
    • Business reporting and analysis
    • Excel data analysis, dashboards, APIs
    • Data visualization
    • SEO analysis
    • SEM analysis
    • Display ad networks & analysis
    • Campaign tracking & analysis
    • Channel analysis / Channel mapping / Referrer segmentation
    • Segmented funnel analysis
    • Dashboards within various tools (GA, SC)
    • Email marketing
    • Ad-hoc reporting requests from our "favorite" campaign manager
    • About 1,000 other things
  • Implementation / technical expertise
    • configuring data capture and tools, integrating data sources, programming in-house tools
    • Relevant technologies/tools: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, Python, RegEx, XML, Git, Tag Management, Google Analytics, SiteCatalyst, Test & Target, GWO, Optimizely, KiSSMetrics, Mixpanel, Localytics, etc.
    • Web performance optimization
  • Testing & optimization
    • A/B & multivariate testing
    • Design of Experiments
  • Statistics
    • R, SAS, SPSS
    • Statistical analysis
    • Regression: linear, logistic, multinomial, etc.
    • Bayesian analysis, segmentation & clustering, time series analysis, etc.
  • Business Intelligence
    • Combining data sources, data warehouses, etc. & using BI tools for reporting & analysis
    • Microstrategy, Cognos
  • Qualitative analysis
    • UX research and qualitative data analysis
  • Research skills
    • Customer research, competitive intelligence
    • Syndicated data research & analysis
  • Social media monitoring & analysis
  • Project management & process improvement
    • Strategy, planning, closed-loop management
    • Measurement plans for new sites, redesigns, etc.
    • Coding, testing, debugging, documentation, code-reviews / QA, production deployments, monitoring & alerting, maintenance & support
  • Content strategy, content marketing, content & app management & analysis
    • Content effectiveness, audits
    • WordPress, Django, Drupal, Interwoven/TeamSite, WebSphere Commerce Server, etc.
  • Persuasion skills
    • Influence different stakeholders and drive strategy
  • Presentation & communication skills
    • Writing, editing, basic design skills
  • "Soft skills"
    • Good reputation with customers
    • Respect of peers
    • Ability to solve highly complex problems
    • Organizational ability, attention to detail
    • Ability to manage your time, prioritize tasks and work under (significant) pressure
    • Ability to work successfully with remote, virtual teams in complex matrix organizations
  • The 10,000 other topics I left off the list

I'm avoiding "mobile" and "data science" just to stay out of Pandora's box.

We also work with a variety of people in large companies, doing related, but also very different types of work. A few people (roles) we usually work with at some point:

  • C-level executives
  • Consultants
  • Content strategists
  • Corporate webmasters
  • Designers
  • Digital agencies
  • Financial analysts and accountants
  • Front-end engineers
  • Information architects
  • Information security specialists
  • Marketing managers, campaign owners
  • Media planners
  • Merchandising managers
  • On-site ad revenue managers
  • Outsourced specialty programming shops
  • Paid search specialists
  • Programmers
  • Project managers
  • Sales
  • SEOs
  • Social media managers
  • Software architects
  • Statisticians
  • Usability and accessibility specialists
  • UX specialists
  • Vendor account managers
  • Writers / journalists / editors

I haven't even scratched the surface of all the technologies, areas and people we deal with, but I use these lists for myself every so often just to get some perspective. This also helps me remember that there's no way I can keep up with it all. I'm very grateful for the help and support of such an awesome community, but Tim said it best: