I’ve been getting a lot of nice emails from recruiters lately, and I really appreciate everyone’s interest. It makes me feel special!
But I’m sorry to tell you that I really don’t want a “web analytics job.” Not now, not ever in my future. And neither do your best analytics people.
Web analytics jobs, as they are today, are about learning (necessary learning). They are about developing skills and a methodology for decision making that is based on data. They are about understanding the technology and starting to appreciate exactly how little the technology actually does for us! They are about helping other departments make decisions, and helping drive change and advancement on the web site and in the business.
And I love all of these things, but…
At some point, you leave college, you leave boot camp, you leave law school or SEAL training, and the real world begins. You use all of your learning to build processes and models of how to deal with the real world, which is much more dynamic and interesting than the academics led you to believe. It’s a world that’s driven by human interaction, in addition to data, and it comes with politics, friction between smart people, bad decisions made for good reasons, and a whole basket of issues (including bullets, either PowerPoint or lead, depending on whether you went to SEAL training or got your MBA; these bullets have approximately the same lethality in both cases) you never learned about in your training. That world, the real world, is the world of business. It’s a world where we can’t always make the right choices or hide behind data and call people morons for not doing the exact thing we would have done. The training was essential — it couldn’t have been skipped if you want to survive out here — but it was incomplete and you know it.
In your training, you learned about usability, you learned about testing, implementation, IT, architecture, conversions, what makes things “work.” And while you were in training, you helped a lot of people out. When you get out, though, you take on risk, and you learn that the only thing that matters is cash flow: the quintessential math of revenue minus cost, and how that drives greed, fear, decisions, people, and countries. You use the arsenal of tools you learned about in your training to reach that single goal.
Why is the training valuable? Because not everyone had it. Web analytics people get angry that people don’t listen to them when they have the data and know how to come to the table with the most relevant, least biased recommendations. There are people in decision-making positions that did not have this training, or even some of it, and they aren’t qualified, in your opinion. There are opponents on the battlefield who did not perfect the basics and did not round out their talents. And in the long run, you have a huge advantage because of your training. Use it, but realize that using it means leaving the nest and venturing out into the wilderness.
Web analytics people — the good ones — are crafted to be some of the best businesspeople out there. They are capable of taking emotion out of difficult decisions, but hopefully understand the humanity involved in working with people, too. They have been trained in a number of arts. They can handle a number of questions you previously relied on specialists to answer (who can now work on complex problems, rather than simple questions), because they’ve had to learn, monitor, and interpret the effects of every single tactical discipline that comprises the final texture of a web site and the business it represents. And who else in the organization comes to the table with less bias? Nobody.
The good ones want to begin shifting into this strange, amorphous role of digital strategists: those general practitioners of the internet who can patch up the small wounds, interpret complex issues that span multiple disciplines and recruit the relevant specialists to execute against a central strategy. The “hubs” who can be trusted to translate strategy into tactics without bias relevant to their particular goals (present in marketing, HR, IT, sales, etc. leadership — which isn’t their fault, it’s how their compensation is structured!).
We don’t want to be the digital strategists who point on the map to where we should go; we want to be shepherds, literally walking the business to the destination, taking our place in the action, being present, monitoring progress, and redirecting the tactics when they start to spread too far apart.
This is our greatest value and the eventual destination of every great analyst. They will walk you to your greener pastures.
Yes, my head is in the clouds, but don’t you wish you had one of these people where you worked? You probably already do.