Analytics: The Magnificent Seven #06

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A critical element in every Analytics Leader’s success is their Mindset. My Analytics: The Magnificent Seven series looks beyond the hype at the beliefs and behaviours that engender excellence.

Each episode of Analytics: The Magnificent Seven, will see me interview some of the industry’s top leaders to gain insight into their unique journeys and find out how they got to where they are in Analytics today.

This week, I spoke with Jo Gordon , a highly reputable figure within analytics and now turned business owner . Jo has been a pivotal part of award winning analytics teams in her career and now goes into detail about wearing every hat within building an analytics business.

1)     How did you get started in Analytics?

I graduated in 1999 with a BA in Economics with Econometrics and I really needed a job that summer to start paying back my student loan. I applied for loads of general economics/banking positions without success and didn’t really appreciate that econometrics was also applied in marketing until I saw the role at ohal advertised. I’m glad that I didn’t get a role in finance because working in and with media and marketing teams suits my personality and interests more. I was always told off as a kid for talking about the adverts when the programme had re-started (you couldn’t skip ads back then!)

2)     What do you enjoy most about your current role?

Almost two years ago my husband and I sold our house in London and moved to Nottinghamshire to create our dream home. We both work part time to pay the bills; I also have three voluntary roles in my local community and my husband does pro bono consulting. I considered a complete career change due to our location, but after taking a couple of short contracts in London it was clear that I didn’t need to leave analytics – which is great because I love it. A year ago, I set up Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd and I now provide interim support to analytics teams, apply my data & analysis skills on smaller ‘gigs’ and I’m developing an offer for small businesses. I most enjoy being able to use my experience in a hands-on way on my terms, without compromising the lifestyle that we now have.

3)     What has been your biggest success to date?

After 20 years in the industry it’s hard to choose just one – in each of my roles I’ve tried to make an impact to both end clients and my teams internally. As a small business owner, I’ve also been re-evaluating my own definition of ‘success’ – commercial results are just one factor for me personally now. Thinking back to past projects, I worked with an automotive client to design and implement a data-driven marketing budget process. It involved thinking about the short and long term and brought together teams from several verticals within the client’s business. It ended up receiving a lot of attention, including from the client’s global CMO and won internal agency awards in the business planning category. My lightbulb moment was that its success was probably due more to the collaborative process than the techniques that we used to deliver the solution. I’ve never forgotten that.

4)     What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Undoubtedly starting my own business. I have so much still to learn but I am enjoying the challenges immensely. I now have a far greater appreciation of clients’ perspectives because I am experiencing the same issues as them, albeit on a much smaller scale. And despite being an experienced marketing effectiveness consultant, planning and executing my own marketing is a whole different ball game. I am also quite shy and flying solo without a team (… or boss, HR, IT, finance support etc.) has forced me to become bolder and make new connections – online and at face to face networking. These communities are so supportive.

5)     How have you seen the industry change since you started?

From a client perspective marketing has become much more flexible with more potential for targeting and across many more touchpoints. But this has created more complexity for measurement. Once-separate disciplines of individual level and aggregate analysis specialists have needed to work together to design and implement holistic client solutions rather than produce conflicting outputs. Digital attribution and MMM is a good example.

I’ve seen open source programming applied well to parts of the analytics process by automating tasks that are less efficient in Excel, by making the transition between tools cleaner and by running models efficiently that are cumbersome in other packages.

6)     What do you see for the future for analytics?

There will always be very technical people in their fields who apply techniques in new ways, but ultimately the direction of commercial analytics will be led by sorts of questions that clients ask. In my field the change in the nature of the questions are relatively slow. When I started out the ‘death of TV’ was written about and it still is now. What has changed is the way that younger people are consuming TV, so it will be a while before that works through.

I see a potential danger in removing too many humans from the analytical process. The strongest teams that I have worked in and with are successful because they are comprised of strategists, analysts, scientists, engineers, managers, and business specialists. That’s a whole lot of value for the client that cannot be replaced by a model, even one that can be trained to learn for itself – although they, of course, have their rightful place.

7)     What advice would you give anyone pursuing a career in Analytics?

Think about what industry or environment that you will be most interested and comfortable in and pursue opportunities there, because that’s where you will shine brightest. If you are attracted to ‘data science’, narrow down what it is you’d like to be doing day to day and the types of business questions you’d like to answer. I’m not saying specialise early but it’s a huge field and having a goal will help, you can always change it. Never stop learning but pick what you devote your energy to – after twenty years I’ve just taught myself to use R, not because its in fashion but because I have identified how I can utilise that skill. Don’t stay on a career path if you become unhappy, there’s always a way around and back to satisfaction.