How to Change Insights - Analytics Jobs + Learning a New Company's Data
I think sufficient time has past to put words down on what I have moved on to since leaving The Canadian Real Estate Association, and what a job change is like in the world of analytics and insights after 5-1/2 years in one place.
In mid August, I joined The Conference Board of Canada - one of our country’s foremost independent, evidence based, not-for-profit think tank or research organization, as Director of Consumer Data, Insights and Governance. This new opportunity allows me to continue my focus on helping organizations develop strategy and make business decisions with the support of a comprehensive data and analytics program. As a not-for-profit, the Conference Board works hard at building awareness for its research, conferences and publications and meeting the needs of government and corporate customers across the country.
As I pass the one month mark, I thought a helpful blog post might be to look at transition, and how we as data and insights professionals can realign our thinking, and perhaps passion, to support a new organization. By now, if you have read any of my previous posts, you probably get the sense that work for me = energy. In my new role, I am leading a larger team at a director level and am excited to see how the organization is refocusing on maturing it’s data and decision making models.
Chalk it up to being an army brat, but moves and transitions do not instil the same level of fear in me as they do in many others. I am a loyal employee, but I also know when I need a change, as difficult as it is to leave fellow colleagues. When I make the change, I throw myself headlong into making it successful. Still, at 52, leaving a healthy organization like CREA that was only blocks from my flat was not easy.
As I have prepared and gone through my transition to a new analytics and insights position, I came up with my own brief guide on how you can make a successful transition, mid-career, to maximize the benefit to your new organization, your new team, and yourself. I thought others might find this helpful.
Seek out a Data Map: In the field of data and analytics, we learn the data of our organizations and internalize the where, who and how this data comes to being as second nature. With this comes the special language that surrounds this data and makes it familiar to those around you. The first thing I look for in my new role is a data map - or the documentation around the organization’s data as it exists today. You may find that these maps exist only in people’s heads so your first task will require getting to know people and getting down to work. My first tip is to analyze (build if necessary) the data map of your organization. Understand what it looks like today, and how this fits with the future vision of the organization (= the strategic plan). This will help you get a sense of how much hard work you have to do as you hit the ground.
Study: Understanding how data is used across the organization and where it comes from in each case gives you a solid understanding of decision making processes and lines of influence. If the organization is looking to you for help to be more data driven, this assessment will help you pinpoint where to focus first to make lasting change. Seek out the people starving for data and/or assurances on the quality of the data to be your early advocates for improvement to processes and collection methods, etc. My second tip is to study not just the data map, but also how data is used throughout the organization. This will involve meeting everyone you can in order to learn from their perspective - but also build connections that will be mutually beneficial in the future.
Listen: Your team and the broader organization are often as keen for you to start your position as you are. The narratives you are presented with in the opening weeks are going to be: a) conflicting, b) told with a bias from those with a desire for action or change, and c) invaluable in learning who is who and what is what (unofficially) in the organization. This is where you can understand how well it lives by the ‘data driven decision making’ mantra. It is also where you can demonstrate that you are not going to make decisions without analyzing the data: whether it be with your team make-up, processes, or how your team serves and is seen by the broader organization. In my first weeks, I survey my team on what their expectations are with regard to my management style, how they like to work and what they like to do and not do. This is their chance to rid themselves of an outdated report or process they have been trying to shed without luck under previous structures. My third tip is to actively listen to everyone you can sit down with that has a stake in the work you are doing.
Communicate: Starting a new position or filling a vacant one in an organization is going to be an opportunity for everyone to make change happen - whether big or small. My fourth tip is heavily predicated on the successful demonstration of #3 above (listen) in order to be successful. It is important to be up front and open about your plans and make it easy for your team and others to work with you. Tell people what you plan to do, let them know why and how you plan to do it, and then actually do what you said you were going to do. Nothing builds trust and telegraphs respect for others than being open and transparent.
Audit Compliance: With privacy rules such as CASL growing in surveillance and enforcement power in Canada, and abroad, making sure your organization has a solid strategy and governance model in place is important. Chances are, depending on your role, you may be in charge of CASL and privacy compliance - or directly involved in making sure it is adhered to. Take this seriously and try to quickly understand how this is managed and audited in your new organization. You may find public organizations (gov and non-profits or NGO’s to need more help in this area than corporations that are actively marketing). My fifth tip is making sure you do a personal SWOT of privacy and CASL compliance so you mitigate any risk that may exist with yourself and the organization right from the start.
Just like the new Prime Minister, focusing on delivering value as early in your tenure as possible (you may even develop a 100-day plan) is an important goal to keep in mind. I also find it helpful to schedule 1 and 2 month check-ins with your manager and HR to make sure things are going smoothly and communication is open and expectations are all aligned.
If you have any questions or suggestions on other things that are good to keep in mind during a job transition, please let me know. Thank you for reading.