Interviewing candidates for a "data job" (analysts, marketers, ppc specialist) can be surprisingly depressing.
Sometimes they can be unqualified.
Usually they are "qualified". The depression comes from this singular flaw: The candidate's education is limited by the companies they work/worked at.
All I know is ecommerce because that is all my company does.
All I know is lead gen because that's my world.
All I know is PPC because my job involved just Search.
All I know is B2B because that's my company's vertical.
These are summaries of the excuses I hear. They don't actually use their words, but it takes 10 mins of questions for that essential summary to emerge.
These excuses are extremely corrosive and and sadly indicate how the candidates have allowed their environment to limit their full potential, stunt their professional growth.
Here's some bad news: Companies will never give you the time to truly learn and grow.
Sometimes they explicitly won't give you the opportunity, at other times they will give you the opportunity (and even some funding) but you still have your daily work load and you don't take advantage.
Here's a news flash: The world around you is always changing and growing. If you don't keep pace, you become stale. Quickly.
Here's my recommendation:Step out, take charge of your own learning.
Why let your employer take you down? Why let them add just tactical experience to your resume? Why let their online tactics limit your growth?
So what to do?
My own learning about web analytics truly transformed after I started my blog. The total cost was $65 (five bucks to buy a domain and five bucks a month to host it with a ISP).
Web Analytics Education.
Just writing a few simple posts a month got a couple thousand page views a month. That was more than enough for my blog to become my learning platform, a place where I could implement web analytics tools, get to play with real world data and educate myself.
In the last couple of years I have implemented atleast 25 analytics tools on my blog. In fact at this very moment here are the tools implemented on my blog: ClickTracks, Percent Mobile, TigTags, Urchin, StatCounter, Yahoo! Web Analytics, Xiti, GoingUp, Statsit and CrazyEgg.
I have learned so much about implementation, customizing data capture, data analysis, and tracking challenges.
Having all these tools on my blog, or having them on your blog, means that your company, or your mom or your life partner or a bear, can't limit your ability to learn. You are in charge of your own destiny, you are in control of if you want to grow or become stale.
My employer, be it FedEx or General Mills or Florida Oranges or Intuit or WPP, is unable to limit my ability to be smart and current.
[Think starting a blog might be much? That's ok, grab your dad's business site. Ask a non-profit to allow you to analyze your site. Beg your "social media god" brother-in-law for access to this site / blog / media presence so you can do analysis.]
Beyond Simply A Web Analytics Education.
It is eternally frustrating to me that "Web Analysts" limit their learnings to Omniture or WebTrends or Google Analytics only. Why?
Why not become really smart about Search Engine Optimization analytics? No, that does not come from logging into Site Catalyst!
Your corporate team has a SEO team who won't let you in. No worries.
Claim your blog in Webmaster Tools from Google and Microsoft (Yahoo!'s offering is quite poor in this regard). Log into the tools and see all the wonderful reports you have and educate yourself about data that is completely missing from Site Catalyst, yet absolutely key to understanding SEO performance.
Want to be smart about Competitive Intelligence? Don't wait for your boss to give you access to anything or approve a PO. Log into Compete, Google Insights for Search, Google's Ad Planner (psychographic and demographic audience segmentation for free!) and … and … and …
Online Advertising Education.
A couple years back the company I worked at not do display advertising or use AdSense.
My learning strategy?
Implemented display ads in my RSS feeds and implement AdSense on my blog.
Result? An education by working in the real world worth its weight in gold.
I could have read blogs about online marketing or attended presentations at popular conferences on those topics. But it is the pain of actually doing it and the frustration of actually trying to merge the data sets and trying to reconcile the first party and third party cookies that were the source of my learnings.
Not theory. Practice. And I did it all on my own, no permissions required from anyone.
Social Media Analytics Education.
Last year I read about a new tool to measure Social Media (twitter specifically). I visited the tool, punched in a few people's names. I quickly came to the summarization that the tool was…. what's a polite way of putting it….. let's just say flawed.
My response? I started a Twitter account .
Each medium on the web is unique. None of my prior work would have given me the knowledge I needed to opine intelligently.
I started my twitter account because I wanted to learn what this new fledgling medium was all about and what impact it might have on Influence and Marketing .
After three months of committed participation and learnings think I finally got it . What makes this medium unique, what success actually means, how to measure it, and, most important of all, how not to be faked out by crap metrics that are floating around.
Almost a year later with 10,802 followers and 2,010 tweets later I might even charge you $1,000 an hour to tell you all that! :^)
But I learned for free!! Ok, not totally free, I invested my time and my passion.
On that same vein I only started a Flickr Photostream and a YouTube account because I wanted to learn what kind of data could be collected and what new metrics could be developed to measure success in those mediums.
All of the above has two powerful outcomes:
1. I learn a lot about online measurement in all its forms.
2. I am able to stay on the cutting edge of the evolution of the web (or atleast try really hard to).
Yes, you are right. It is a lot of hard work above. But nothing worth anything was ever easy right?
Bottom-line On Your Online Marketing & Analytics Education.
Don't let your web analytics vendor or your employer limit your education or your potential. Don't let their business tactics and restrictions make you yet another analyst that can't survive a real world interview.
I hope to stay current, and relevant, by doing all of the above. And it is absolutely not unique. There is no secret sauce.
You can do it too. You can stay current, informed, intelligent. You'll add value to your current employer by being smarter than you are supposed to be, and if you and I ever sit in a interview we can have a fun conversation!
What are you going to do today?
What is one new thing you are going to get educated about in the next three months?
Are you going to be a true Analysis Ninja?
Couple other related posts you might find interesting: