This blog is part of our ongoing "Meet the Analyst of the Future" series, in which we profile analysts who are embracing the future today, transforming their organizations, and supercharging their careers in the process
If asked to define the theme of my career, it would be ‘looking for sandboxes to apply the scientific method.’ A biophysicist by training, I learned early in my career to use the scientific method of problem solving: identify a problem, craft a hypothesis, use data and run experiments to test it, analyze the results, and continue to tweak your work until you have a thesis or a story to tell. It didn’t take me long before I realized that this skill had tremendous value in the business world as well. To this day, I still write a hypothesis for any problem that I solve.
I was brought in to Comcast as a member of the Human Resources department just as it was undergoing a massive strategic transformation toward human capital analytics. Comcast is an incredibly customer focused organization, and our success depends on positive interactions between our customers and our employees. It was my job to provide HR leaders with reporting and analytics surrounding our most important business asset - our employees.
Today, as Senior Director on the Compensation, Strategy and Insights team in Xfinity Consumer Services (XCS), I am a part of the sales organization and have a dual mandate. Half of my time is spent working on technology innovation and inside enablement. I spend the other half on analytics and teasing stories out of our data. Although I’m a scientist by training, I’m a storyteller at heart.
“The Trojan Horse of Analytics is Data”
Every time that I have transitioned to a new analytics tool in my career it has been out of necessity. When I first started using Tableau it was because I got tired of spending hours creating massive reports in Excel. I figured that there had to be a better, more efficient way to work.
When I led Comcast’s transition to ThoughtSpot in 2018 it was because my team and I needed a way to provide our channel leaders with data-based insights to drive business strategy. We were spending 70% of our time hunting and prepping data before we could even begin to analyze it. Even with visualization tools, I realized that we were only spending 5% of our time on storytelling. The same question struck me: “Is there a better way to do this?”
I scanned the industry for tools that would dramatically simplify the process of going from data to insights, without all the steps we were taking in between. As soon as I saw ThoughtSpot and how fast the technology enabled us to find insights, I knew it would be a game changer. ThoughtSpot has created a paradigm shift within our organization. We no longer have to create a dashboard to get an answer, we just ask a question directly to the data and get an answer. There is no extra step.
Empowering My Users
Not only did this blow me away in terms of speed and scale, the simplicity was unlike anything I'd ever seen. Instead of just asking myself "Is there a better way?" I asked myself a new question: "What could my business users do if given the power of analytics?" In my position, I have to constantly think not only about the value that my tools bring to the business but also about adoption rates and helping my colleagues adjust to new technologies that I introduce. I was excited to show my end users the value that ThoughtSpot can bring to them in their own roles.
We recently adopted ThoughtSpot DataFlow, which allows us to connect directly to our data source for analysis. This has made a huge impact on adoption within our organization. For example, I have a colleague in a business function who has known about ThoughtSpot since I implemented it two years ago but had been reluctant to use it. She was continuing to run queries to extract data from Teradata, using Tableau and Excel to get the views she needed, and copying them into PowerPoint to run her meetings. DataFlow eliminated this entire process for her. Now she searches her data directly from ThoughtSpot, gets the answers that she needs, saves them on pinboards, and runs her meetings using presentation mode directly in ThoughtSpot. She is more efficient in her role and using the technology in a way she never had before, because we made it easy.
For the Love of Data
Right now we have about 80% of the data that we need in ThoughtSpot. I am looking forward to the day that we reach 100% and are able to fully automate all requests, because it will allow me to refocus my time on what I call my “Analytics Wish List.” With some additional bandwidth, I will be able to take on much more complex, high-impact projects that I am excited about within the AI-realm.
To be a successful analyst, you have to fundamentally love data. It sounds corny, but it’s true. If you are excited about analytics, it will translate into everything that you do, and when you bring that excitement to the workplace, everyone around you will feel it. You also have to ‘find your fit’ within analytics, so to speak. Some analysts prefer to be highly technical, while others prefer data storytelling.
In my career I have enjoyed both - I prefer to source my own data and also enjoy building it into an actionable narrative. Once you understand where you fall along that spectrum and bring your full passion to it, everything else will follow.