Data Science: A Career of the future

In its latest list of the “100 Best Jobs”, US News and World Report ranks occupations based on a number of criteria, including ability to learn and grow, job prospects, work-life balance and compensation. Among the 100 titles listed, no fewer than six include the word “analyst”, and several of them have direct ties to digital marketing and web analytics jobs.

There hasn’t been a political event, an economic trend, or an emerging marketing technology that has been able to put a dent in the insatiable demand in web analytics jobs. In the world of ecommerce, digital analysts are highly sought after because they help businesses answer the following mission-critical questions:

  • Who is visiting my website, and what are they doing while they’re there?
  • What would we like them to do?
  • How can we get them to do that?
  • How can we get them to do it more often?
  • How can we move them to complete a sale?
  • How can we modify the areas where they don’t complete sales so visitors won’t abandon their shopping activities?

These questions may look simple on the surface, but to get answers it takes knowledge, experience, and research.

As someone who has qualified literally thousands of digital analysts over the years, I’ve developed this checklist to help my clients identify best of breed when hiring for web analytics jobs:

Strong aptitude for numbers. While a strong math background is essential, candidates for web analytics jobs also need to be whizzes at analyzing, interpreting, and applying data, and recognizing new, important data sources. A good data analyst will be familiar with many sources of quantitative marketing insight, such as survey data, financial data, behavioral data, website-specific metrics, social media data, and ad-performance data. It’s the analyst’s job to demonstrate the value of incorporating all these data sets into the marketing plan.

Technical knowledge. This is where digital analytics applications such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Webtrends, Twitalyzer, Optimizely, and Alexa come in to play. In addition, analysts often use visualization tools such as IBM Many Eyes, Google’s Fusion Tables, or Tableau. These tools allow users to put reams of data into charts and graphs, making it much easier for marketers to convey their points to various audiences. Of course, analysts need to be good with spreadsheets, knowledgeable in search marketing and conversion tracking, and comfortable with statistical tools such as SAS or IBM SPSS.

Problem solving and opportunity recognition skills. While many data experts use business and technical knowledge to answer questions about what the data is revealing, the best analysts go beyond that and recognize business issues even before specifically looking for them. I’ve never known a good digital analyst who didn’t have a strong aptitude for solving complex problems.

Business knowledge. Top digital analysts understand what’s important to other departments such as marketing, finance, and sales. At a minimum, they speak the basic language of online sales and marketing: Lead generation, conversion, revenue, and bottom-line results. Collaborating with other departments is essential for success in web analytics jobs. Marketers work closely with others in the organization who know as much about digital analytics as they do Mesopotamian banking. The best digital analysts know how to convey to non-analysts how their work makes a difference.

Communications skills. Many companies today are still looking at data the same way they did a decade ago. As a result, analysts sometimes face a skeptical audience when presenting findings to senior decision makers. The best in this field of web analytics jobs are more than just data geeks: They can present scenarios, backed by data and interpretation, that make the case for further investment, less investment, or a change in strategy, and they can make that case in a way that math-a-phobes can understand. Employers often say they’re on a quest for “relevant digital insights.” A candidate who is strategically data-savvy, who can also interpret and communicate key analysis recommendations to marketing and business decision makers, is golden.

Some Advice on Career Paths for Digital Analysts

Digital analysts often find themselves contemplating two distinct career paths: Do they continue on the technical side and prepare themselves to become team leaders and managers, or do they move into marketing and become more focused on the business? This juncture is where it takes some serious self-awareness and perhaps some guidance from a boss, colleague, or teacher.

My advice is to know what you’re good at and play to those strengths. Not everyone has the communications skills to speak the language of executive-level decision makers, or the ability to get up in front of a room full of people and deliver an impactful business presentation.

Many digital analysts are well compensated and very happy in their roles. These positions, in turn, can open up opportunities in other web analytics jobs-related specialties such as business analytics and business intelligence, and while those areas may have less of a direct connection to digital analytics, they should be viewed as valuable career stepping stones that can lead you to other leadership opportunities.

For digital analysts who have the ability to translate complicated findings into recommendations that senior-level decision makers can understand, open doors await you. The ability to communicate technical ideas clearly and effectively to non-technical people is a highly valued and sought-after skill. Even in lower-level positions, employers want candidates for their web analytics jobs who can make the connection between their day-to-day responsibilities and departmental or company-wide business goals. That’s not always easy for “techies,” but those who have that ability will be at a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

Finally, job seekers choosing the analyst career path might consider an MBA if their long-term goal is to become a business leader (a marketing analytics director or vice president, for example).

In most cases, analysts’ value to a company and the contributions they make to business results are directly related. Analysts should make that link as visible as they can, so their worth is recognized.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With 80 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

digital marketing recruiter, ecommerce recruiter, e-commerce recruiter, marketing recruiter, CRM recruiter, CMO recruiter, web analytics jobs recruiter