Agency Vs Client side – What is best for you?
I think it is a big decision for candidates; they have the choice between two different career paths. On the agency side you have the benefits of working for a small and focused company, possibly with many different clients. You will get lots of different variety and opportunity to try different things. But it does come with certain risks and it comes with the fact that you are working with a small team of people, when perhaps you prefer working in a big corporate environment. On the client side, you are obviously working for one client and could possibly have loads of benefits like corporate fringe benefits, such as you might have access to a gym, a health plan and a career path that they will talk about with potential opportunities to move sideways or upwards within the business. All those things are great for the right people and it does look great on your CV as everyone recognises them. However it’s not for everybody, some people try the client side and get frustrated and want to try something with a bit more variety and bit more opportunity to do what they enjoy doing and that’s where the agency side might be a better bet for those people. But ultimately it is up to the individual.
What do you look for in an ideal candidate?
In an ideal candidate I think there are four things that we look for, the first one being a depth of understanding – so they have got to be technically good at their job. The second one would be a breadth of knowledge, so we look for ‘T-shaped’ people, so if you think of the vertical part of the ‘T’ being depth and the horizontal part of the ‘T’ being breadth. The breadth would be the understanding of what the client wants to achieve in their business, like the understanding of marketing. This is very important as there ii is no good being a technical person if you can’t apply it to the world of the end user. We also look at the ‘focus’ it’s very important that people aren’t scatter gunned and random in the way that they think. So good creative types have their place, but in the world of analytics we need people to focus in order to nail the requirements. Finally, its motivation. It’s a very key thing that we look for, and it could possible make up for a lack of experience or perhaps not a great depth of knowledge which both could be learnt over time. Motivation is something that we can’t teach people, they have either got the motivation, and a driven individual or they are not. This positive mental attitude is very important but the key parts of motivation is something we call ‘grit’. Grit is a great indicator to success for us and our candidates. Grit usually comes from something that has happened in their past, candidates that are born with a silver spoon in their mouths rarely have grit, but candidates that have had that constant struggle to get where they are, those are the people that we want on board. This is because there will be good times and there will be bad times, and through the bad times we have just got to knuckle down and work hard, we will get through it and we will feel much better for it. At the end of the day if you don’t have the grit you will find the bad times very tough to get through. So, that is definitely one of our key markers.
What challenges would someone face when trying to break into the market?
I think somebody trying to get into the market for the first time would be lured as there is definitely a shortage of candidates which is effectively driving up salaries, so they will look at the salaries and think theres a market definitely worth going for, and it is for the right person. So, somebody that has got some marketing experience and some awareness of how to use data to improve marketing decisions is already half way in understanding what it takes to be a good web analytics person. I would suggest that anyone who has the opportunity to get their hands on google analytics, if you are using google analytics in your current company then talk to the guys that are in charge of it and try and get a log into it to have a poke around and see what you can find out. Start doing things and watching what happens, start getting reports out and become an expert into using data to drive decision making. I think that is probably the best way to get into this market and to actually just start using the tools, with plenty of information on the internet it would be good to start absorbing that information. After this it wouldn't be long after that opportunities come looking for you. There is such a demand right now of people who have an understanding of how to get the right data out of these systems. If you already know something about that then you are already in a pretty good position.
What challenges would someone face when making the transition from client side to agency side?
I think someone looking to move from client side to agency side; and I know plenty of people that have made that moved very successfully, need to be aware that it is a very different environment. Agencies are there because they are experts, and agencies are there because they fill the gaps on the client side. Clients can be very demanding and they can expect things in very short time scales. Sometimes you have to put in some very long hours because the client is up against it and you have to deliver, and it is very difficult to re-negotiate timescales once you have started a project, so people making that move from client side to agency side need to be prepared to work very hard at times and to be very exposed as well. There is no place to hide; you are very much left to work out the best solution for the agency and the client. So if you are used to having layers of management to protect you, you are in for a bit of a surprise. People looking to transfer their skills I would say you have got to really make sure you are going into analytics because you enjoy analytics and not because you are attracted in because the salary numbers are higher. It is not for everybody, it does take a certain type of mind-set, you need to be a little bit technical, you need to be a little bit into the numbers but not massively geeky. This isn’t a good job for someone who has come from perhaps a more programming type background or someone that expects to be spoon-fed. A good web analytics manager is someone that is a mixture of things, they are a fairly rare breed, so don’t get into it until you do enjoy all the different parts of that mix.
What type of personality traits do you think make a good web analytics manager?
People say ‘are you looking for an extrovert or an introvert?’ and I would say that is very hard because I think I am looking for both. I am looking for people that are sociable because you do need to get out and talk to people and you really need to get under the skin of what they are asking for. You need to truly understand what the business people are trying to achieve and you need a good questioning technique to get that, you need to keep probing and picking away at what those requirements are. Typical business will say, they want a report on the numbers of the amount of people that clicks on all of these buttons on the page, but that may not be what they actually want. We have to get beneath the skin of that and try and get to what will drive a successful campaign for them or a successful website for them. So I am looking for that sociability to be able to question and engage with people which is very important. On the other side, as I mentioned focus before I am looking for people that can actually put the blinkers on and just really focus on the detail, they have to be very detail orientated. If you just deal with things at surface level, there will be mistakes in your data and very quickly people won’t trust the numbers. So I talk about a heads up and heads down ability. ‘Heads up’ meaning the ability to look broadly and understand the important things that need to be done and this is the real objective that they need to achieve and the ‘Heads down’ where sometimes you just have to really focus on the work that needs to be done and deliver a solution that gives the client exactly what they need. So, in some ways I am looking for a perfectly well rounded individual, and some of these things can be trained but it is tough, particularly for people at the start.