I've just returned from eMetrics in DC and, as is the case after any great gathering, I am inspired by what I've learned, percolating with questions, and reallllly tired. Over dinner on Tuesday a fellow conference attendee referred to my personal interest level in web analytics as "rabid." No wonder I'm tired; I've been in mad dog mode for 3 days straight.
I spent a great deal of time this week thinking about careers. My own career, the careers of those around me at eMetrics - we're all trying to find our spot, adapting as the web is changing, as our tools are changing, as our personal priorities are changing. Career management is a tough issue, and it's something I believe anyone who is in this field or thinking of entering this field absolutely must consider.
I was fortunate enough to co-present, with James Gardner from Aquent Staffing, a talk entitled Career Management Strategies for Web Analytics Professionals. I shared the story of how I've managed my own career in web analytics, then I gave some advice on the topics of job-hopping, freelance consulting, and the "swiss army knife" approach to skills development. James rounded out the talk by describing what I think is a really useful framework for career management. Bottom line: Nobody cares about your career as much as you do; it's up to you to decide where it takes you. Our slides are here:
Presented at eMetrics From:
We knew someone would ask a certain hard question during Q&A, and indeed it did get asked, "So ... what is the career trajectory in web analytics? I'm in the field now, but where do I go with it?" Here's the summary of our answer plus some follow-up thoughts:
On a personal level, know that there is no single exemplary career trajectory you should follow. YOU need to think about what would suit you best based on your own goals and dreams. This goes back to self-responsibility - it's up to you to choose the direction you take. If you prefer management, do that. If you prefer individual contribution, do that. There's not one "right" way to do it, so choose what makes you happy.
A fellow from a large company came up after my talk and said he felt like he's had a lot of success with his own career path. He started out as a web analyst, then was a manager of web analysts, and now is working as a business strategist with fairly wide-ranging responsibilities (all at the same company, no job-hopping). He feels strongly that his background in web analytics has given him a good foundation for the broad work he does now.
Others see management as the direction they'd like to head but face obstacles along the way. Just because you see the potential for expanded use of web measurement in your organization doesn't mean you will get the executive buy-in you need in order to grow your team. If you want to manage a team of analysts but lack the budget to hire anyone, how do you advance your career? How frustrating! Megan Burns from Forrester Research provided strategies for overcoming this barrier in her eMetrics presentation entitled The Business Case for Web Analysts.
Career advancement is less well-defined and more difficult for web analysts who enjoy individual contribution. I, for one, am a details person - I love to actually DO analysis work - and I'm aware that a pure management role would distance me from the activities that attracted me to web analytics in the first place. To that end I prefer the variety and challenge that I get as a consultant, and I believe it's possible to become a leader, acting as a mentor to others rather than moving up the management ladder in the traditional sense. If you are an individual contributor you absolutely must make an active effort to ensure that you continue to move forward with your career; be creative and don't get stuck in a rut.
This bifurcation between individual contribution and management paths is not unique to web analysts - it does happen in other career specializations. Take sales, for example. Say that you get your start in sales and find that you excel at it; eventually you'll have to make a choice about how you advance your career. Do you continue to sell, working on larger and more prestigious accounts? Or do you stop selling and move on to manage others who sell? There's no one right answer. It's up to you to choose.
Thoughts? Stories? I welcome your feedback.