I first met Rudi through Twitter and later on we began to interact more and more as members of Omniture’s Customer Advisor Board. Rudi is one of those rare talents who could be successful being the hardcore engineer or the rock star analyst but we are lucky that he has decided to wear both hats. Join Rudi and I as we discuss developers, the analytics industry, and life.
1. As an experienced application developer for many years, how did you one day discover your passion for analytics and what excites you most about being able to apply your experience within this rapidly growing industry?
RS: I would like to tell you a great tale about secretly yearning to be a data geek and working through multiple jobs to that lead to this discovery, but that would not be true. The truth is that I somewhat backed into it. In a past life I helped to build an analytics engine for schools K-12. We would take their data and load it into our tool and we were able to slice and dice the data any which way. Looking back that was the perfect proving ground for much that I have done since with analytics. In early 2009, I moved to an amazing team of professionals at Ariba and began working with the Omniture implementation there. I was hooked almost instantly. The ever changing challenges plus the very active and welcoming community of web analytics helps to keep the passion there.
2. What are some of the challenges that Web Analytics Managers face when working with developers on implementing web analytics tracking?
RS: Communication, communication, communication. Most of the issues that I have seen between developers can all be traced back to communication. Developers are like everyone else in the business world, busy. The better the communication process, the more defined the requirements are, the earlier in the process that the developers are involved, the better that the expected outcomes are defined, the greater chance you have at being successful in your projects. Developers are also a bit like Gremlins. Don’t get them wet, don’t expose to direct sunlight, don’t discount their value to the company. Work hard to build trust, both your trust in them and their trust in you. Once you have that, the rest is easy.
3. What are some ways to increase the quality of development work and get developers on board with measurement implementation projects?
RS: In a word, training. Both vendor specific training, and basic analytics training as well. Developers, maybe more than any other role in your company, need to constantly learn new technologies, processes, applications to be able to stay relevant in their job. I have never met a developer that would turn down training. If you can demonstrate the importance of analytics to your company, and the valuable skills that the developers will gain and the extra value that they will be able to provide, it should be an easy sell.
4. As the analytics community begins to expand, do you see the need for a technical analytics specialist?
5. What advice would you have for the developer who wants to break into the analytics community?
RS: Learn the basics. Pick up Avinash’s books. ( Web Analytics: An hour a day , Web Analytics 2.0 ) Get the real books, use a highlighter, take notes and practice. Get a free analytics account and just play with it. Treat it like a new programing language. Then get involved in the community, ask questions, read Jason’s blog. And please, be honest about what you do and don’t know. Nothing is worse than overstating your skills. There is no shame is saying “I have not done that before”, just go out and discover how to. Ask yourself, “how can I track this?” then figure it out.
The best way to “play” and get more experience is to get involved in the Analysis Exchange. There is no cost associated and while you are able to learn valuable skills, some amazing charities and non-profits are able to get much needed help with their analytics needs.
6. What does the career path look like for someone in analytics who considers themselves more on the developer track than the analyst track?
7. We both were fortunate to attend XChange 2010, what impressed you the most about the conference?
RS: The other attendees. The willingness of everyone, from the luminaries in the industry to those new to the space, that I encountered both in and out of the sessions to share their experiences and expertise with others was simply amazing. The format and size of XChange really helped to foster these conversations. I can not wait to go back next year.
Also, as you pointed out last week, the vendors that were there really added to the conversations and were a real asset to the conference. Not once did I hear anything that seemed like a sales pitch or propaganda.
8. There were so many technologies being discussed at XChange 2010 that I had never heard of, how do you keep up-to-date on all the new measurement & testing technologies that are being introduced?
RS: Sleep is overrated. I have a long list of blogs and websites that I subscribe to and read on a regular basis. After a while you will learn to filter out the sales folks and find those in the industry that you trust. And when they speak up about something new, I take notice. Sign up for demos, betas, webinars, etc. There is also this great podcast out there, Beyond Web Analytics, that provides a wealth of good information. (end of the shameless plug)
9. What was one of the last books you read and why?
RS: Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough. Why? I am an American History Junkie and I love the David McCullough books.
The last work related book? I am re-reading Avinash’s Web Analytics 2.0. Every time I re-read a section of his book I get a new idea on how to approach a task. It has become a favorite reference of mine, and it lives in my backpack.
My all time favorite business related book, not that you asked, is Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove the former CEO of Intel. Even though this book was published nearly 14 years ago, it is still relevant. The whole point of the book is that in work, life, anywhere there are inflection points. Points in time that even though you may not realize it have a profound impact on your career, business, life. Learning to recognize these inflection points earlier, hopefully as they are happening, will help you shape your path. I feel that I had one of these moments in January 2009 when I knew I had to make a move from my current career path and took a chance on working within a marketing department, something I had never done before.
10. You have a regular podcast you host with Adam Greco, beyondwebanalytics.com, where you have experts come on and share their insights with the rest of the Web Analytics community. Are there any particular topics you are looking to discuss on future episodes and how would people reach out to you if they are interested in being a guest?
RS: We are open to any topic that is in any way related to web analytics. We have had a lot of vendors on the show and they have been fantastic. What would be great is to get more practitioners, like you, to come on the show and share their experiences with our listeners.
We would also love to get folks who have participated in the Analysis Exchange to come on the podcast to share their experiences with us. The perspectives that the client, student, and mentors could provide would make for a fascinating conversation and an enjoyable podcast.
If anyone out there would like to be on the podcast you can reach us at email@example.com or on twitter @beywebanalytics. Or you can find me on twitter (@rrs_atl), linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com/in/rudishumpert/), or email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) as well.