I am very honored to present this guest post, written by Jennifer Day, on the subject of passion. This is a great read, thanks for the contribution, Jennifer.
Some time ago Rudi Shumpert posed a question on Twitter: “How do you teach passion?” He received many responses, but most said about the same as I did, “You don’t teach passion, you inspire it.” Since then, I’ve been mulling over a post about developing passion and specifically a passion for web analytics.
I also said to Rudi, regarding passion, “kindle it. Like building a fire – passion as a burning thing is pretty apt.” Let’s extend that metaphor a bit – I do think that you have to gather the right materials to build that fire. You can get any observant person to be curious about analytics, but if you want to build passion you need to find someone who is intrigued by the idea of making a difference to a business using data. That’s your dry wood, that’s your moss, that’s your fire pit. (If you will.)
When seeking the right base material or candidate, be careful not to confuse passion with cheerleading. Not every fire is a bonfire, and no one wants a wildfire. I’ve been accused of being not passionate about analytics and was taken aback at the time. However, they were right on two counts:
1.) Analytics is a tool used for solving problems – one of many tools. I am passionate about fixing problems and solving puzzles. Just like a carpenter is passionate about building things, not about hammers.
2.) I am not single-minded about analytics – I do not think it’s a cure-all. In the specific case of the accusation, they were looking for someone single-minded.
And, really, also 3 – I’m simply not very effusive. If they wanted a talker, they had the wrong girl – period. (Twitter babble notwithstanding.)
I raise this so that you may recognize: passion is not a simple thing, and maybe a simplistic passion isn’t what you want in an analyst. If you are trying to kindle passion, you need to identify the right triggers for the individual. I’ve worked with very technical analysts who most enjoy solving problems using code and statistics. I’ve worked with very general business oriented analysts who most enjoy enabling data- informed decision and seeing results. I’ve worked with artistic analysts who most like illustrating the story data tells. One of the beauties of our field is that it can be fulfilled from many angles.
Developing a passionate analyst starts with finding their main triggers. Allow them to develop in that single dimension first. They need to get their feet under them. Once they gain confidence, they need to begin to branch out and be challenged. In a perfect world, analysts are arranged into teams where they can complement each other and learn from each other.