When I first started with Jump and WAW almost 4 years ago, I had no idea what “analytics” was or what it meant. In my 3 interviews for the company, I nodded my head wisely whenever the subject came up and somehow made it onto the team … and then was catapulted head first into a world I had no idea even existed!
April is one of WAW’s long term bloggers and one of the first bloggers I had the pleasure of working with.
Working with April has always been a true joy and I’m grateful that I had the chance to learn from one of the best. As some of you may know April has recently compiled her extensive knowledge and expertise into a new book called “Digital Analytics 101”. We had the chance to “sit down” (remotely) with April and pick her brains a bit which wasn’t easy because she’s as modest as she is wonderful – which is saying something!
You cover some of this in your book, but take us back to the beginning – how did you get started in analytics?
Once upon a time, it was my goal to be a PhD professor of human sexuality. Statistics was the only course in grad school I got a “B” in. I’m a bit of a classic overachiever, and the fact that I didn’t have a great handle on quantitative analysis bothered me (my graduate thesis was qualitative).
So I took an entry-level job at a marketing agency to get experience with SAS and statistical analysis. While I was there, I taught a colleague (who had her PhD in Statistics) from China how to speak more fluently in English and she taught me statistical modeling and SAS. Almost 20 years later, here I am. Still doing analytics.
What prompted the new book, Digital Analytics 101?
DA101 was a marketing agency that I founded about 5 years ago, mostly as a vehicle for people to pay me when they asked me to look at their data. I generally always had a full-time job and DA101 was a side gig for me… mostly to help other people. I taught several volunteer classes locally, mostly to professional marketers or small business owners who didn’t feel comfortable with their data.
My children hit their teen years, and I realized I didn’t have time for any side gigs because I needed to focus 100% on them. (They’re very smart, you see, like their mother. They’re also headstrong and keep me on my toes.) I had posted many of the PowerPoints I used to teach from on my website at digitalanalytics101.com but I got comments via feedback form all the time that the slides created more questions than they answered. Thus, I turned all the content into a book. (Life hack – if you buy the book, all the PowerPoints are up there for public use! Steal one, customize it, impress your boss, and get a promotion!)
Thinking back on your analytics career to date what is:
One thing you’d have done differently (yes, you can only choose one…ish).
I’m just going to be honest. I tried to pretty up this answer, but I suppose the truth isn’t pretty. For years, I served on the board of directors for the Digital Analytics Association (then the Web Analytics Association). I had a variety of functions from standards to marketing to education. One time, a consultant who was NOT on the board gave a harsh review of one of our volunteers’ projects. That volunteer had given tirelessly for almost a year for her project. While I do not regret letting the consultant know I thought he was an ass for his response … I could have articulated it in a way that was slightly more tempered (and less SEO-friendly). Nothing makes me see red quite like someone criticizing my staff, my students, or my volunteers.
One thing you learnt/discovered about yourself
I learned that I loved to teach and speak – and that I hated to travel. I do not like being away from my family. I don’t pretend that I was “famous” by any means, but I used to speak several times a year at analytics conferences, both in the salad days and the fat days. I could accept the double standard that my appearance weighed as heavily as my topics (welcome to being a woman in a STEM career), but I did hate being away from my loved ones.
What do you do to switch off/relax?
Believe it or not, I am an amazing cook. Short-term stress release generally involves the oven. Long-term, I write vampire novels to relax. Not fluffy ones like Twilight or Vampire Diaries (although that’s not a knock on them). I’m definitely more in the horror / Stephen King genre. Fiction is a great escape from reality.
How was writing Digital Analytics 101 different to writing your fiction novels?
Writing a textbook is MUCH harder than writing fiction! There’s an onus to check every detail and re-read everything to make sure the concept is solid and lesson is clear. Fiction I can word barf 3,000 words a day and edit later. Digital Analytics 101 was more of an exercise in getting it right the first time. I did have excellent proofreaders, but I tried my best to keep them out of a job.
What would you tell people who want to get into analytics?
We live in a beautiful time, in that literally anyone can be a content creator. It follows that anyone can also analyze the impact of their content. From video to edits, blogs to Insta, we can measure every footprint we make online. If you can’t find work in an analytics role, and you can’t afford a degree, there’s so much you can do on your own. Create your own content. Measure it. Make use of free things like the Analytics Exchange and Google Academy. Elbow your way in. It’s a hot field and it’s so hard to find talent.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which analytics platform or tool would you take?
Either SAS (if I wanted to predict how soon I’d get off the island) or Google Analytics, if I were blogging about being on a desert island and trying to reach more people.
What is your favourite thing about educating people about analytics?
The sense of empowerment that comes with no longer fearing what you don’t understand. Data is intimidating. Particularly (not to be stereotypical) for women… there’s a barrier to getting into STEM (Science Tech Engineering and Math) fields and analytics is a low-barrier field that’s accessible to everyone. That moment when skills are learned and the curiosity takes over. The lightbulb moment when you realize what you CAN do.
What is the one thing you wish analysts would stop doing or stop telling people to do?
Hmmmm. Making the mistake of assuming correlation is causation. Not applying statistical significance to findings. Deliberately leaving out the weak side of statistics in favor of good marketing and PR. (Example: You learn response rate is down overall but you have increased response with traffic from Facebook. Not telling the whole story by telling management social media marketing is doing wonderfully while omitting that the overall story is negative… it’s almost as bad as lying.)
Where would you like the future to take you?
I have no idea, and that’s completely okay. I’m open to new teaching opportunities, speaking engagements, guest blogging, interviews, and in about 5 years – traveling again! In the meantime, I’m just happy to spread the good word about data. 🙂
Thanks to April for being a wonderful blogger and educator as well as one of my favourite people to work with! You can learn more about April by visiting her Author Profile or check out the posts April’s written for WAW!