For our spring kickoff, we were thrilled to welcome Elissa Fink, long-time Chief Marketing Officer at Tableau. Tableau, which is headquartered in Seattle, has become an industry leader in data visualization software, and Elissa offered a fascinating glimpse into data-driven marketing in the tech industry—and how it's not just about the cold, hard numbers.
1. “Anyone can be a data person.”
As Elissa explained, “[Data] helps the company make decisions and faster. It helps you take the lead."
When you have data and facts, you will find yourself enabled to make a contribution even if you are the youngest or least experienced person in the room. Being able to use data also eliminates a lot of unnecessary arguments, since once you have data, you can efficiently discuss the strategies actually required to solve the problem. The people who bring the facts have the authority to be credible and believed. So getting comfortable with data is key in today's business world. “Make data your friend because it will serve your career," Elissa advised.
That said, you don't have to be a STEM major or devote yourself to learning a million coding languages to engage with data. For example, graphic designers work at Tableau who can learn from eye-tracking maps and click-through data from consumers—even from how they navigate through a website.
“Don’t let people overwhelm you or intimidate you," Elissa said. "You don’t have to be a data scientist. Anybody can be an analyst if you have the interest and the desire”
2. “Start small.”
Just gaining a basic understanding will get you far; try starting with an Excel pivot table! It's so easy to start a small pet project to analyze your data and learn from it: Are you on a sports team? Do you track your expenses? Do you use a FitBit? There's always data attached!
Plus, because it’s your data and about your life, you are naturally more curious about it. For example, are there connections between how long you exercise at the gym, when, what days, what’s the weather?
Even if you don’t have your own data, there is a lot of public data, and as Elissa said, “You can make data out of almost anything." You can use tableaupublic.com or your free student copy of Tableau Desktop to start diving into the data.
3. Be engaged
“Don’t be afraid to start using data, even if it’s your own," Elissa said. "It will make you a better analyst.” She added, "What makes a great analyst is being engaged."
Try out a new software, go a little above and beyond exploring outside of class, or find ways to get engaged using data in a club or job. This go-getter attitude and true understanding of what you're doing can set you apart in the long-run, since Elissa has often observed through interviews that people put “exercises” on their resume but don’t understand what they did beyond the instructions.
4. Embrace data trends
It's 2018—the days of marketing with just some brochures and a logo are over. The world is becoming more and more data-centric, so if you're going to be a marketer, it's essential to embrace that data to help you do your job better.
Companies are looking to hire people who know their way around data and finding good analysts is can be hard. Embracing data will help you get jobs, and help you be successful long-term in those positions.
In the era of Uber and Airbnb, it's impossible to deny that we live in a sharing economy. Take advantage of it! If you're working on a cool project, have a great accomplishment, or have a point of view on a topic, put that out into the world. If you post your work and portfolio online you can build connections and open up further job opportunities.
For example, people who have just used Tableau Public and published their interests or analytical projects found it helped feed them into better jobs. Elissa shared the story of a man working at a low-level marketing job in Coca-Cola, but had published a Tableau Public case study. Facebook discovered it and it convinced them that they needed to recruit him. He ended up landing a senior role with them in London—all because he decided to share a passion project online. It could happen for you!
6. Know yourself
Almost everyone has heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but Maslow's research on management is less well-known. He theorizes that there are certain qualities that make people most productive and successful in the workplace, and they're things to keep in mind as you go through recruiting and learn about different companies' corporate cultures. Here are some key questions to ask yourself.
Autonomy - Do you feel like you are in control of your day and can make your own decisions?
Mastery - Are you developing your skills, feeling like you can learn/achieve more every day?
Purpose - Do you feel like there is a purpose/mission to what you do? If you believe there is a mission in what you do, it’ll make you much more successful in your job.
Community - Do you feel like you are in an environment that is “natural”? Find your people, because if you can just be all in with who you are, you can focus your energies on your actual work.
When you're in a position to feel your best, you'll do your best work. "Know yourself, because that's what's going to make you happy, and that's what's going to make you successful," Elissa said, adding, “You’re going to be working for 50 years. Find something you enjoy.”
7. Marketing should be personable
Yes, data is important, but it's a means to an end. Every company needs to market like they are talking to people—because they are. “We don’t sell to enterprises," Elissa said. "We sell to people at enterprises. We should talk to them like people.” It's easy to get caught up in the numbers, but it's key to remember that behind marketing data are real consumers going about their lives, and that needs to guide marketing strategy.