Back in November, I attended a Web Analytics Wednesday event in Utah. I was invited to join a career-focused panel moderated by Corry Prohens of IQWorkforce, which included Rudi Schumpert and Hila Strong of Keystone Solutions. One of the questions the Corry posed to us that stood out was:
“If you could only look for one thing in a potential candidate what would it be?”
At first blush, this question seemed a little unrealistic because as a hiring manager you never look at just one aspect of a candidate’s suitability for a position. You’re really looking for the right combination of skills and experience in a particular candidate. However, I liked the challenge to isolate what in my opinion was the most important attribute to look for in a potential web analytics candidate. Luckily, I wasn’t first up to bat on the panel’s batting order so I had a little more time to think about it. But even with a little extra time to ponder the question, my mind was racing through all of the ideal qualities that I felt a web analytics candidate should have.
Having worked in Omniture/Adobe’s consulting group for several years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview, hire, and work with hundreds of web analytics professionals. In my new book, I highlighted 22 different abilities or skills that I’ve identified as being important for web analysts. I’ve grouped these attributes into four major categories with a fifth bonus “Hero Factor” category, which is a collection of qualities that I’ve seen separate good analysts from great ones. After reviewing these attributes in my mind, the one critical trait that stood out for me was PASSION.
An early manager in my career taught me the importance of finding and hiring passionate people regardless of whether they’re being hired for a business or technical role. I’ve interviewed lots of individuals who were well-qualified for web analytics positions on paper – however, for whatever reason they lacked the passion, which in turn limited their potential. The English novelist, E. M. Forster, once stated, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” Why? Passion has a multiplier effect – it takes the average value that an analyst can generate and amplifies it several times over.
I’ve interviewed individuals who might have been a little inexperienced or weak in one or two areas but still impressed me with their zeal for web analytics and optimization – to the point where I was willing to bet on their upside despite a little less polish or experience. While passion can’t fully compensate for any missing critical traits such as intelligence or communication skills, it can offset and magnify other attributes. Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Clearly Einstein’s passion augmented his other talents propelling him to greatness.
From what I’ve seen, passionate analysts never give up – they find a way to get the needed insights and answers. They’re still working on a problem when others are checking out for the day. While others are stuck with the standard methods, passionate analysts innovate and come up with new, creative approaches to problems. They are simply more curious and thorough, they learn faster, and they inspire others. Passion can be a key driving quality in a web analyst that will fuel their success.
Not everyone on your analytics or optimization team will be equally passionate (they’re hard to find or nurture), but you’ll want to build your team around the passionate ones because they elevate everyone’s game. The musician Lauryn Hill stated, “I need to be surrounded by people as passionate and as dedicated as I am.” It’s just a better work environment when your co-workers and team share the same energy and enthusiasm as you do. Fortunately, for most of my career in web analytics I’ve had that opportunity. I really want to be a part of great things, and as the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel stated, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
So if you’re a manager building out an analytics or optimization team, I’d encourage you to search for those people who show passion for this space. Many candidates will be merely interested in the pay, title, or company’s brand. However, select candidates will be genuinely passionate about analytics/optimization. I honestly believe you can see the spark of passion in a candidate’s eyes. In addition, I look for evidence or manifestations of their passion — what are their proudest accomplishments, what side projects have they completed (maybe even on their own personal time), what blogs do they read, what books have they read, what conferences have they attended (or even better spoke at), what are their thoughts about the future of the industry, etc. Someone’s excitement to land a new job is superficial but can look like passion if you don’t dig deep enough.
If you’re someone who is passionate about web analytics and optimization, I challenge you to make sure you’re in an organization that recognizes and rewards the results created by your passion. Life is too short and the opportunities too great to not be in the right place. I’ll leave you with one final thought from Nelson Mandela who stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Find your passion (whatever it may be), and then pursue it to your fullest capacity. Not only will you will be more fulfilled as an individual, but it may also lead you to greatness.