Interview with Michele Kiss

Michele Kiss is the newest partner at Web Analytics Demystified, the leading consultancy for the digital analytics community. Considering that her partners include Eric Peterson, John Lovett and Adam Greco, this is about as prestigious a title as an analyst can have in the #measure world.

Michele KissHow did this happen? One look at her LinkedIn profile should reveal the answer: A LOT of hard work. Michele spent 5-years on the client side doing web analytics for KBB (aka Kelly Blue Book). After that, she spent 2 years as Director of Analytics for an interactive agency and 1 year as VP of Web Analytics for a travel company. In between, she found time to co-chair the DAA Membership committee, speak at just about every #measure conference, volunteer as a Mentor for the Analysis Exchange AND snag the 2011 DAA “Rising Star” award.

Questions:

1. Some of your partners have great overall knowledge of the digital analytics space, but several of them have niche specialties as well. Adam Greco is considered the top expert in the use of Omniture products. John Lovett staked claim to social media analytics. Brian is one of the top guys in testing and optimization. Do you plan to specialize in a smaller niche or will you be using your full quiver of skills?

There is such a wide range of skills encompassed in digital analytics that it makes sense to have focused people in different areas. My background has always been analysis, and it will stay my focus. I’ve been a down-in-the-dirt analyst, built and developed teams, created team structures and career paths and designed processes around reporting, analysis and optimisation – and I have gotten to do it in both an agency/consulting model and a client side model. What it equips me for is to not only get clients running from the ground up by giving them hands-on assistance, but also help them develop the internal team and best practices they need to succeed with analytics in-house.

The great thing about the team at Demystified is that even though we all do have a specialty, our work is not (and should not be!) mutually exclusive. We team up to bring all the pieces together in the right way, and deliver amazing things for our clients.

2. So far in your career you have gone back and forth between the client side and the consultant side of the space. What do you see as the plusses and minuses of each side? What kind of advice could you offer to somebody considering a move from the agency side to the client side?

On the client side, you get this amazing, deep knowledge of a business and an investment in the success of the company. You get to see through the impact of your recommendations. When I was at Kelley Blue Book, there was so much tribal knowledge I had about the business, the revenue streams, the data sets we used, the website and the history. I conducted trainings on how the business worked! Having this knowledge was critical for good analysis, and it made my contributions to the company stronger.

On the consulting side, you get this amazing variety of work, exposure to so many different business models, and it gives you an amazing breadth of experience. There is so much to learn from working in different verticals and exploring different solutions. That kind of breadth would take years or even decades to build up in client-side work.

I absolutely recommend that anyone in digital analytics looking to develop a well-rounded skillset spend time on both the client and the consulting or agency side. There are definite pros and cons to each, and ultimately, we all find that one or the other fits us best, but there’s just such valuable experience to be gained from both sides.

3. What is one of the most difficult positions you’ve been in in your career and how did you work through it?

There have been a number of challenges throughout the years, and a common thread throughout many of them has been deciding when to push through, and when to acknowledge something is not right.

As a manager, I have struggled with analysts who truly did not fit the role. It’s a difficult balance between giving them the opportunity to prove their skills and interest, with realising this would never be the right fit and helping them find a role in which they could feel successful.

For my own role, having experienced both the client and consulting side, I had a lot of thinking to do about what was the right fit for me, as well as how to quickly recognise and course-correct when something wasn’t. I am lucky to have a lot of great mentors, from friends in the industry to previous bosses, and talking through what best leveraged my skills was invaluable.

In the end, what worked for me was to understand the pros and cons of the situation and to persevere until it was clear the bad would outweigh the good. Sometimes the hardest thing is not actually to see things through, but to stop something that’s not working. Being a little mathematical about balancing pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, allowed me to end up in the right place, where I am truly excited to wake up, roll up my sleeves and get to work.

4. Is there any chance that you could expand Web Analytics Demystified’s business into Australia?

Shhhhhh, don’t divulge my secret plan! I’m working on a logo. It has a kangaroo on it, but no emus. Emus are evil creatures.

Honestly, as Demystified keeps growing, I don’t know where it will take us all. I have, however, already called dibs on Aussie clients or events! (Though that may change if they keep up the 100+ degree temperatures…)

5. You have done a lot of research (on behalf of the DAA) into analytics career paths and career trends. To what degree has this benefitted your own career? What were some of your major take-away’s from that research?

The work I’ve done with the Digital Analytics Association, as well as other industry groups like the Analysis Exchange, have had a huge impact on my career. I became a member of the DAA back in 2010 and immediately joined the Membership Committee, figuring, I need to get involved to see how this all works. It was a great decision. I got to work with amazing people in the industry and on projects that I really cared about. That’s where the DAA Career Development Guide came from. I feel very grateful at the support and the welcome I got when I joined the digital analytics community, and want to provide a road in for others.

The research really covers a wide range of questions, applicable to those in all levels of digital analytics. The interviewees shared insights on what typical roles look like at different levels, whether specific education is important, whether they look for candidates with certain toolset experience, what complimentary skills can be helpful and what to do if you’re looking for a new opportunity, or to get promoted. But in the end, the key takeaway is that if you are passionate about the work, you will go a long way. The Guide just helps people understand the different directions they can go in.

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