Interview with Analysts series is back again. Here is my interview with Scott Baldwin.
What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?
My job title is Manager, Web Services at North Shore Credit Union (www.nscu.com). We’re one of Canada’s fastest growing credit unions.
How long have you been working in this field?
I have been working in Web Analytics for over an year now. Unlike many of those you’ve interviewed, Web analytics is not my only job role and accounts for about 20% of my time. At work I wear many hats including web, usability, SEO/SEM, Internet marketing, project management and much more. I’m trying to make web analytics a larger focus but we don’t have the people or budget to enable me to move over full-time.
Tell me about your work, education prior to this job.
I have a degree in Music (I’m a drummer). Most of my formal marketing and web analytics training as has been on as needed basis. Over the years I’ve taken courses in design, usability and whatever the job demanded. I’m now working towards an integrated marketing certificate at UBC in hopes of being a bit more formal with my education and long-term career plans.
How did web analytics fell into your job responsibility?
About a year ago I approached my manager and asked to change up my job role to include web analytics. As an organization we’re very data driven in our decisions around marketing and I felt that web analytics was a good fit with much of the segmentation we do. I also wanted to shift from making site changes based on “gut” to more data driven decisions. My boss has been very supportive and it’s help differentiate us from many of our credit union competitors.
Before NSCU I taught web production at the Vancouver Film School; worked at Inovera Solutions (a Credit Union eCommerce joint venture) where I was Product Manager, Design; as well as stints at Citizens Bank of Canada, Vancity, Blue Zone Entertainment in publishing and as a full-time musician.
What are you responsibilities now as far as web analytics goes?
I oversee all our web analytics work and work with internal departments to provide them with information as needed. That might involve one-time reporting or ongoing. Since the web is more immediate the feedback we can provide on things is faster than most of our offline analysis.
Describe your typical work day.
No day is “typical” for me. I wear such a generalist hat that I can get pulled in all kinds of directions. From an analytics perspective I do try to set aside at least a couple hours each day to look at the data and discover something about our customers use of the site that we can use to make improvements. I have some ad-hoc reports I run as needed or weekly (that are built using HBX’s Report Builder Excel plug-in) which help me keep an eye on site performance issues (broken pages, internal site search), content issues as well as monthly reporting to see where we are with our conversion, campaigns, SEO/SEM and content effectiveness.
Have you done any web analytics course?
Yes, I have done two of the UBC web analytics courses and will be starting my third course shortly. I’ve really enjoyed the courses. The first course was an overlap of much of what I already knew — I could have probably audited it. The second on website optimization was fantastic and really challenged me. I’ve found them to be very helpful in clarifying my self-learning done to date.
What skills/education is helping you in your current job?
The UBC courses, some recent Excel courses (to become more proficient), and webinars/online training with our vendor WebSideStory when I can. Getting in touch with people in the industry has also been of great help. Robbin from LunaMetrics (who I approached this year to help out), Avinash Kaushik, people locally, Eric’s Yahoo group and many in the blogosphere have been of great help.
What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in your current job in Web Analytics?
I’ve always wished I was a bit more specialized, rather than such a generalist. Some education in mathematics, or stats/data modeling would have helped.
Which book(s) have you read or own?
I have got pretty big library and read as much as I can. I have read Eric’s books (I’m on my third copy of Web Analytics Demystified I’ve used it so much and love the big book of KPIs and Web Measurement Hacks); Jim Sterns Web Metrics; the Einsenberg’s two books “>Waiting for the Cat to Bark and Call to Action; Hurol Inan’s Search Analytics and Measuring the Success of Your Website; and Submit Now by Andrew Chak. I just picked up two of Stephen Few’s books on dashboard design ( Information Dashboard Design and Show Me the Numbers) but haven’t read them yet. I’ve also already ordered both Jason Burby and Avinash’s books.
Wow that’s a big library.
What are the major challenges you are facing in this industry?
I’d say advancing my career, learning and the affordability of web analytics tools.
Here in Canada, Web Analytics does not seem to be given the same attention as in States. Most business don’t seem to understand the value of Web Analytics. There are not many jobs in this field in Canada, while in States it seems like there are never ending opportunities to develop a career with a good mentor and grow into something larger.
As a beginner in this field there is not enough training so I’ve had to do a more self-learning than I’m used to. The UBC course has helped, but it is only online. I’m still finding it hard making the transition from just measuring to taking actions. There’s a bit of a gap in this area (maybe Avanish’s book will fill it) and it isn’t always clear as many books start at the 10,000 foot level, rather than working up from the basics.
Another challenge has been finding Web Analytics solutions that are affordable for small and medium size business since most price based on page views. Google Analytics and a couple others like ClickTracks look more-and-more interesting. I’m a big fan of Avinash’s 10/90 rule (see: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2006/05/the-10-90-rule-for-magnificient-web-analytics-success.html), but it’s not always practical given that many of us have minimal budgets to begin with. I’d love to leverage more outside consultants or hire someone permanently to pick up some of my other duties so I can concentrate more on analytics but my my current budget won’t allow me to do it. Fortunately we’ve been lucky to be able to leverage the size of the credit union system in Canada to get a better deal on our tool which has allowed me to leverage folks like Zaaz and LunaMetrics.
How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?
I read a ton offline and online (blogs on various verticals not necessarily web analytics). I like to get input from lots of different areas — be it banking, web analytics, usability, user experience design or art. I talk with friends and we share ideas frequently. I really like that people in Eric’s Yahoo Group and those with blogs are willing to answer questions — that’s a wonderful resource.
Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?
Yes I do. It’s called benry blog (benry means “useful” in japaneese) and it capsulates nicely the type of work I do. You can read it at: www.benry.net/blog
What do you write about, analytics, SEO, usability?
Everything, my blog is used as a reference by me. If I find anything interesting I put it there so that I can go back later and use it. Sadly there are two types of people who write blogs — Those who create unique and interesting content and those who regurgitate it. I’m the latter.
What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?
Try to understand what the business is trying to achieve and make sure the goals of website and business are aligned. Other than that read a lot, take courses, ask questions, don’t be afraid to connect to with others (I just organized a WAW event in Vancouver, 20+ people came to it, was awesome meeting everyone locally many whom I didn’t know), and attend the eMetrics Summit (I’m going to my first this year).