Jerry DiMaso of Knarr Analytics: Five Things Business Leaders Can Do To Create A Fantastic Work Culture
Talk about your vision, what motivates you, share an anecdote from what happened to you on the weekend, or share your latest thoughts on the week in a slack channel. By committing to transparently communicating with your employees on a weekly basis they will be able to understand and connect with your company’s vision.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry DiMaso the CEO and co-founder of Knarr Analytics, whose collaborative cloud-based data analytics tool helps companies visualize, annotate, and share data in real time. This first-of-its-kind tool allows users to explore data faster and easier, on their own or with a team.
Jerry is a passionate leader and author in the analytics space who spent the past decade developing applications, advising on data and analytics strategies, and building analytics products. His work in more than 100 organizations across various industries has inspired him to take on the mission of enabling analysts to solve business problems faster and more collaboratively.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been in the data and analytics space for the past ten years starting as a developer for BI applications and dashboards for customers. My business partner, Speros Kokenes, and I met while working at a consulting firm. While there I moved into an enablement role focusing on education and teaching people how to become data literate. As we were rolling out BI solutions to customers we found that while dashboards were able to provide the metrics they needed, they didn’t allow users to explore their data to ask and answer the next question. Business analysts and advanced business users trying to use data to solve daily problems found it frustrating to answer questions with their dashboards.
These more advanced users would end up pulling their data out of these dashboarding tools and loading in Excel to explore, then pass their analyses around the organization, which can be difficult to manage. Looking to facilitate exploration, Speros and I found that there were no existing tools in the market that worked in a way that users needed — to allow multiple people collaborate at once or perform sophisticated filtering without having to write any code, since translating business rules into logic that developers would need to write in SQL which can be a slow process. We set out to build a tool that would help analysts, business users and others looking to analyze data quickly and more deeply, which is why we started Knarr.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve always enjoyed learning new languages and have started to learn German and Polish to better communicate with some of our partners. The first time I said “Dzień dobry” (Good Morning) to them on a call in Polish everyone laughed, but they were all helpful in teaching me new words to be less formal and more conversational (cześć — hi/bye).
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our next exciting project is around making Knarr more accessible to existing BI tools and users who are currently using BI tools, but need a better way to freely explore data.
The next project we’re looking to do is to integrate with BI tools directly so that we can provide a new experience to those users and enable them to supercharge their dashboards and reports with collaborative analytics and sophisticated no-code data exploration.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I think in the age of hyper-personalization, with the level of access to information and fluidity we have in our personal lives, the same level of access is not reflected in our work lives and that can be frustrating to a lot of people.
There is also a lack of intentional Talent Enablement within companies to recognize what people want to get out of work. As work and life are getting more and more blended together, with the rise of remote work and “bring your own device” policies now at many companies, it can be a constant challenge and battle to keep boundaries to have enough time to do things outside of work that you want to do, be it work on a side project or spend more time with their families. Employers need to understand this and embrace it to improve the happiness of their workforce.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
Company productivity — An unhappy workforce doesn’t feel empowered to take ownership of their role within the company. Many people overcompensate for this by scheduling and spending a great deal of time in unnecessary meetings because they don’t feel empowered to make decisions, which causes a vampiric effect on their (and others) productivity.
Company profitability — An unhappy workforce is an unmotivated workforce who aren’t willing to take the next step or go the extra mile to make sure a sale is made or a customer is getting what they need. Demotivation can become infectious to the rest of the employees within an organization and spread negativity to other individuals or groups.
Employee health and wellbeing — This negativity and unhappiness can permeate an organization, causing decreases in productivity where motivated employees (usually your upper tier of employees) are doing more work to compensate, causing further stress on themselves and their mental health.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Be transparent. Talk about your vision, what motivates you, share an anecdote from what happened to you on the weekend, or share your latest thoughts on the week in a slack channel. By committing to transparently communicating with your employees on a weekly basis they will be able to understand and connect with your company’s vision.
- Make sure employees know you are behind them as a leader. Your employees should feel like leadership is propping them up rather than them propping up leadership. Having a servant leadership mentality goes miles for a corporate culture.
- Don’t project your own incentive and benefit needs on to your employees. Rather than having a top down approach, make sure you are listening to what’s important to your employees. It may be important for you to have a robust vacation policy, but it may be a problem in your organization that you don’t offer a 401K match, parental leave, or have a policy around mental health time-off.
- Stress the importance of mental and physical health. Especially in times like these where people are working from home more than ever consider how people are pushing themselves and putting more of themselves into their work. Many employees feel like because they’re home they should be answering phones at all hours. As a leader make sure to assess this on a regular basis and help set boundaries for your workforce.
- Encourage personal connections among employees. It’s easy to get frustrated with people through a computer screen, but leadership needs to foster that we’re all in this together. Encouraging teams to come together, either remotely or in person, to appreciate the work they accomplished together. Make it a point to encourage open office hours in person or on video chat, discuss the business, shared interests and make connections with other employees.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
The culture of “growth at any cost” still exists at many companies, with management trying to extract as much work as possible at the expense of employee wellbeing. As leaders, we need to aim for sustainability and create efficiencies that can allow for increased employee happiness and productivity. This leads to lower attrition rates and higher output from your employees, as well as people generally enjoying what they do.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
My leadership style is grounded in servant leadership. I believe the two most important things you can do is first provide a clear vision for your company and how it is making an impact in the world. Second, I hire people I trust and empower them to do the best job possible by removing obstacles in their way.
One of the early features we were working on at Knarr was the concept of capturing your analysis through notes. In my head I initially proposed a comment threading solution, which would have been a bad design choice for the product. By communicating the intention of the feature and vision for how this will allow users to capture their thought process, our CTO and product team had the freedom and trust to innovate. We ended up enhancing the product by building a panel that you can take real-time collaborative notes inside our analytics tool and capture your workspace to view all the context present that has become a favorite feature for our users.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had help from many friends and colleagues, but the person who has had the most profound effect on my leadership style and philosophy is Scott Reedy, an executive I worked with building out talent enablement practices at the consulting firm Axis Group.
Scott developed an incredible culture for his group. When I was able to work closely with him I realized while we did many of the same things from a leadership standpoint, I was doing them more instinctively rather than understanding the principles behind true talent enablement. Reflecting back I would often be inconsistent because I didn’t recognize what I was doing and why. He helped me understand what it meant to be a servant leader and identify how I could help my employees by putting together my own mental frameworks so it could be repeatable.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am passionate about increasing data literacy and empowering people with data. When creating Knarr Analytics, it was important for us to provide a free version of our advanced collaborative analytics tool for anyone to use. We’re proud that the free version of our software is as full featured as possible, allowing users to analyze data, share and collaborate with their teams, bring in multiple data sets, and create multiple projects, even though as a startup it was challenging and cost us money to do so.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” — Henry Ford
I live by the philosophy that fearing failure is a waste of time. Everyone fails, all the time; those who are the best at failure and can learn from it become successful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could inspire a movement it would be Global Data Literacy. In a polarized world where facts can be so easily manipulated, people are being “informed” with flawed data through charts and graphs on social media and news outlets, leading to confusion and chaos. We are past the point where the implications of manipulated data are physically hurting people. Through my work with The Data Literacy Foundation to educate people on Global Data Literacy, we aspire to help individuals understand and interpret information so they can make informed decisions for themselves based on facts.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!