Harvard in Tech Spotlight: Evan Johnson, Director of Analytics and Insights at Steady
I spoke with Evan Johnson, Director of Analytics and Insights at Steady, the AI-driven platform that empowers 3 million American workers to find the best hourly and gig jobs.
Prior to Steady, Evan was Director of Data at Andela. He joined Andela as Director of Marketing shortly after raising it’s Seed round, and he stayed and grew with the company through its Series D. Over the 6 years Evan was there, the company grew from 240 thousand in annual revenue to over 50 million. He also switched roles around their Series B, moving from the Marketing to Data. Throughout that time, the company transformed in its business model, mission, and of course size. Evan wanted to move to an earlier stage company, learn more about B2C businesses (Andela is a B2B company), and be a part of building analytics from the ground up again, which was something he had done at Andela and truly enjoyed. He found out about Steady through an investor and was drawn to their mission of empowering people financially. So he joined as Director of Analytics and Insights earlier this year.
Evan shared his advice for analytics leadership, working with data, learning about new spaces, and his younger self.
Focus on the people. In his director role, Evan’s main priority is the people rather than the nitty gritty work itself. Rather than doing the work himself, his role is to ensure everyone on his team can do their best work.
Evan’s first job after Harvard was in the Marines, where he spent 4 years. There, he learned quite a bit about leadership. His first assignment was leading 150 Sailors and Marines, which was certainly an enormous task but in hindsight an incredible learning experience. Through the Marines, Evan learned many core tenets of collaboration and leadership that are not emphasized enough in typical corporations. In particular, he learned about the importance of giving intent, of giving freedom, of making sure people are connected with the mission, of empowering others, of tailoring your management style to your team, and of constantly sharing with people how their work plays into the broader strategy. People are ultimately the most important investment you can make.
Never lose sight of the goal. When asked about how he draws signals out from the noise when working with data, Evan highlights the importance of honing and preserving your understanding of the business and where it is headed. It can be easy to get lost in a sea of information and details, but in order to do worthwhile analysis, it is crucial to drive toward things that actually matter. Constantly pay attention to the industry, internal and external matters, and what matters strategically.
Combine educational fundamentals with practicality. Evan has worked in many different industries and domains within companies. When asked how he learns about new spaces and how he learns new skills, Evan shared the importance of applying the things you learn as quickly as possible but also of developing strong foundations for the long-term. Through Harvard, he was able to learn fundamental skills in communication through the liberal arts education there (and particularly the essay writing courses). Through business school at the University of Chicago, he was able to develop a strong quantitative business orientation. Finally through work, he was able to apply everything he learned in general and on the job immediately and daily with real time feedback to continuously iterate.
Take advantage of academic excellence. Evan had an incredible experience at Harvard both through the foundational skills he developed and through the relationships he formed (he met his wife at Harvard!). But looking back, he would have spent even more time getting to know the professors. Evan would have focused more on understanding the groundbreaking research on campus and its multifaceted impact on society.
Invest in relationships. When asked about advice he would give his younger self, Evan recalls a 10 year letter he wrote to himself in high school. When he found it and read it recently, he realized his perspective has not changed much. Both his current and younger self emphasize the importance of spending more time with family and friends rather than channeling all energy into work or school. Ultimately, relationships are what bring you satisfaction, happiness, meaning, and fulfillment.