This is an email from Whispering Data, a newsletter by Whispering Data.
Learning why the Webster’s Director of Analytics doesn’t immediately fix problems, but takes the time to understand them first.
They say to not wait for a promotion.
Instead, to start assuming the responsibilities of the job you want.
Someone who embodied this advice is Luigi de Guzman, a common Data Analyst when I joined the data team at Vroom in 2017.
Uncommon was the fact that if you spoke to anyone who also worked there, they’d tell you he was one of the most integral and respected employees in the whole company.
How did he do this?
If I had to boil it down to one sentence, I’d say it was a relentless attention to detail to how business processes worked.
To learn more about his mindset for working with data, read our conversation below!
Introduce yourself please.
I’m Luigi de Guzman, Director of Data Analytics at the Webster, a luxury e-commerce website & store. We have stores in Florida, Miami, California, New York and in Texas. So we’re really an omni-channel presence.
Tell me about your day-to-day responsibilities.
Because we’re such a lean team, my day-to-day varies quite a bit. But my morning ritual usually involves running a couple of scripts, then checking in on the company’s performance for the previous day or week. And making sure the data munging and cleaning scripts are working that insert into our Data Warehouse, so other people can use the latest data for their jobs.
Then around lunchtime my focus turns to other projects I’m working on, which could be working with the buying team or the marketing team on product execution. Or projections and planning with the finance team. So it varies day-to-day. And, of course, like in any kind of analytical role, you have ad hoc requests. So that was always get sprinkled in as well.
Awesome, let’s dive into one of these examples. Tell me more about a marketing project.
We do work with an agency for attribution marketing. What I start looking at is how I can relay better information to them. Because agencies will do what they know since they work with a wide array of companies. But because I know our business a lot better, a lot of my analysis is to help the agency.
I’m figuring out the customer journey of the type of product we’re selling — what’s trending right now, what will be trending, what campaigns are running, and when we’re going to run a campaign to properly hit those spikes.
So we start at the top of the funnel two weeks before a campaign runs to get prospecting in. Then when a campaign runs, that’s when we hit them with retargeting and a lot more pushes focused on the bottom funnel acquisition channel. So that’s where I work with the marketing team on daily metrics of like does the copy work, does the brand work, and is the product selling for us.
So a lot of very basic things, A lot of times we do work with a lot of other brands, because they want to know how our marketing campaigns are working for their products. So what that looks like are basic checks of Okay, how our email campaign go? How are how did our Facebook campaign go? How did our did we make any sales? Usually I organize the data that answers these questions and send in a tidy little email.
You mentioned you have a lean team. Do you feel like being in a situation like that is the best way to learn and progress career-wise?
I can speak for myself there, I personally think lean will help you figure out what needs to get done and how to get it done. That’s how I learned my bread and butter.
But what I’ve also learned is you need guidance. So lean is great, but if you’re going in there alone — yes, you’re gonna learn all the how to get it done — but you aren’t gonna learn in the most efficient way. You’re not gonna learn it in the best way.
So there came a point where I recognized I can get things done, I can pump shit out. I can put out a lot of data reports, analytics, and I can pipe together data. But then I also recognize that there’s standards that I don’t know. There are better ways to present the data. You’re doing everything just to get to the end product to someone.
However, it’s important to also take a step back and consider factoring in X Y and Z to your analysis… the type of thinking where being lean doesn’t help. And for that you need someone that has more experience in what you’re trying to do,
I’ve been fortunate to have that guidance. But I’ve also seen situations where people get stuck and doing everything on a lean team doesn’t help when they consider moving to another place. It actually can hold them back.
I’m curious how did you get that guidance. And also some thoughts or things you would recommend to someone else looking for it.
I’d start by asking: Can someone teach me what I want to learn? I look up a few positions ahead of me, who are the people above me on the ladder and what can I learn from them? What do I want to learn from them?
At a point in my career I realized I wanted to learn e-comm and how to pull different levers to move the business. But no one in my direct vertical could help me so I start considering moving to another company.
And eventually I did move. Afterwards I realized once you find good people to work with, always keep in touch with them because you never know how other people are going to progress. Like now you will help me with data science stuff. And even in marketing, I still talk to Phil to help me understand the different marketing flows.
So now I can kind of piece together where all the expertise is of everyone has and how to make it be useful to my projects. If you want that kind of growth, it’s about self recognition of what you don’t know. From there you should be able to reach out to people saying “Hey, teach me this” or “Hey, maybe I need to go here to learn something.”
Makes sense. I’d also add how impactful staying active in the larger community can be. So when you hit a problem, you aren’t interacting with people who can help you for the first time. There’s a relationship already there.
In analyst community you never won’t want to be left behind. There’s so many times where I’ve met people who know what they know, and only want to stay there.
You can’t stay there.
Not in this day and age, and not when you have so many more people able to show they know just as much. So you always have to read the articles, read what others are doing. Because in this industry moves way too fast.
There’ll be so many times where I learn something. Before I can even apply it, it’s already old! You don’t realize how antiquated your thinking two years ago was without self-awareness and reflection.
Can you detail a challenge you recently faced with The Webster’s data recently?
My biggest challenge with the data is making it flow. Everyone has their own unique set of rules for events like, What’s an order? What’s an order item? What is a return? My biggest challenge is making sure I’m aligned with the company’s definitions.
I usually come into a company thinking I’ll know the definitions. Then I’ll dig into the current setup and wonder, Why is this company doing it this way?
Then two months later those edge cases finally hit and it dawns on me, That’s why.
So then it’s re-evaluating: Do we need to do it this way? My biggest challenges are in the dataset, understanding why we process orders a certain way, why we process return a certain way. I think it’s something I’m slowly getting better is understanding the company processes more.
Before, I would come in hot and “fix” everything. Now I come in and take a step back understand what is happening and why. If something looks off, don’t try to fix it immediately; understand why it’s off.
Because usually in the end the root cause is something way bigger that you can’t fix in the data alone. And you have to decide to fix it now or we work around it in the short term.
That’s interesting. It seems time intensive and like there’s no way around it. It seems better to be upfront about these types of problems, rather than pretend the data makes total sense.
There’s so many times I’ve had to rebuild my whole like business logic because I was like Oh crap, that’s why this happens. Let me rewrite everything here to make to make that make sense.
So now I roll out like the bare minimum at first. Next, I work towards a middle ground somewhere in between my ideal alignment of the company’s alignment.
Eventually we get to a more stable third phase of what the data should be moving forward.
Can you give an example of a definition or one of these situations where you adjusted your alignment of the definition of something?
Sure, we’re an omni-channel company, right? And usually when you process an order, it’s on the date the order was made. But when you have a omni-channel company, you do everything when the customer gets the product. When you’re in a store a customer has the product in hand the moment he or she makes a purchase. Online, however, they still don’t have product in hand, on purchase date, right?
A problem I had was, how to unify that?
Google Analytics will tell you revenue is reflected when an order is made. But our accounting dept will say it’s when the items are shipped out. And the order shipped date can be a different day than when the order was made.
So when reporting metrics like revenue internally, I follow accounting rules to keep numbers aligned. But when working with different agencies, they have expect more traditional e-comm definitions.
My solution is to have clear cut definitions for metrics like net revenue and explaining where the source data comes from. Otherwise people will find numbers from different systems that don’t align and you have to explain to them where difference come from.
Honestly, these type of problems are what make the job fun for me because you understand fully how it all fits together.
Tell me what you’re up to outside of work.
Recently, I just moved. And I remembered how much moving sucks. And how important is it to negotiate everything. I remember my first quote for moving out was about $2,000. Then someone gave me $1,500. I kept calling and someone gave me as low as $600.
After that quote I called back the original company — the one I really wanted. he said, “I can’t hit you at $600, but I could do $800.” And I was like thinking like, how absurd is it that people just don’t actually try to negotiate and anything anymore. How people are so afraid to negotiate nowadays.
(Laughs) I think our generation is relatively conflict averse. What I’m thinking about is something we touched on before — switching jobs and the salary negotiation that comes with that.
I think people do try, but when the company comes back with an explanation of how their offer is in-line with the industry, most people don’t feel differentiated enough to ask above that.
It is hard. I’d say to always your worth. Know what your industry and position can offer, and once you know it exists, go for what you want and learn the skills.
My goal is just to not get ripped off anymore. Y’all can’t keep playing me. I’m done getting paid.