An interview with one of my personal heros in the web analytics world
Often times people congratulate me for being smart enough to have started Web Analytics Wednesday, an event that was recently referred to as “the world’s only global social networking event.” While I think it’s great that the idea has caught on, I cannot claim sole ownership of the idea. In fact, the idea was nothing more than a fantasy until one person I had never met put the wheels in motion in her own community and simply made it happen.
That person was June Dershewitz.
When I finally met June for the first time, she turned out to be much quieter than I expected. June had done something nobody really expected people to actually do, she had paid her own way to Emetrics in Santa Barbara, not an insignificant investment. Over coffee one morning she told me she looked at is as an investment in her future. Boy howdy was she right!
June is as close to a web analytics superstar as they come in my book. She has experience, she is eloquent, and she understands how all the pieces come together to paint the bigger picture. She is one of the few people I know available (occasionally) for contract work in San Francisco and I consider her very much to be part of the heart and soul of our web analytics community. (Shhhh, don’t tell her I said that, okay?)
Recently I launched a new premium job board on my site with the folks from Simply Hired (the Job*a*Matic) in part because of the number of inquiries I would get from companies looking to hire bright folks just like June. But it occurred to me, what better way to explain what someone like June is looking for than to ask her directly. Our conversation went as follows:
Eric T. Peterson: June, tell me a little bit about your experience to date doing web analytics?
June Dershewitz: I’ve got 8 years of experience in the field of web analytics. Back in 1999 I took a job as a web analyst for a startup. After that I took a more technical role in data warehousing (still web measurement data). Since 2004 I’ve held a series of contract assignments as a web analytics specialist.
Eric T. Peterson: What kind of contract work do you usually do? More technical stuff or more analysis or more reporting?
June Dershewitz: It depends on what the client needs. Sometimes I get to do system implementation work. On other occasions I focus more on analysis, scorecards, reporting.
Eric T. Peterson: A personal question: what do you really like to do in the web analytics field? Put another way, given all your talents, which excites you the most?
June Dershewitz: I like to help businesses make the best use of web measurement data. I enjoy making improvements to what gets collected and how it gets interpreted and used within the company.
Eric T. Peterson: Can you share, without naming the company, some of the successes you’ve been or been a part of?
June Dershewitz: At one company, I was able to build out their existing web analytics system into something that’s now a useful and trustworthy source of information for a large audience. I felt like it was a big achievement to spread the word and help people see the business value in web activity data.
Eric T. Peterson: Excellent! No simple feat to drive widespread adoption of web analytics through a company.
New line of questions: What do you look for most in a job posting on the Internet (other than contract work and your local geography)?
June Dershewitz: As I scan a list of job postings, I look first at the job title and the company name. Job title usually gives me some clues about responsibilities and compensation. The company (and its industry) interest me as an analyst because I enjoy the prospect of a new and challenging set of data.
If I get that far I’ll read the whole job description and try to get a better sense of what the day-to-day work would actually involve, what tools they’re using (or hope to use), and if my skills match with what they’re looking for.
Eric T. Peterson: When you apply for a job, roughly what percentage of the time are you invited in for an interview? Given eight years of experience I’m thinking “often” but what would you say?
June Dershewitz: These days I post my resume on a couple of job boards and let interested parties contact me; I get a fair number of responses this way. I also monitor job postings and I’ll submit an application if I feel that I’ve found an especially good match. I’ve actually found four gigs in a row through postings where I’ve taken the initiative to apply.
Eric T. Peterson: Would you say it’s a “sellers” market for web analytics talent today? Perhaps more so than past years?
June Dershewitz: Definitely! As a job-seeker, it’s great to see so many open positions out there.
Eric T. Peterson: When you’re in the interview process, what impresses you most about a company vis-a-vis web analytics?
I really appreciate enthusiasm for the subject matter. It really grabs my attention when the prospective employer says, “We’ve got bucket-loads of web data and we could be making such better use of it! We could really use someone with your skills to help us figure out what’s interesting and what’s important and what we should be using to drive business decisions.”
To me that means there’s a challenge to be had.
Eric T. Peterson: What, in your opinion, are the best things someone relatively new to the field can do to prepare for a career in web analytics?
June Dershewitz: If the analyst track is your objective, it’s important to convince your prospective employer that you’d make a great analyst. Also, I’d recommend that you keep up with current issues in the field, read books, read blogs, talk to other analysts.
Show that you’ve got the curiosity it takes to enjoy this line of work
Eric T. Peterson: Okay, last few questions: In major markets, what do you think experienced web analytics professionals are worth from a salary perspective? I know you do more contract work but I wanted to see if you could/would share ballpark numbers that you’re hearing from folks?
June Dershewitz: I sometimes reference recruiting agency job postings where they’ve got salaries listed.
Eric T. Peterson: Cool. So are you looking for contract work now? If so, how can my readers get in touch with you and what should they know in advance?
June Dershewitz: I’m booked solid through the end of April, but I may be up for new opportunities after that. I also welcome communication from other veteran web analysts who’ve chosen to take the contract route. Find me on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jdersh), send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or say hi at Emetrics in San Francisco.
Eric T. Peterson: June, you’re awesome! Thanks for spending some time with me today. I’d wish you luck out there but knowing you, you don’t need luck.
June Dershewitz: And thank you, Eric! I appreciate that job board you’ve put together.
It’s great to know that someone with June’s skills is reading my job board. In fact, she bugged me to set up an RSS feed for job postings which I quickly put together, just for June. If you’re looking for great jobs in web analytics, you might be interested in the feed as well: