directionsMichael, politely, says in an email:

"I have done web analytics for five years, I have mastered Omniture, WebTrends and Google Analytics, I provide analysis and not just reporting. I feel like am an Analytics God.

What would be your advice for me in terms of next steps for my career? My goal is to climb the ranks and increase my salary."

Let me hasten to add two things.

Michael is not his real name.

Modesty aside, :), Michael is good at what he does.

I get many emails in the spirit of this one and thought it was about time I wrote a proper post about it.

Another reason for writing the post now is that it is always a good time to think about your career path, but never more so than the current economic circumstances. Some of you face tough times, some might get laid off [see end of this post], some might make opportunistic leaps. Either way good time to ponder, do some self reflection and make a conscious choice.

unique youBefore we get going some assumptions I am making:

1) You are an "Analyst" (Senior, Junior whatever). Or atleast 40% of the time you are a true Analysis Ninja, even if 60% of the time you are a glorified Reporting Squirrel!

2) You might have some project / task management experience, your leadership experience is limited to that.

3) I am simply assuming you are good at tools and some technical stuff and some business stuff. When Michael says he is good at Analytics his stress is on his mastery of javascript tags, his rich understanding of evars and sprops and complex 60 kb Omniture tags. He can implement anything in his sleep.

4) You realize that there is more to life than creating reports and trying to explain KPI's. It is ok to want more money and be aggressive about your career but know that it won't happen unless you vastly expand your horizon on the work you'll do (and how hard it will be).

Update: 5) You are at a mid to large/bigger company. Please see this comment for context around why.

Every Web Analyst (or really Business Analyst) of any sort finds themselves at that critical point. Have been doing analysis for a while, now where does my career lead me?

left or right

The first and perhaps most important thing to realize that you have to make two very important very critical very life impacting choices:

Choice 1: Business or Technical.

Choice 2: Individual Contributor or Team Leader.

Each choice will help propel your career in a different direction (slope and length). Typically we don't think that you have those choices (we all want to jump to Director / VP and get the chq, not so fast buster!).

Do some introspection.

Here's the Avinash Kaushik Web Analytics Career Introspection Guide! Answer these questions:

#1. Do you like being a Individual Contributor?
Think these things through: Master of my domain. Controller of my destiny. I like setting agendas, let other people deal with people who have to do it. Truly am at peace with my introvert self. And so on and so forth. Be honest with yourself.

#2. Do you like managing people?
You rejoice at the prospect at helping mold people's careers. Motivating them. Solving their personal problems. The prospect of collecting self reviews and getting 360 degree feedback and writing a performance review for each of your employee each quarter does not make you want to jump off the building. You see a matrixed bureaucratic organization and like President Bush you say "bring it on!".


#3. Are your true "Analyst" skills your massive mastery of how to solve every technical problem with every tool and how to implement anything and you could decode and reconstruct the debugging tool WASP in two days? You can hack the Google Analytics tag to capture people's underwear size and color.

#4. Are your true "Analyst" skills your understand of your company's business strategy, your mastery at translating "measure something" from a VP to three Critical Few metrics that bedazzle her, your ability to understand the long tail and get a ah ha moment that revolutionizes how you understand and measure of your search campaigns?

I am getting to how you can increase your salary part. Please stick with me.

Answering the above four questions honestly and critically is much harder than you think. Trust me on that.

At Intuit I truly learned the value of self awareness. Steve Bennett prioritized Management development (I'll be eternally grateful to him for that) and my friend Scott Wilder really got me going on this path by doing my Enneagram assessment (MBTI is too shallow).

reflectionTo me self awareness is the process of figuring out what you are truly good at, and really truly knowing (and accepting) what you are not good at. It takes time to get going, and is more of a lifetime journey and less a destination. It comes with great benefits. For example, I have learnt to maximize my being in roles / situations where my strengths will boost success.

Your answers to the four questions will ensure that you don't end up in a job that 1) you'll hate or 2) where very quickly you'll rise to your level of incompetence.

There are jobs, based on your choices above, either in companies or, many people forget this, at web analytics vendors.

If you want to have a move your career forward in web analytics (from a Metrics Analyst) here are the four options for you (and yes they all will help you make more money, some more than others):

|1| Technical Individual Contributor.

A lot of people wrongly believe that to make lots of money you have to get into Management (technical or business). This is totally wrong. For the longest time, for example, I was well compensated for being a Senior Individual Contributor.

Roles in this category would include: Sr. Project Manager. Sr. Architect. Implementation God. Sr. Tech Lead. Tech Demo God (usually at a Vendor). And more.

For this role at a client (company) world the common theme in this role is that you report up to a Director or a VP and you get to set policy, rules and regulation, only have, if at all, the barest of dotted line responsibility for project implementations, you might be the master liaison with the business team and your vendor to make sure technically all that is supposed to be happening with the technical tag hacking and tool hacking is happening.

technically savvy

This role in the vendor world you get to go to various clients and show off cool detailed stuff that your VP of Marketing consistently screwed up so far and answer technical questions from wise guys. You might also be the one man army tapped to do rapid prototyping to prove you are better than Google Analytics (!), or it is likely that you are the point of contact for the first sixty days for a new client when your company is trying to impress the client by providing fast help (as the payment chq has not yet cleared). Make no mistake this can be fun, you get to travel, meet new companies and people.

It is quite likely that you'll sit in the IT (CTO / CIO) function.

Career Prospects:

Pretty sound in large to larger companies. They can afford such a person in a dedicated manner. In a vendor world (say Omniture, WebTrends, ClickTracks, CoreMetrics etc) you probably have a lot more jobs of this type. It would be harder to find these roles in medium to large companies.

$$$ Prospects:

Anything from $40k to $100k (or more, at vendors). It is hard to find people who are really really good at this. If you are one of them you are in demand.

Long Term Job Title Growth:

This ones a bit dicey. If you stick to web analytics your title might tap out at one of the titles mentioned above (say Sr. of this of that or Architect) – remember that does not mean there isn't a long future and plenty of hay to be made.

If you really want to have your Job Title grow a lot more then you'll have to gradually move to the world of Business Analytics (not web) and Business Intelligence roles in IT. Both of these not just provide individual contributor title growth, they provide for easier switches to other leadership roles (should you show promise).

|2| Business Individual Contributor.

If you are a Analyst today you are in a individual contributor role on the business side (if you are a Web Analyst in IT the best career move you could make for yourself is to get moved to Marketing – or a business function, it is really hard to have a strong Analyst – not reporting squirrel – role in IT).

smart analyst 2Roles for you on the business side in this category would include: Sr. Analyst. Internal Evangelist. SPOC for CMO / CEO dashboards (supreme analysis). Central Business Liaison (for a large business, focus on getting people to implement web analytics and get going). Strategic Solutions Consultant (clearly with hype like that this a role at a vendor!). Product Genius (at a vendor, perhaps Apple :).

For this role at a company (client) the role can report to anyone from a Director to the CMO. Your job is heavily business focused – understand various businesses and their strategy and provide über analysis (pan business function) or create dashboards or be in charge of rolling Omniture across 90 business sites (beat them up until accomplished).

There are a rare few roles where you can become the internal Analytics Champion, I did this for a while. You are good at your analytics "game" but you are also a strong business person (I hate to say this but MBA / "strategic" type). You get to go around and work with VP's, CMO's and Sr. Leaders and identify measurements strategies for their impossible to answer questions (often they don't know how ease these are so you totally look like a hero). As an Evangelist you pull your organization up by the bootstraps (quite gratifying).

This role in a vendor world can mean you are a product manager of the analytics product, you are a project manager for certain features, you are a professional services rep (sorry, "Strategic Solutions Consultant") and roles like that. No one does Marketing (with a pinch of hype :) like Omniture, this excellent page on their site will help you understand what a business individual contributor role might look like at any vendor: Omniture Consulting.

For many of you there is also a option of a role I play now, an Evangelist. A business individual contributor role with significant influence over the vision and the product, as well as an opportunity to impact the external Analytics ecosystem.

Career Prospects:

Except for small companies you have lots of room to grow in this role before you hit a ceiling. Either at a company or a vendor. The only condition is that your have to be a very very strong business person. Understanding ecosystem. Business strategy. Trinity type execution of measurement. Smooth talker (sorry, "effective communicator") etc. Your deep understanding of statistics etc is not required. Javascript hacking skills are optional. If your strength is technical see the role above, or the one below, and you won't hit the ceiling in six months.

$$$ Prospects:

Anything from $70k to $120k (or more, at vendors or companies). From my humble experience in our little world, less than 10% of the people in our field truly have the skills to do this well. If you are one, congratulations.

Long Term Job Title Growth:

One nice thing about being a Individual Contributor on the business side is that you are afforded a lot more flexibility. To become a internal consultant on business analytics projects (beyond web analytics). To even switch to leadership role (team management). To tackle other complex things for a company, like creating a "data strategy" or becoming the chief privacy officer (a individual contributor role) etc.

On the vendor side you also have a lot more opportunities to have job title growth (remember that comes with increased responsibilities). My friend Matt Belkin at Omniture is a good example of this, over the years he has had a fantastic career there.

|3| Technical Team Leader.

Roles in this category would include: Manager, Analytics Implementation. Sr. Manager, Website Analytics. Group Manager, Web Operations Reporting. And still rare but sometimes: Manager, Web Analytics Data Warehouse (Steven I did not forget you!).

leader of the pack

In the early genesis of web analytics, in the good old days, it was owned by IT this role was a lot more prominent in companies. Having WebTrends almost mandated that. The shift to ASP (javascript based) solutions (crediting HBX here) caused a shift of web analytics to the business side (an excellent outcome). It also eliminated the need to have a large IT staff to support web analytics.

An example is six years ago when I took over web analytics there was a four person team (one leader, three direct reports) in IT supporting just running WebTrends internally and churning 200 reports out. The shift to a asp based solution meant only one job remained and it became that of a Sr. Technical Individual Contributor (and I was lucky to have a very good one!). The other jobs were evolved or replaced with people who did analysis not reporting (an efficient use if there ever was one).

Roles in a company setting would be reporting up to Sr. Manager or Director (or rarely VP/CIO levels). Often you'll find yourself in the Business Analytics team in the CIO / CTO function, you take care of that "web data". :) In some companies there is also sometimes a role in the Web Analytics team that is in Marketing (/business) where you can carve out a nice technical team lead career (reporting to the Director of Web Research & Analytics :).

Roles at a vendor probably have a lot more technical team lead opportunities. Managing technical aspect of the analytics product or managing the technical army of consultants or things like that.

It goes without saying that this role requires something really really hard: Your ability to leave your leave your lone ranger mentality and the deep rooted habit of just doing all the technical stuff yourself (yes you are sooo good at this stuff and you don't trust other people's code).

motivate 1

It is harder for technically oriented people to blossom into people managers, but really that's what you are signing up to do. You are going to have to be comfortable with some of your awesome hacker skills getting rusty as your leadership skills (and delegation!) mature.

Career Prospects:

If your company is using a ASP based solution (Analytics or IndexTools or Unica etc) then be aware of the aforementioned fundamental shift and the limiting impact of that on your career if you make this choice.

Some companies have inhouse (hosted) solutions (javascript tag based or log file based). In this case there is still a need for a robust multi person technical team inhouse. The opportunities are a lot less, but in those cases you can have a web analytics technical team leader role that will last a while.

You are going to live or die with your ability to inspire and motivate people, not your ability to write code or keep systems up. If you are in a Technical Team Leader role then that more than anything else will limit how much you can grow.

$$$ Prospects:

Anything from $50k to $100k (or maybe more for inhouse WA DW type roles).

Long Term Job Title Growth:

Not too much if your company is in the ASP based model (and remember ASP is not just for WA, it is now for testing, behavior targeting, surveys, electric shocks, everything!).

For inhouse implementations (or DW extensions) you can expect nice growth. Both if you stick with WA or moving to say taking over technical leadership roles on the CRM side or Supply Chain or ERP side of things.

Good technical team leaders are hard to find, if your technical skills today are awesome and you are willing to truly grow your people management skills you'll be God. [Related post: Three “Spire’s” of Great Leadership.]

|4| Business Team Leader.

When people think of making more money in web analytics jobs, 99% of the time this is the role they are thinking of. [Might I just quickly again encourage you to use the Avinash Kaushik Web Analytics Career Introspection Guide first.]

business leaderRoles in this category include: Sr. Manager, Web Analytics. Director, Web Research & Analytics. Manager, Web Metrics. Team Lead, CoreMetrics Reporting. Group Manager, Analytics & Optimization. Etc.

This role in a company setting is increasingly reporting to Sr. Directors, VP's or, in companies that get it, the CMO. Ideal candidates were Analysis Ninja's of supreme kind and have shown streaks of good people leadership skills. They are motivators, can inspire confidence, are inherently unselfish (key for leading people) and have the ability to charm the pants of Sr. Management (though come to think of it that might be a HR violation!).

I cannot overstate this enough: Ideally you have grown from a Reporting Squirrel to an Analysis Ninja, but your hard core technical skills are vastly overrated in this role. As is your ability to be, say, a Excel Master Blackbelt. Remember, you inspire and you lead.

This role, in a pure web analytics leader fashion, is a lot less needed or visible or available in a Vendor setting (unlike the other three above). Vendors need to mostly sell. Perhaps to analyze or for internal use. Or perhaps as a business lead for the $300 per hour consulting arm.

Career Prospects:

You have lots of room to grow here. If anything web analytics is becoming more serious for lots of companies (damn the temporary recession!). Having had just Squirrels manage web analytics any company worth anything is looking to put solid leadership in place.

Your limitation will be if you stay with just Web Analytics (clickstream) or you have an ability to truly do Web Analytics 2.0 (move beyond clickstream). You do the latter and you won't run into ceiling anytime soon.

carrot and stick 1If you do hit the Director of Web Research & Analytics (or VP in a large company – title inflation :)) then you might hit limits. Your option then is to shift to being a business leader and run a business. Or other such options.

$$$ Prospects:

Anything from $90k to $170k (or more). The nice thing is strong people leaders with analytical minds are the rarest of rare in corporate America (not quite as rare as a Tenrec but close). If you are good you have no limits.

Long Term Job Title Growth:

If you want to stay with web analytics you'll tap out at Director (or in a grade inflation environment, a VP). But as I mentioned below strong business executives don't really have a ceiling.

That's it. Four different job families. Each unique in its job, salary and future prospects.

My fondest hope is that as you evaluate your career that you'll now be empowered beyond the normal job stuff that you often read. What you have above is the output of my humble experience in multiple multiple roles working as a Practitioner, Author, Evangelist, People Leader.

There is one job / role / career choice I have not covered here. Becoming a Consultant. Perhaps another day. For now let me share just this advice, the most common reason for Web Analytics Consultants failing (or not succeeding as much as they should) is that they believe technical skills are enough or just being good at business (analysis / understanding / savvy) is enough. It is not. It is hard to find both is one place as well. If you want to do that find a partner. You be the strongest Analyst on earth and let her be the Technical Goddess. Now you are set for greatness.

Before I end, I had promised something about being laid off in a down turn.

My Story.

pushI have had three professional jobs in the US. I have resigned from only one, the last one. The first two jobs (4.5 yrs and 2 yrs respectively) I was laid off.

The first in worst of personal financial times (market going down, first baby on the way etc). It was deeply stressful.

In hindsight though each layoff was the best thing that could have happened. Allowed me to start fresh. Each bumped my career trajectory in ways that would never have happened if I had stayed at the job.

I hope your job is secure. But if it is not I hope you take some inspiration in my humble experience of being laid off twice from good jobs (that I was good at) and the longer term results.

Ok your turn now.

What has worked in managing your own web analytics career? Anything above in my Web Analytics Career Introspection Guide resonates with you? What about the four job families? What did I not consider or get wrong?

Please share your stories, feedback and encouragement.

I appreciate your attention, thank you.

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

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