How to grow your web analytics skills (within your current role)

If you are an analyst looking to further develop your skills, what can you do (within your current role) to further grow and develop? Here are a few of my thoughts, though I am certain there are many others.

In no particular order …

1. Interact with others in the industry

  • Join Twitter, follow your web analytics peers. Twitter can be an amazing educational resource if you use it for something other than “I ate a ham sandwich today.” You get to hear about the challenges that analysts working with different business models or analytics tools face, what is going on in the industry, what the vendors are saying and perhaps new functionality they’re releasing.
  • But more importantly than reading what others say on Twitter: contribute. Voicing your views will force you to think them through. And everyone disagreeing with you (it will happen one day!) will be a great learning experience to see those other viewpoints.
  • Go to Web Analytics Wednesdays
  • Take the time to go to lunch/happy hour/etc with your peers within your company and “geek out”. While you may work in the same company, your responsibilities and experiences may still differ, and you can learn from the experiences, thoughts and views of others.

2. Take advantage of free learning opportunities

  • Attend free webinars. There are so many out there (you’ll find out about them through Twitter, blogs etc) and they can be a great resource
  • Attend free trainings (yes, they do exist. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from MicroStrategy about free one-day trainings.)

3. Attend conferences

  • This one can be tougher if your employer doesn’t support this. However, make an argument for why it is of benefit to the business. Trust me, the vendors give you plenty of information about how to sell their conference to your company!
  • If you can swing the cost, you do have the option to pay for it without your company’s support (or “financial assistance”) …!

4. Volunteer

  • Join the Analysis Exchange, a program that brings web analytics students, mentors and non-profit organisations together, to give more web analytics experience to the student and analytics assistance to the organisation.
  • Know a friend/family member/co-worker with their own site? Blog? Small business site? Volunteer your time to help them set up a free web analytics solution, and take time out of your schedule to analyse their site on a regular basis. Don’t know anyone? Why not start your own site? It doesn’t have to be big. It also doesn’t have to be about web analytics. But it will certainly give you a taste of analysing a different type of site, as well as some of the challenges of getting traffic!
  • Volunteer to work on things outside the scope of your standard role within your company. Is there a project out there that you think analytics could help with, but no one is asking for help? Volunteer it!

5. Read
6. Read
7. And then read some more

  • There are a lot of great books out there. Start with one. (A hint: If this sounds completely dull to you, and you can’t imagine anything worse than reading about analytics in your spare time, really take a look at whether you are in the right field …)
  • Read both corporate blogs (e.g. web analytics vendors: Omniture, Google Analytics, etc) and those of your peers
  • Ask your peers for their recommendations of books, blogs, journals, magazines, articles, etc
  • But don’t stop just at web analytics books. Start reading about related fields. Product development. Design. Usability. Marketing. Social media. Statistics. Even cognitive psychology!

8. Keep your eyes open to what employers are hiring for

  • Sure, maybe you’re happy where you are at your current company. Maybe you don’t feel you’ve extracted all the learnings you can from your current role. (That’s a great position to be in!) But keep your eyes open for what positions are out there.
  • Why? Seeing what employers want will allow you to keep a mental checklist of what skills you need to improve on, prior to your next promotion or job change. Better yet, think about what you want your next move to be, and monitor the companies that are hiring for that type of role. What are the requirements and responsibilities they have for it? This ensures you’re working towards filling those requirements in the future. You can’t grow into a position if you don’t even understand what it involves!

I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this. Please comment if you can think of any further advice.

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