Catching Up!

Hi Internet! It’s me, Simon! It’s been a while!

I won’t do the thing where I apologize and explain the slow post rate for the last year or so – you’ve been here on Earth, you know what’s been going on. Kids & COVID are a tough combo!

One big change I do want to talk about is that I have a new job! If you’re reading this, it is super likely you know this already, but last year in August, I left Automattic, where I’d grown a TON as a person and professional, and have nothing but gratitude for my time there – to join Fishtown Analytics, a smaller software startup working on the modern data stack, with a tool that I saw as a world changer.

To be clear, I still think it’s a world changer! It’s dbt – Data Build Tool – and while it transforms data, what it really does, at a strategic level, is transform organizations. It reminds me a lot of WordPress, in that it works, on a fundamental level, to take an area of work, a task, a job to be done, and pulls it from a rarefied place, accessible only to a few scarce specialists, and democratizes it, makes it a tool of the people, for their many and varied ends, and with the benefit of their other personal and professional specializations.

For WordPress, it was websites, for dbt, it’s the lifeblood of the modern organization: information and the translation of information into insights – what an opportunity!

I also made a bit of a surprising career move, to some, in that I stepped from a Director level position in the data organization at a stable, established company where I had significant organizational and personal capital (as well as a lot of close friends and mentors!) , to join a startup with less than one fortieth the headcount (my team at Automattic was about the size of Fishtown’s entire product engineering organization at that time!) – in the midst of a global pandemic, with two kids at home (literally at home!) – to an individual contributor role in the Product space, their first external Product hire, in fact.

I’m so glad I did – there are times that I miss the folks I worked with at Automattic, but the energy and dynamism of a small, scrappy company, it really is different, and I think it really does suit my temperament.

I have two things on my mind, probably they deserve full posts of their own at some point, but, just a quick stab at them for now – a couple things that have been sitting heavily on my mind:

Running an Analytics Org is a lot like Product Management

(there are also a lot of ways that it is nothing like product management but that’s a different topic)

It turns out, reporting, data pipelines, robust testing, and data products, these things add up to something like a Real Product with Real Customers, and a lot of the skills you learn building a successful internal analytics practice can really serve you well in a product capacity. The other side of that, of course, is that if you’re working in the analytics space, I super strongly recommend learning the basics of product management – it’s a toolkit I wish I had more explicitly pursued earlier in my career!

A shout out here to Emilie and Taylor, who gave a great talk about this at Coalesce:

Analytics Engineering Isn’t Going Anywhere

This part is just an observation: Analytics Engineer as a job title, and the skillset of the modern data stack, simply isn’t going anywhere – it’s growing faster than anyone can keep up (take a look at how many job descriptions there are looking for dbt practitioners in any professional data community!) – there is still so much room for this new slice of the market to grow, and I strongly encourage folks thinking about a career change to seriously consider the space!

Here’s a great intro to get you started.

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