“Choose Your Own Adventure" Analytics On-boarding
Getting new team members on your analytics squad is a great theoretical concept. It brings the hope of more hands on deck and fresh takes on your business problems. Conversely, it comes with a heavy tax for both the on-boarding team and the new hire. It can be daunting to onboard a new team member. It’s overwhelming for the employee who is already in the weeds to spend time ramping up the new person. Additionally, it can be confusing and intimidating for a new hire to navigate the learning required.
Recently our team has had a few new people join us. In an effort to make this process a little easier and more fun, I employed a “Choose Your Own Adventure” approach for the analyst on-boarding. The idea is that the new analyst can be productive right on their first day by lowering the barriers to entry with a straight forward and learning focused project.
To create this achievable but still productive first project, we need to identify the necessary components that a successful analyst needs to understand. In my opinion, a productive analyst needs to understand the business, the data and the tools.
Your new hire may have a general concept of your business but they likely do not know all of the ins and outs. While we all like to jump right into the analysis, no amount of technical skills can replace a practical understanding of the business. Without this, you are likely to misunderstand problem areas, include faulty logic and misinterpret results. However, learning "the whole business" uniformly is not practical. So, for this first adventure you'll want to choose a small portion of the business to investigate. To put it in perspective, for our first adventures, I choose a product that represents less than 1% of our product portfolio.
Even if your new hire is a SQL wizard, they are certainly not knowledgeable about your warehouse schema. The last thing you want to do is give them full access, throw them a data dictionary and tell them to start learning. To really focus on just getting an understanding of your data objects, I'd start them with a strategically selected view. You'll want the data set to be somewhat contained, so they don't have to navigate a large amount of new data objects and their relationships. At the same time you'll want it to be an important part of your data set so that they can capitalize on their learnings later. In our teams adventures, we focus the new hires on a view of consumption for the above selected product in our portfolio.
Your new hire may or may not know your tool set. If you're lucky they do, but often times this is not the case. Especially when you are working with a cutting edge or non standard tool stack. I suggest that in the first adventure you not even specify which tools to use. Focus strictly on the business and the data. Let them use a tool they are comfortable with. You can build an understanding of the tools in your next adventures. For example, we set up our first adventures with the tool set of their choice. In the second adventure they will often replicate their first analysis on our chosen tool set.
Business + Data + Tools = The project
Using the above approach to select the project scope, I formulated our new hires first adventure. I consolidated it into a letter / project write up to give them on their first day. I've included the letter below. The raw copy is available for download on my github repo. Please feel free to use or adapt this content. If you do employ a similar approach, please let me know how it goes! So far, we've had some excellent results, but we are always looking for ways to improve.
Thank you again for reading through my write up on our "Choose your own adventure" approach to on-boarding. Please share your thoughts with me in the comments or on twitter.