So, who am I? Firstly, someone who likes to ask pseudo-existential questions on the internet. Beside that, I am a “Data Person” (certified Data Scientist, previous Analytics Architect and Analytics Lead) having hands-on experience with Web Analytics, Online Marketing Technology and Big Data Systems. Also I have a degree in Psychology (i.e. I sometimes ask “how does that make you feel?”).
Starting in Psychology
The last one seems out of place, doesn’t it? It is, so let’s start with that. Foy my whole life, I have always been fascinated with computers and large scale systems. During school, I learned HTML and C++, taught myself Visual Basic, PHP, and SQL and built some applications and websites for myself and others. So naturally, once I finished secondary school, the next logical step for me would be to study Computer Science.
At that time, Germany required you to do some obligatory military service. The only alternative was to go into civil services. I always liked the idea more to help people instead of being trained to kill them, so I went to my nine months of civil service, working in the operating room of a hospital in Frankfurt (sounds awesome? It was!) I learned a lot about medicine but more importantly, I worked with people in extreme situations for the first time in my life. And it worked! And it was fun! So why not study humans instead of computers?
Of course it was a bit more nuanced than that. Regarding Computer Science, I already knew everything I needed to build computers, as well as program and maintain websites and desktop applications. So studying CS didn’t seem so attractive any more, at least compared to “human sciences”. That lead to the next decision: should I study medicine or psychology? That one was easier. I always loved playing around with hardware and building stuff with my hands but loved software quite a bit more! And what else is psychology about, if not “human software”? So that’s what I chose, studying psychology and specializing in clinical psychology and organizational diagnostics. At the end of that, I even got the chance to publish some articles about my thesis.
Venturing into Web Analytics and the telco industry
During that time of study, I earned my living in customer service for some automotive companies while keeping my existing website customers happy on the side. At some point, I felt like there was nothing left to learn about customer service at my employment level so I started looking for something new. Luckily, my university was looking for someone to help out in the IT department (wrangling Excel sheets, im- and exporting data, managing accounts and databases, etc.) so I took that opportunity. Once they realized I know how to code, they moved me to the team that built and managed the self-built university management systems. We built the whole infrastructure, front- and backend, and integrations to other systems, including Salesforce (and some Apex stuff in there too). A lot to learn in a very exciting time of my life!
When I then finished studying, I was once again confronted with choosing the next step. My company back then wanted to keep me as a backend developer, but Unitymedia (nowadays know as Vodafone) was looking for a Digital Analyst to build up the inhouse web analytics team. Web analytics with Google Analytics and Piwik (or Matomo, as the cool kids say) has always been part of the package when I was building websites and, for myself, complemented reading logfiles server side. Together with the knowledge I gained about statistics and scientific working, it didn’t seem to far off of what I know. Sure, they used “Adobe Analytics” (that I never heard of), but how hard can that be? Unitymedia it was!
Moving to Data Science
Over the next years, I became an expert for Adobe Analytics while falling in love with the tool at the same time. It feels like everything is built around a few basic principles combined in very a clever way. There is so much more control over how and which data is collected and displayed to the user compared to other tools. It supports all levels of user-proficiency and gives me everything I need to deliver value to the business in the best way possible. I can’t count the times I thought to myself “yeah, that makes total sense” or even “I would have built it the same way”, raving about it whenever I can.
At the same time, I kept things fresh by extending my range to the other Adobe Experience Cloud Products, namely Target and Audience Manager. That lead to me being part of our Digital Conversion Taskforce and a company-wide initiative establishing omnichannel re-marketing. Outside of my day job, I started building things with the Elastic stack (Elastic Search, Kibana, Logstash), Grafana and the Hadoop ecosystem, including NiFi, for use cases like real time dashboarding, forecasting, and anomaly detection. I used that to build some nice real time dashboards for Adobe Analytics data, forecast our sales and traffic data with Python, and other fun stuff. At some point, we included IT monitoring data, collected by Dynatrace, to give a 360° view on our technical and UX performance. Besides the Dashboards running on some large-screen TVs, we used LaMetric Displays to give an easy access to our realtime data. It was a wild time and some of the best fun I’ve ever had.
All that work brought some attention to our department. With the next corporate reorg, our team grew three times (!) in size, allowing me to refine my role to the Digital Analytics Architect, emphasizing the ground I conquered so far and focusing on the inter-workings between our systems. While I included more and more Big Data systems in my toolbox, I also worked on the knowledge and skill set behind them. This lead to me being certified as a “Data Scientist advanced level specialized in Machine Learning” by the Fraunhofer Big Data Alliance.
Moving on to the media industry
I decided to leave the awesome team at Unitymedia shortly before the acquisition through Vodafone came into effect. While I loved the telco industry and its technological challenges there was another exciting challenge on the horizon at RTL Disney. With this company being a leading TV broadcaster moving more and more into digital, there were some exciting user journeys to analyze and optimize.
Life at RTL Disney was very fast paced and existing. With a relatively small company size there was a lot of products and experiences to manage and develop. In terms of Analytics, I was able to prevent a previously agreed on migration from Adobe Analytics to Google Analytics last second. Based on this highly visible decision, I was able to develop a company-first data strategy around the Adobe stack and some open source tools.
As part of that strategy I was also allowed to recruit a team of analysts to support me in my strategy. Growing to a team of four people we were able to bring new tools into the company, most notably Microsofts Power BI for company-wide reporting and analysis up to C-level management. With a new and awesome head of product, we then brought Adobe Target for recommendations and optimization into the company.
For internal systems, we needed to move a lot of data from sources like Adobe Analytics, some older Google Analytics instances, or digital marketing systems into our newly built internal data warehouse. We used a fun mix of Apache NiFi, Elasticsearch, and Microsofts Power BI to bring clarity to the company’s performance. On top of that, we even became the first European customer of Adobe’s Customer Journey Analytics to shed light on cross-device journeys.
Understanding the logistics of the logistics industry
After a short while in the exciting media industry, it was finally time for me to move on. Following my philosophy of interest for complex business challenges, I joined the Digital Analytics team of DHL. The change from a small, agile company to a global corporate was fun and exciting. In my role, I became the practice lead for Analytics and Tag Management and now design how analytics should be thought of and done across DHL.