So, who am I? Firstly, someone who likes to ask pseudo-existential questions on the internet. Beside that, I am a Data Scientist roaming the realms of 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?”).
The last one seems out of place, doesn’t it? It is, so let’s start with that. I’ve 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. So 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, program and run 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, since I always loved playing around with hardware and building stuff but loved software even 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 got the chance to publish some articles about my thesis.
Venturing into Web Analytics
During that time, I earned my living in customer service for some automotive companies. At some point, there was nothing left to learn 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).
Once I finished studying, I was once again confronted with choosing the next step. My current company wanted to keep me as a backend developer, but Unitymedia 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 I offered when I was building websites and complemented reading logfiles serverside. 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 it at the same time. 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. It supports all levels of 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 remarketing. 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 things like real time dashboarding, forecasting and anomaly detection. I used that to build some nice dashboards for Adobe Analytics data in realtime, 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 playing on some TVs, we used LaMetric Displays to give a low effort way to our realtime data.
All that work brought some attention to our department. With the next corporate reorg, our team got trippled (!) in size, allowing me to become the Digital Analytics Architect, emphasizing the ground I conquered so far. While I included more and more Big Data systems in my toolbox, I also worked on the knowledge and skill set behind that. This lead to me being certified as a Data Scientist advanced level specialized in Machine Learning by the Fraunhofer Big Data Alliance.
So everything went perfect, right? Well, yes and no. While the reorg brought some objective advantages for our team, it had a very bad impact on everything around that team. To make things worse, Vodafone announced to acquire us. All of this lead to changes that spoiled what was fun about the work there. So, I tried my best to fix things and decided to move on once that has proven ineffective. That was a tough decision.
Luckily, finding a new home has proven easy with that background. The lovely people at SUPER RTL approached me to become the “Data Guy” there. This is what I do today, leading my own team and moving the company towards data drivenness, one dashboard at a time.