LinkedIn has been making the news a lot recently - bought by Microsoft and introducing programmatic display ads, as well as native video.
So what better time for an interview with one of its data bods, Head of EMEA Insights, Jen Brett.
Alternatively, if you already work in the digital industry and would like a Day In The Life profile, you can email us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please describe your job! What do you do?
I’m Head of EMEA Insights for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. My team and I are responsible for turning LinkedIn’s huge data resources into actionable insights for our brand and agency clients.
So whether you are a tech business looking to reach senior CTO’s in India, a consultancy wanting to tap into your alumni network or a car manufacturer wanting to reach recently promoted professionals, we provide brands with the insights to drive their campaigns and achieve their marketing objectives.
I also spend time supporting my marketing and PR colleagues with requests to help them better communicate with their target audiences.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I work within the Marketing Solutions part of the business, which is focused on helping brands connect with the over 400m professionals on our platform - as you can imagine there isn’t anywhere else in the world that has this quantity or depth of data.
My role covers Europe and the Middle East and I report into our Global Director of Marketing Solutions Insights over in the US.
I’m currently based in London and also meet with our UK Country Manager, Josh Graff, every few weeks to ensure we are fully aligned on objectives and helping the business the best we can.
I find this really useful, as Josh is a great sounding board and he helps keep my team and I focused on the most important things.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
There are certainly some obvious technical skills that you need to be effective, such as being able to get around tools like Tableau or understanding SQL (a programming language), and of course a curiosity for data and what trends lie behind it, is a must.
As important though, in my opinion, are those softer skills which help bring the data and insights to life.
There’s often a misconception that data analysts should be, or even enjoy, sitting in dark rooms playing with data.
In fact, without the ability to effectively communicate what we have found, or do it in a way that excites and inspires people, then our technical ability only enables us to do half the job.
Likewise we need a real understanding of how our clients work and who they are looking to reach to give them useful and actionable insights to achieve their marketing goals, so razor sharp commercial awareness is key.
Tell us about a typical working day…
I didn’t want to give you the stock answer of ‘no two days are the same.’ But I am.
Because it really is true. The nature of a tech business, with so much data and a large group of clients means that the internal and external demand for actionable insights can be very wide ranging.
I usually spend a good chunk of my day focused on my team, too.
That might be catching up with colleagues across different regions to share and leverage the projects we are working on, having one-on-ones with peers or focusing on hiring the best new talent as we have had a number of open roles recently.
I also get to travel a lot, which I love.
I go to the US a few times a year to catch up with my direct reports and I’m also often travelling to other countries within Europe to meet colleagues or clients and also attending events (next up is a workshop on the luxury sector in Paris).
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
There is genuine variation in what I do and I love this, and it also means I get to work with a huge variety of great teams and people.
This might sound a bit cliché but I really do love working for a company with a really clear purpose.
We always put our members first and our mission, to connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful, is something I really care about.
Helping brands connect with members with useful, relevant content is an important part of making this a reality.
As I’m sure any company with big data will agree, there can of course be frustrations around certain requests of the data.
Without an understanding of the complexity of what is required to dig into it and importantly make sense of what it means, expectations can easily become misaligned.
My team and I are therefore really clear from the start with what insights we believe we will be able to gather for a project and how long it should take.
Finally, I have some frustrations around external perceptions around our craft. While this is changing, there are still many businesses and people who think of data analysts as a back office, internal-facing function.
As I have said, this couldn’t be further from the truth and without great communication skills the best analysis is wasted.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I’m measured on the growth and success of the Marketing Solutions business.
If my team and I provide our clients and teams with the right insights to build world leading campaigns then our business will continue to grow and we will help even more brands reach their target professionals.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
There are obviously a bunch of technical tools which help me be effective every day, from SQL to our internal data analysis tools and messaging systems.
But ironically I am actually quite old school. I still use a paper diary and post-it notes, it’s a system that works for me and every time I’ve switched from analogue it hasn’t worked.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I definitely wasn’t someone who at 14 was thinking “I want to work in data when I grow up”!
Just as big data was emerging I had entered the world of research to do a PhD.
Having decided that I didn’t want to go into the life of academia, but still wanting to quench my thirst for research and curiosity around data, I took a role as an analyst in the advertising sales team at Google.
It was there I was first introduced to the world of online marketing and then moved to work with the rich, unique data at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. I haven’t looked back since.
In terms of where I might go from here, clearly I’m keen to move into more senior, director level roles but as important for me is ensuring that the role of insights continues to build its profile within big business.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
It’s default for many people to point to big, consumer brands who are doing digital well but there are a tonne of B2B brands leading the way too.
You only have to look at this year’s Cannes Lions winners to see how the likes of Lockheed Martin or GE are injecting creativity into digital to capture professional imaginations.
Closer to home I have been really impressed with what EY has been doing across our platform to lead the ‘big four’ into a new era of marketing.
From its use of video to demonstrate the brand purpose to harnessing data to tap into its alumni network, EY has been thinking creatively about where its audience is and how it can help reach them.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
It’s a fast moving industry and so one of the best, most simple bits of advice I would give is to read up on the industry.
Make sure you are able to talk about the latest trends and stories in your sector as well as know who the latest start-ups and disruptors are.
For those looking to get into data, of course a professional curiosity and appetite to embrace data analysis is key but good questions also count for a lot.
Make sure you ask lots about what someone is looking to achieve and only once you have a solid understanding of this, turn to the data to see how it can be used. You will avoid a lot of cul-de-sacs that way!