I digitized the data and operationalized it from entry to invoicing.
It was a great learning experience. I found that I wasn’t content with just building a system. I wanted to know the system’s impact on people on the floor. So I decided to work in the warehouse for a couple of days to understand the process from end to end.
That set the stage for future jobs where I would straddle the business and technical line and try to understand how to make things pragmatically instead of technically perfect.
Then I was transferred to the D.C. office, where I took over as IT manager for the 100-person office. I got heavily involved in database marketing. I would help the marketing team pull lists for campaigns, and I got into the science behind it. That was in the early days of analytics. Marketing had always been an art, but it was changing into a mix between art and science.
In that space, I was focused more on how to expand the business.
Soon after, I felt I needed more of a challenge. I moved to a company that helped turn nonprofits around.
We worked in teams that were named after colors. We ended up having one set of clients who were less than satisfied. We created an unofficial team, called the Black and Blue Team, to help the dissatisfied clients. They sent me to one of those clients, and after being successful, I was going to the next one and the next one.
I learned how to handle the stress of walking into clients that were absolutely angry with you and being able to make them happy. It made me well rounded.
When I eventually arrived at Nextel, I hit a turning point. I was a consultant, and my eyes became open to the power of analytics. That’s when I was officially bitten by the bug. Database marketing was more data mining in those days, but at this company I focused more on the application of the statistics.
I helped understand how the business was operating and then designed the architecture around it.
For one client, we built a system from the ground up that saved the company $350 million each year in costs for retention and helped them generate $500 million each year in revenue.
What I’ve learned in my career is that the application of analytics is about bringing together the business needs and what is pragmatic from an operational perspective and feasible from a technical perspective. It doesn’t need to be the best solution — it just needs to be the solution that works the best. The reason I’ve been able to bounce around from industry to industry is because that same mentality translates well across industries.
Now, at Razorsight, I can do the same.
— Interview with Vanessa Small