The roles of Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) and Chief Data & Analytics Officer (CDAO) are relatively new, having grown in adoption significantly over the past decade as data has become ‘the new oil’ and as traditional companies seek to contend with digital competitors. These senior roles are now found within a variety of data-intensive industries, especially within Financial Services and Healthcare, and increasingly in others too.
...There is a wide-open field in many industries for developing products and services that have data and analytics baked into them.”
A 2019 NewVantage Partners survey found that almost 70% of respondents reported having a CDO, significant growth from 12% in 2012 when their first survey was done. While Financial Services firms compromised the majority of respondents (“data-mature firms that maintain high-value customer relationships and invest significant sums to manage their data”), Healthcare firms also shared their views (“businesses that are undergoing rapid transformation – data rich, but often less data-mature”), as did businesses in other industries. The survey highlighted the “creation of a yet newer role [than CDO] – the Chief Data and Analytics Officer – integrating the data and analytics responsibilities within a single executive.”
As Forbes Insights puts it: ““It’s safe to say that a flood of data – 250 billion terabytes created every day – has swept the chief data officer into the C-suite.”
As firms globally strive to harness the power of data and face challenges along the way, the demand for data scientists and analysts continues to increase. This post discusses the evolution of data-driven roles, some challenges of executive roles in these disciplines, and key skills to improve the likelihood of success in these roles, drawing on the insights of Tom Davenport, A. Charles Thomas and others. Read more to explore the nature of data and analytics roles, and their growing executive influence, in this latest entry in our Routes to the Top series...
In this post, we feature some career advice from Lenny Rachitsky (@lennysan), derived from answers he has given in his newsletter and shared on Twitter and elsewhere. We cover his advice on five skills needed to step up in your career to a “director-level” position, and advice on “managing up”.
Lenny began his career as a web developer and engineer after completing a Computer Science / Engineering degree at the University of California, San Diego. He ascended the ladder at Webmetrics (acquired by Neustar), becoming a Senior Manager of Engineering, and then Head of R&D. In 2010 he co-founded a location-based Q&A service called LocalMind, which was acquired by Airbnb in 2012. Lenny spent seven years at Airbnb, as a Product Manager, and then Product Lead.
In his words: “Deciding to open your home to strangers is a complex decision. Over the course of the seven years that I spent at Airbnb, my work centered around helping people all over the world make this decision. As the number of homes on Airbnb scaled from around 100,000 in 2012 to over 6 million today, I led teams tackling everything from supply growth, to guest booking conversion, to marketplace quality.”
While most of his career has been spent in California, Lenny did spend time in Canada too while building and growing LocalMind.
Lenny is currently “tinkering” / working on something new, so we look forward to seeing what emerges!
Lenny has given speeches and blogged since early in his career (including while at Webmetrics). Earlier this year Lenny started answering inbound questions he receives on “driving growth, building product, and broad leadership skills” in his newsletter.
We find his leadership advice authentic, especially as he has himself grown through different levels in different organisations, and experienced leadership from different perspectives, including as CEO of a focused startup, and through leading change in a rapidly scaling business.
While largely centred on product management in the technology sector specifically (given his own background, and the nature of his audience), his advice has broader applicability across many sectors, and we have generalised it below.
A terminology point: “manager” here refers to managers of people and teams, rather than a manager of products, services or projects (i.e. a “product manager” or “project manager” doesn’t necessarily manage people, and may be an individual contributor).
Lenny says that as you move up these management stages, “your gaze rises from the week-to-week, to months out, to years out. You’re increasingly looking further out into the horizon — laying ground-work, anticipating challenges, and working towards a long-term vision. You focus less on day-to-day execution and more on putting in place strong vision, strategy, and people.”
Five critical traits to demonstrate if you’re looking to manage a function are:
1) Long-term Strategic Thinking
2) People Leadership
3) Stakeholder Management
More detail on each below.
Perennial advice from Ian McAllister in this post about both proteges and mentors getting value out of their engagements, recognising that both parties invest energy and effort in building the relationship.
Ian is Director of Amazon Day, and previous Director of Product at Airbnb. He’s had several mentors himself over his career, and mentors a number of professional colleagues and also start-up founders.
He explains that the most successful mentor-protege relationships share these attributes:
Read more to explore these in additional detail.