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How to Talk to Your Boss about the Business Value of Data
Kristin Schooley from Learning Care Group sits down with Juan Sequeda and Tim Gasper to discuss the importance of teamwork and building relationships when it comes to scaling an analytics team within a large organization.
The need to understand what reporting is needed and what story is being told
how to ensure scalability and compliance
The importance of measuring usage and interpreting why certain data may not be utilized
Speaker 1: This is Catalog & Cocktails, presented by Data. World.
Tim Gasper: Hello everyone. Welcome to Catalog & Cocktails presented by Data. World. It's your honest, no BS non- salesy conversation about enterprise data management, with tasty beverages in hand. I'm Tim Gasper, longtime data nerd, product guy, customer guy over at Data. World, joined by Juan Cicada.
Juan Sequeda: Hey, everybody, I'm Juan Sequeda, the principal scientist at Data. World, and today it's a special episode. This is being recorded on Valentine's Day.
Tim Gasper: Valentine's Day.
Juan Sequeda: We're going to publish this later on, so you'll be listening to this later on, and like, what are these folks talking about?
Tim Gasper: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Valentines then, and kindness, and-
Tim Gasper: Get to have love and kindness all over again a second day.
Juan Sequeda: But today we're super excited to have a guest who's going to be talking about something that I still cannot not believe when we get to this topic. It's Kristen Schooley. She's a senior manager of business Intelligence at Data Delivery at Learning Care Group. Kristen, how are you doing?
Tim Gasper: Welcome.
Kristin Schooley: I am great. Thank you so much for having me.
Tim Gasper: Yeah,
Juan Sequeda: Cheers.
Tim Gasper: What are we cheersing to?
Kristin Schooley: Let's cheers to the love of data. I think it's only fitting.
Tim Gasper: Oh, the love of data.
Kristin Schooley: The love of data.
Tim Gasper: With our Valentine's and sunset mimosa here. So cheers.
Kristin Schooley: Cheers.
Juan Sequeda: Cheers to this. All right, so we have our warmup question today, which is what was your favorite class in school and why?
Kristin Schooley: Okay, so I obviously not only do I work for a learning organization, but I have always been a lifelong learner. And so, I think my favorite class was actually when I was taking my MBA, I had a series, my concentration was on strategic leadership. And so, we would always talk about why teams failed, why organizations failed, what made them successful, what made them not. But every time I go to class, to set the mood, it was always at night, I was getting my MBA while I was working. So we'd go in, it's like six o'clock to 10 o'clock at night, and he'd always say, " All right, come to the clouds with me. We're going to talk about just anything and everything." We always had meaningful conversations about what people were experiencing, just in their work environments, and what was happening. And I think for me, those classes, because there was a few of them, I loved them, and I still apply them to the team I have today. So, I think we'll probably talk a little bit about that, and kind of drive a little bit more as we go through it. But for me, so my favorite class in school was always the ones that really challenge your thinking, and didn't really accept the norm. And so I don't have a specific one, but I'm always about just learning, and growing, and what shouldn't we be doing? Or what should we change? And so that was always a big thing for me.
Tim Gasper: That is great. I really love that.
Kristin Schooley: Absolutely,
Juan Sequeda: I was thinking about just saying when I was a kid in math, but now you...
Tim Gasper: Was math your favorite?
Juan Sequeda: Well, yeah, yeah. But now-
Kristin Schooley: Obviously.
Juan Sequeda: But now I'm thinking of... There's something more profound that I could do.
Tim Gasper: Do something better. Yeah, it was more profound. For me it was physics. My senior year of physics class was my favorite class by far, and it was because of how passionate my physics teacher was, and that's where I knew that... Well in retrospect, I found that I was attracted to the passion. I went to college to study physics, and I ended up with a business degree, but that passion always sticks with me.
Kristin Schooley: Absolutely.
Juan Sequeda: Well, all right, there's a lot to cover here, and let's just kick it off. So, Kristin, honest, no BS. So, Learning Care Group operates over a thousand schools in 39 states. It has 11 unique brands. There's 21,000 employees, you serve over 150,000 children, and the data team is of five?
Kristin Schooley: Yes. Yes.
Juan Sequeda: That is-
Kristin Schooley: Enterprise reporting. The enterprise reporting team is five.
Juan Sequeda: The enterprise reporting team for 21,000 employees is five.
Kristin Schooley: It's five.
Juan Sequeda: All right. How is this even possible?
Tim Gasper: That sounds like BS. How is that possible?
Kristin Schooley: It is a real thing. It is a real thing. So we are the, I think the epitome of teamwork, and I think if you look at our overall structure, and how we're structured as a company, it is all about teamwork. So, I'm going to back up. So, specifically, our schools are early childhood care learning centers. So, we have the license capacity from six weeks old, to 12 years old. And so, that's really our student base. That being said, our 21,000 employees, I would say a huge majority are teachers in our schools. And so, when we think about how each school is ran, and the enterprise reporting that is involved in that, it really centers around... Our audience becomes the school directors. So you've got the school director who becomes really the number one viewer of our reports. And then from there, our company has a district level, a region level, to a division level. And then we have our headquarters, which is Support Central, we call it. So you'll probably hear me reference Support Central a lot. That's our headquarters, and we've got about 400 employees. So, really when we think about it, there's about 400 employees who support those 1, 050 schools from the behind the scenes. And so my team of five, it is my leader, myself and I have three analysts. We have partnered with every business unit within LCG to ask the questions, " What reporting do you need? What reporting can we change? And what story do you want to tell?" And we work incredibly close with our friends in IT. So, my team specifically is housed in finance. So, we partner with our IT team. We work with them every single day, because we personally do not own the data warehouse. So, the data warehouse is on our data governance team. So, we basically tap into the data warehouse, and that's how we start building our reports. I mean, it's a little more complicated than that, but yes, there's truly five of us. All of our enterprise reporting is done through Power BI, and it's been about two and a half years to stand up this operation, and it is pretty remarkable, what we do.
Tim Gasper: That's awesome. So it feels like you've got a support structure in here, despite the fact that the scale is pretty awesome, and crazy, that you've got sort of an IT team that's supporting you. You've got a governance team that's supporting you, and then you refer to your team as sort of the BI analytics group?
Kristin Schooley: Yep. Yep. So our true titles are business intelligence and data delivery, but that's so long, and everyone never remembers. So they just know us as the Power BI team. So, I'm usually Kristin from the Power BI team.
Tim Gasper: That makes sense. Yeah.
Kristin Schooley: Any of us, so that's who we are.
Juan Sequeda: So one thing, like you said, " What report do you need? What reporting needs to change, and what story are you trying to tell?" I mean, this is a very important takeaway, things, because I think one of the gaps we see all the time is that the data teams, the tech teams, and the businesses are not that well connected at the top. So, you said you partner very well, very closely to the business units. So, how many business units are there? And what is that relationship? What is that process? Let's get some lessons.
Kristin Schooley: Absolutely.
Juan Sequeda: What works well, what doesn't work? What are you learning?
Kristin Schooley: So we learn something new every day. So, we always joke about, or I say all the time, and I think my team rolls their eyes at me, " Every day's a school day. So what are we going to learn?" And it's not because we're an education company, but that's really what happens. So, we kicked off, and I said my concentration was about why teams fail, and why they succeed, and why... We apply that every single day. So, the first thing I would say is that when people ask what I do for a living, or what my team does, I always say, " We're in the business of storytelling, but we have to tell an accurate story." And sometimes that story can be difficult. It's not going to be revenue is great every day, and we have challenges that we need to make sure that we're telling an accurate story. So, as far as how the team is structured, so my leader really partners with the overall big picture, and then I do a lot of the intake, the overall intake about what's going on, and have a pulse going. We'll get it probably into this about above documentation, administrative work, that's what I do. And then my team of three is super small, but they're amazingly mighty, and don't knock them down. So, you asked how many business units do you have? I mean, we really have the basic ones that any organization would have. So, finance, operations, marketing. But because we are a childhood care company, we also have a huge safety component. Number one rule, no one gets hurt, so we constantly have a pulse on just safety of our children, we're hugely passionate about, obviously. And then from there, legal, IT, obviously. So we've got kind of those. So each analyst has sort of their niche. So, I have one analyst who really partners just with HR. I forgot HR, they're obviously huge. We've got 21,000 employees. So, we've got one analyst partners with HR, another one's finance and operations, Grant. We've got another one who really works, and focuses with marketing. The interesting thing is that we do have the same model with every business unit. So, some of our business units have very strong analysts, and analytic functions within their business unit. So, we usually come to them and say, " Okay, what reporting do you need? What can we help with, and where can we assist?" We have others though, that that's not their forte. That's not their niche, or they don't have the capacity. And so we come in and we say, " All right, what do you need?" One of our mantras is often, " We do not build it and forget it." So all the reporting that we have, it's a lot, but we are constantly asking the question. So, my analysts meet with their business units regularly. Sometimes that's a weekly cadence, sometimes it's biweekly. It just sort of depends what works for them. Sometimes it's monthly, and sometimes it's, " We haven't heard from you, so we're not calling until you call us." And that's okay too. We're always there. So, I always say, " Ask your business units what report they're not using." If you built them a report, and they're not using it, what's the why behind it? Is it not relevant? Do we not build it to standards? Does it not make sense? Can you not read it? What's going on? And it's not because we're after a bad thing, it's we're trying to understand, why is this so important? It was important here, do we not produce? How can we make it better? The conversations we have are incredible. And then, if that wasn't enough, on a weekly basis, my team meets once a week. So, we actually met this morning, before I came over here, and we start talking about, " What have you learned? What's going on?" So I think one of the most awesome things that I pride myself on, is when my team meets, we know the entire enterprise story. We're sitting there, and we know, like, " Oh, I met with this person, and they're talking about this, or this." And so we're starting to say, " Hey, did you know this is going on over here? Can we build a correlation here?" So then you start to get to that predictive piece, you start to get to the analytic piece. We're always thinking, we're always on the forefront. And so, we're trying not to just always be responsive to what people are asking us. We're also trying to help bridge gaps, and create communication.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. You're trying to be proactive as well.
Kristin Schooley: Yes.
Tim Gasper: And it sounds like your group is starting to get an anticipation, and an understanding of what the different groups, marketing, HR, et cetera, et cetera, kind of need. That's awesome. And there's a couple of things that you mentioned there that I really liked. One of them was around working with, and interfacing, and collaborating with the business, especially in a proactive way. I think that's huge. The second piece is around, so I have a pretty strong product background, and so whenever I hear product themes, and what folks are talking about, I get very excited. And people talk a lot about data as a product, and I think there's another aspect which is reporting, and analytics as a product. And it seems like you're taking a very product- centric approach here.
Kristin Schooley: Yeah.
Tim Gasper: There's a surface area, there's a maintenance, and a keeping up with these different assets, and if people aren't using the product, then maybe that product shouldn't exist, that type of an approach. Do you think of it as lifecycle management, or something like that? Or is it a little bit more dynamic than that?
Kristin Schooley: To be fair, I think sometimes we really are just like, " Let's get it out there." And I mean that in the sense of, we're going to try something, we're going to put it out there. But, yes, we are thinking about it, absolutely, like the lifecycle. You're going to put it out there. You're going to be the early adopter. What works, what doesn't? We're gathering ideas from people. But again, we always go back to those relationships I think, because in any product, people become attached, right? I've met a lot of amazing people who are very passionate about this report that they helped stand up, and then maybe we have to go to them and say, " Well, is this too intense? Can the average person read it? Is this really going to... What's going to matter? Maybe it matters for you and your department, and that's why we're going to put it in your department app, but does this exact version need to go here? Does it need to go there?" We also get a lot of... So people chat, and they're like, " Oh, the Power BI team did this, or they did this." And everyone's like, "I want a copy, and I want a copy." Okay, great. But then all of a sudden that's going to be information overload. So, what version can we give you? What's the why behind it? You almost become a detective. And so, sometimes I find myself having a very delicate conversation about, " Are you sure you need that? Maybe let's go talk to them." And it's because it's like a toy. " I want that, I want that." And it's great to be in high demand, but how do you manage that high demand? So, I think that's how we really think of our product. But, we are into this two and a half years, and again, we learn something new every day. So, we've put a lot... Some reports out that we're like, " Oh, maybe that wasn't the best way. Or how can we learn? How can we manage building the structure, and stuff to get us what we're doing?"
Juan Sequeda: The information overload is so something super fascinating, because it seems like at LCG, it is very, I say very data literate. Is that... Because this is one of the things I talk about a lot is data literacy. One of our former guests, Malcolm ... and I, we talk about this and we say, data literacy, that's not the word we should be using because that implies that people are illiterate to data. And it's like, what do you mean? So, because you can't understand it, then it's your fault? But why do we assume it's your fault because you don't know, or don't understand data? Maybe you built the wrong thing, right?
Kristin Schooley: Right.
Juan Sequeda: If I go build something, people doesn't buy it, they don't know how to go use it, I can't tell the consumer, " Oh, you're illiterate for my product. You should have known better." It's like, no, you probably designed the wrong product. But it's not the same mentality with the data. But I really love, what I'm hearing here is that you are taking that extra step and saying, " Yes, you already know things, but also let's understand what you're trying to interpret." And so, this is great relationship that you're building with the consumers of your data, and I think this is what's missing a lot. I'm really excited about hearing about this. Anyways, I'm just really excited.
Tim Gasper: No, I think it's good, yeah.
Kristin Schooley: To follow up with that, so I had the opportunity to take a... I received a master's certificate in business analytics, which I know is kind of random, but one of the takeaways I had from the program was a professor was very adamant, and said, " You have to remember the average person cannot read a graph." And I was sitting there listening to this and I'm like, " So you're telling me all my work, and the average person can't read it?" That's what I really interpreted, and that's not the correct thing. But, if you take a step back and you peel ..., it was pretty remarkable, because you are passionate about it, and I can be passionate about it, and you can be passionate about it, but we're all going to look at the same chart, and we're going to see something different. We're all going to look at the same graph, we're going to see something different. And so again, when you put something out there, and you understand it, and every avenue of it, and you're like, " And this is how they should read it, and this is how they should interpret it." So part of my role has really turned into just focusing on the end user, because I'm always fascinated when people don't use it. So we can look up usage metrics, and we can see. And I'm not doing this to be like, " I built that report, and I better see a 95% usage rate, or it wasn't worth my time." I want to know why. Why isn't it? And so I've started having an amazing opportunity. I've partnered with our training department, and we've started putting out literature on how to read, and interpret reporting. And it's been really, really cool to watch, because I have learned so much about why people may be a little bit nervous. And a lot of times, I find myself on the phone, and I'm like, " Okay, just click on the graph. I promise you, you're not going to mess it up. We're going to do this." And I think sometimes people are like, " Really? That's like..." I'm like, " That's it. I'm going to screw it up. I'm going to screw it up. You can click, I promise." And it's just taking that little step, and almost that empowerment, and all of a sudden you see the switch change, and it's awesome.
Juan Sequeda: This is a big aha moment right now. You look at usage metric, you're like, " Oh, this is not being used. This was a bad thing. This was not the report they wanted." But it's like, wait, we should approach this more in a human aspect. Maybe people were a bit afraid, and they didn't know. They didn't know, let's give a little bit more of training around it, and then they feel more comfortable, and suddenly that usage can increase because... That's a very important point. I think we can interpret, again, we can interpret the graph so many different ways, but at the end of the day, one thing is, we can be very quantitative, but a lot of this is very quality. We got to go talk to the people. And this is one of my frustrations that I have with a lot of the data folks who don't talk to people. It's like, data is a social technical phenomena here. You can't just look at it from a technical point of view, and never talk to users.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. You can't just stay in the silo and only look at the usage metrics and just say, " Oh, well I guess this dashboard's no good," or something like that. You have to actually understand how it's going to be used, and what they were trying to accomplish.
Kristin Schooley: Yes, yes.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah. So another thing that you brought up was about having the different teams. You mentioned that there's checks and balances between your team reports, and finance, and then there's still the IT team. This is a very interesting aspect of how reporting is. I'm always interested in how organizations organize all their data teams, and what they report to. So, how is that relationship with the other tech side, and what does the checks and balances mean to you?
Kristin Schooley: Absolutely. So, there's a few different things I think are pretty remarkable about the way that we have structured this. You can Google any way to set up a data and reporting team, and there's going to be a lot of different ideas out there. So, specifically the one that we went to is, I like to say is almost like a centralized reporting team. Our model really is self- service analytics. That being said, we have amazing relationships with all of our partners, but specifically IT, because what happens is, is if a report looks wrong, if it doesn't look great, the end user doesn't know who to call. So, it's usually one ticket into IT ironically, and most people think our team sits in IT, and we don't. It doesn't matter, but we sit in a whole nother business unit for a reason. And that reason is really around saying, " We are with you as a business. We get the business, but we also are going to talk that tech side." And so we sit there and we really bridge the gap, and we have had to have a very open, and honest, transparent conversation with both sides about, " We're going to take this..." What I like to say is very raw and ugly data, because that's what it is. Anyone look at a SQL query? That's not cute. It's raw. I mean, it's there, but it's not pretty. And then we interpret-
Juan Sequeda: I'm going to quote you on that. " Have you ever looked at a SQL query? That's not cute." That needs to go on a T- shirt.
Kristin Schooley: What do you say? It's not, right? I mean, even I look at it them, I'm like, "Oh God, okay." But again, the average person isn't going to look at a SQL query, and know how to interpret that, and that's okay. So, a lot of times, I would say, personally, I tell people I do, and they're like, " Really? You do what?" And I'm like, " Trust me, you don't want me in the schools teaching your children. There are experts for that, and that's not me, but I'm going to help, and we're going to bridge that gap, and we're going to have the conversation." So I think in a roundabout way, I'm asking, or answering your question, what we do is so relationship based at its heart. It's about going because of the relationships we have to IT and saying, " Hey, listen, we were looking at this one data warehouse table. We noticed this. We think it's this." We're not just saying, " Hey, we think we have a problem. Go figure it out." We're fully there working with them, trying to figure it out, trying to be that proactive partner. And then we're with the business unit saying, "You know what? We checked the data. We know it's accurate, we know it's right, and here's some of the ways we can interpret it, and here's how we can present that." Maybe it's a challenge. Again, not every story is going to be good. If this was perfect, and we all had these great stories, our teams probably wouldn't exist. So, I often... I tell my team a lot, which to be fair, they roll their eyes at me a lot, because they're like, " Oh, here's another Kristin quote," but here we go. I love always saying to them, " Listen, great analytics, and great reporting is going to answer their three questions, and it's going to probe three more, at least. And if we ever come to a place where we stop prompting questions, we are out of jobs. So, let's build reporting that's going to prompt those questions, because we need to make sure that we always have jobs." But in all seriousness, that's, I think what's really important, and it's being that partner to both sides, which I think is so important. So again, yeah, we report into finance, but we are kind of in our own little world. And again, we just have such amazing relationships with every area of the business, that we just get this opportunity. So I almost sell it as a, " Hey, you want some reporting? All right, tell me a little bit about your business. We're going to exchange here. Tell me more, tell me more." And then learn and grow. And so, to be able to watch my team of analysts, and just how much they know about the business, has been absolutely rewarding for me, because I don't think... I think sometimes they even surprise themselves about everything that they're learning, and it's just awesome.
Juan Sequeda: You are hitting this nail of the business literacy. We need to be able... It's not just about data literacy. When you get into the business literacy, understand how the business works. So if I understand correctly, so you are a centralized kind of reporting team, but there are business units who also do their own analytical reporting approaches?
Kristin Schooley: Yes, absolutely. Yep, yep.
Juan Sequeda: And then there's also a centralized IT team, and then you have these great relationships, and it seems like you also kind of have this... You're in the middle, you can manage the business conversation, and the IT conversation, so you can manage that. When do you become a bottleneck, then?
Kristin Schooley: Oh, well, we don't think we are. But...
Juan Sequeda: You don't think you are. But do other people think? When does your team of five need to be a team of 10 or 20? And is that scalable?
Kristin Schooley: Okay, so I will say this-
Juan Sequeda: Honest, no BS here.
Kristin Schooley: Yeah, I know. All right, we're going there. So, here's one thing. So, first of all I would say that yes, in almost every meeting I laugh, because there's always somebody from the Power BI team present. It's kind of what people are used to now. It's almost like phone a friend, like phone us, and we'll be there. So we're becoming that consultant. There are, I believe conversations that take place every day, and any business will have them, about what does the future look like? What is the next step? Do we start to have more analytics? Is it just reporting? Is it... The irony is, and especially working in predictive analytics, I often find myself saying, " Listen, if I could predict the future, I would predict the lottery numbers, and then I would actually retire early. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. So I can't predict the future, and I don't know what's going to happen." But I do know that we have an incredibly supportive leadership that does have a pulse on our team. They know we have a lot, we have a huge workload, but we also have amazing partners who are so willing to take their time. So, one of the things we started challenging back to try not to be a bottleneck is, we all are managing our workloads, and constantly saying, " Okay, well I'm working with this, and I've got this, and I've got to figure this all out, and how is it?" And then I've got to make sure that the team doesn't get overwhelmed. They've got a good work- life balance, it's incredibly important to me. We can't be burned out. And so where I'm going with this is we often say, in a very honest way, " Listen, I see your priority, but I've got this other one right now. So here's some options. I can produce this report that's not going to tell you everything, but maybe you take it, and go, because you are one of our business units that has a little bit more capacity to maybe do some of your own analytics. Okay?" So we leverage what we have. We don't have the same model for every team. Sometimes just by saying, " I need a week, because I have something else," and we've got the relationship. And people know like, " Oh, it's not like they're sitting there not doing anything. We know they're busy." And so sometimes they end up answering their own questions, and then they come back to us with something random anyway, and we're like, " Okay, cool. Do you still need the other thing though? Because we're ready. But..."
Tim Gasper: So it's not just like a one size fits all kind of internal SLA.
Kristin Schooley: No, no. Yes.
Tim Gasper: It's really each group has their own needs and own relationships.
Kristin Schooley: Yes.
Juan Sequeda: Now, this is just the evidence of, you can't have a cookie cutter approach. This is the human side of things.
Tim Gasper: Of like, " This is the way." Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: This is the framework, how we're going to establish things.
Tim Gasper: The system that works. Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: I mean I guess you want to have that, and you probably may start with that, but at the end of the day, you need to have these personal relationships. I think that that's the key takeaway here.
Kristin Schooley: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: One thing, another topic is ...
Kristin Schooley: My favorite.
Juan Sequeda: Okay, so why is that your favorite, and how do you incentivize for having documentation up to date and everything?
Tim Gasper: Yeah, some people would say documentation's not cute, either. So, curious about your thoughts there.
Kristin Schooley: No, right? So no, I love a good process, and anyone who's watching this who knows me is cracking up at this point. So, we are new, and when we started this, it was like, " Okay, let's build a reporting team." And so thankfully coming from a background that I have, so I've spent the majority of my career up until now as an analyst, and I always just got really good at documenting all my desk procedures. That was just always my thing, because if I wanted to take a day off, I could be like, " Hey, here, can you do this report while I'm out? Just follow these, and let me know if you have any questions." So that was just always my thing. And I'm also really organized. So again, it's just my thing. As far as incentivizing, sometimes it's been a challenge to find the time. So, there was actually a period this past spring, where we went in a three- day shutdown, and everyone blocked their calendars, and we really just didn't take any work, and we went in a full shutdown. And I mean this was not innovative or anything, it's a Microsoft OneNote, and we were like, " All right, here's our OneNote. Everyone start putting in your desk procedures." And I just sold it as, " If you guys want to take a day off, we need to know what to do when you're not here." That could happen. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and so you got to know how to do my job. But then, part of it became too is, and most of my career as an analyst, I actually spent in banking. So, audits are a huge thing in banking. And so, I spent a lot of time always talking to an auditor, and I always found that they would start asking me sort of the process, and the procedure, and if you had it together, I always felt like the conversation was over pretty quickly. So, maybe that's a little intel, or just Kristin World, I don't know. So, I just always started documenting everything. And so, now I always ask the question about, " Okay, well why did you publish the report?" If an auditor came to you and said, " Hey, why did you publish this report?" Because what we do is, I mean, we're dealing with very highly sensitive, confidential data. We can't just put it out for anybody. So, we started asking the question. So, we now have procedures for everything. So, all of our Power BI apps have full documentation on why, who has access. We quarterly audit, who's looking at stuff. We have procedures, I call them desk procedures, but any of our static monthly reports. But then we also start putting stuff in our team about, " Hey, did you see this YouTube video on some DAX formula?" Or something, because we're still all learning this as we go. So, I think a huge role of what we do, or what I remind myself is, I don't think I'm that old. I've only been out of college for 15 years, but that's ancient in this world. So, when I graduated, business intelligence wasn't a thing. It's probably why I have a master's certificate in business analytics, right? Because that wasn't a thing. I found a intern along the way who's like, " Oh yeah, I'm at Virginia Tech. My major is business intelligence." I was like, "I'm sorry, what? I'm that old?"
Juan Sequeda: That world's changed.
Kristin Schooley: Okay, I get it. I'm that old. But why that becomes important is, I don't want to say we're all making it up as we go, but we're all learning it as we go, right? Okay, maybe we are, but we really are doing this to understand. And there's no right or wrong way to stand up a reporting team, to stand up a BI team. So, you figure out what works for your company.
Tim Gasper: I love that.
Juan Sequeda: I like that last quote, the, " We're not making this up as we go. We're really learning on the go."
Tim Gasper: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: I'm going to take that-
Kristin Schooley: We're going to get a lot of T- shirts by the time conversation is done.
Juan Sequeda: Yes, there's like five T- shirts already at this episode.
Kristin Schooley: Yes. I'm very excited.
Tim Gasper: No, this is so good. I mean, there's so many other questions that come to mind, and things like that, but honestly, maybe it makes sense to go ahead and jump into our lightning round, because I think we've got some topics there.
Juan Sequeda: All right, we got our lightning round questions, presented by Data. World. So I'll go to the first one. Should analysts reach out directly to people in the business, and ask for meetings with decision makers?
Kristin Schooley: Why not?
Tim Gasper: Yeah.
Kristin Schooley: I guess I just live in this world of, especially when I was an analyst, again, if I found somebody who was willing to sort of trust me and be like, " Listen, I don't know what's going on," or, " I don't get what all this is, help me." They're going to help you in return. I am not a fan of when people sit in meetings, and they use all these acronyms, and they sort of just talk, and everyone else is like, " What are they saying? I don't get it." That's not me. That's never going to be me. And so I just... Why can't we all know the same thing? I always say, " Level the playing field." And I think that that's why... People are people, and they're going to remember how you treated them, and data is an incredibly scary topic. Why can't an analyst, within reason, I mean, I don't know that I would've called the CEO as an analyst and been like, " Hey sir, how's it going? Can I see what your problems are?"
Kristin Schooley: You don't
Kristin Schooley: have anything important to do. Right? I gotcha.
Tim Gasper: With that being said, right?
Kristin Schooley: Exactly.
Tim Gasper: Understand the business.
Kristin Schooley: And yes. So I...
Juan Sequeda: Business literacy.
Tim Gasper: Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Yep.
Tim Gasper: Yeah. Second question.
Kristin Schooley: Yes.
Tim Gasper: Often get very excited about data democratization as kind of a concept, and I think about, everyone has access to BI tools and things like that, as one example of that. Is data democratization the right thing to focus on?
Kristin Schooley: Well, I'm probably going to toe the line on this one. So, I would say that I think it depends where your business is at. Every user group is going to be different. So, I think you need to know who is really about your organization, where are they at, and where are they going? So for instance, if you are in an environment that is a high turnover environment, people are constantly going to have to learn your business, before they can start getting into the problem solving, right? Because you show up at a job, you're going to need six months to learn. It's just my personal opinion. No one's going to learn your business overnight. So you, to me, have to focus your data, your structure, I think based on your company and your people. You can't necessarily just say, " Okay, this is it." But again, I think after this conversation, we all learned that I'm not a one size fits all kind of person either. So, I think it depends on your company.
Juan Sequeda: All right. Third question.
Kristin Schooley: Yes.
Juan Sequeda: Do you think that the approach you've implemented at Learning Care Group is kind of like a data mesh model, or is that something different, doesn't apply here?
Kristin Schooley: Can you define data mesh?
Juan Sequeda: All right. That's a good answer right there.
Tim Gasper: Yeah, I agree.
Juan Sequeda: That was part of the trick, the funny question there, but all right.
Tim Gasper: All right. Fourth question.
Kristin Schooley: Okay.
Tim Gasper: And I'm actually going to break the mold a little bit with this one, because we usually do, yes, no questions, but I wanted to add this in here. Is there a trend in data, or analytics that you're most excited about?
Kristin Schooley: I am super excited that to me, I feel like years ago, the analytics and the data function kind of sat in this little group, no matter where I was at, and it was a group that was privy to it, and there was the one, and it probably went to executive leadership. And I think today, regardless of the organization, regardless of the industry, regardless of the structure, data is out there for everybody. And if you want it, you'll have access to it. And so to me, the trend is that more and more companies, or organizations, or industries are going to, everybody gets it. The key is, if you want it, because again, you can build it, but will they come? And so, I think for me, it's more of an access to everybody, and obviously that creates challenges, but I think that that's really important.
Juan Sequeda: That's very nice. All right, Tim, TTT Tim, take us away with takeaways.
Tim Gasper: All right, takeaways. So many good takeaways here. So, we really started off with just being a little bit mind boggled by the scale that y'all have been able to achieve in terms of the 21,000 person employee organization, with a five person data team. And you mentioned that it's really all about teamwork, that you've got this license capacity for all these different age ranges. You've got all these different employees, a lot of teachers, but you also have a lot of hierarchy, as well. So the director level, the regional level, and then you've got the central group that kind of serves them all, the Support Central. And so really, within that structure, teamwork has been key, and really asking the questions, what reporting do you need? What reporting needs to change? And what story are you trying to tell? And I think that's powerful from a scope standpoint, because it helps the organization see, " Hey, we're here to help. We're here to treat this like a product, and keep it going over time, and really help the rest of the organization to accomplish the things that it needs to accomplish, with the stories that they're trying to tell with data." And I think what's great also is that you mentioned about the partnerships that you have with other key supporting functions like IT, like the governance group, et cetera, and being able to work together to get the data that you need, and develop the things that you need. You said that" We're in the business of storytelling. We need to tell an accurate story." Each analyst has their niche, and you have to work with all these different groups, HR, finance, marketing, and they all have the different things that they're driving for. Some of these groups have analytics functions already, and some do not. And so you really have to learn, what are these different groups trying to do? And the analytics team sees the bigger picture, and so you're able to actually piece together more of that enterprise story. Always, things go back to relationships, and I think that's probably the biggest theme that I took away from all of this, was building relationships with the business, with the data team. You used the word consultant a few times, really that idea that you're partnering with the business, and helping them not just accomplish the stories that they're trying to get to, but also manage information overload. And there is this aspect you mentioned of being a detective, really making sure that, is this the thing that's going to help them the most? Because the different parts of the business might not always know that, " Oh, this isn't really the appropriate thing." It's a consulting aspect that you're doing there to help them get to the right thing.
Kristin Schooley: Yeah.
Tim Gasper: Juan, what about you? What were your takeaways?
Juan Sequeda: So I got a couple more to add here. One, the usage metrics. And this is something we need to be measuring. We need to measure things. I think we need to measure usage, but we need to be able to interpret the usage. And I think a lot of the times, like oh, it's not being used, it's a bad thing, but let's understand the why. And I think over everything, it's why, why, why. I love this case. It's like maybe somebody didn't use it because they just didn't feel comfortable. They need a little bit more training. You get them more comfortable, and then they'll start using it. So it's really, really important, having the usage metrics, and getting behind the why. So, your team set up, so you are a centralized reporting team underneath finance. You have a great relationships with IT, and everything, again, the theme here is just relationships, build relationships with everybody. Other different businesses, they will have their own type of analytical functions, too, and I think one of the issues about being on when it comes to scalability we're talking about is like, let's just be transparent with priorities, saying, " Yes, we are busy right now with the following. We can't do it right now. Maybe next week, maybe you can do it yourself." And those are the different approaches, how to go deal with this, and you've been able to go manage it. I think, a couple fun quotes. You take raw ugly data. " Have you looked at that SQL query? That's not cute." I'm going to put that on a T- shirt for sure. Another one is, " Great analytics will prompt more questions, and that's a good thing, because otherwise, we're out of a job." That's another good one right there. And if people are asking for reporting, it's like, " Yeah, we'll give you some reporting, but you got to tell me more about your business." And then on documentation, I see it also as another way to scale. And I like how you say, " You want to take your day off, you want other people to do your work? Well document it, so other people will do your work." That's how you shut down for three days, and let's just document our procedures. And another interesting tidbit here is coming from the finance world, is like financing regulations is, " Hey, if I had those conversations with those regulatory folks, and I had all my documentation ."
Kristin Schooley: Oh no.
Juan Sequeda: That was a easy conversation. So yeah, that's actually a way to get out of hard conversations, have it all documented. But if I'm going to summarize our discussion, it's really, data's about relationships, data's about, it's a people thing. It's really about understanding the business.
Kristin Schooley: You guys hit the nail on the head.
Juan Sequeda: How did we do?
Kristin Schooley: 100%.
Juan Sequeda: Anything we missed?
Kristin Schooley: No, I think you guys covered.
Juan Sequeda: All right, so throw it back to you.
Kristin Schooley: Okay.
Juan Sequeda: Three final questions.
Kristin Schooley: Yes.
Juan Sequeda: What's your advice about data, life, whatever? Second, who should we invite next? And third, what resources do you follow? People, books, blogs, conferences.
Kristin Schooley: Yeah. Okay. So the first one is, what is my advice? On a very personal level, this is for anyone out there who is listening. I personally have a career that I don't think a lot of people ever thought I would have. I think I often am a circle trying to fit in the square peg, per se. But I have stayed persistent and I've stayed true to myself. I am truly blessed to have the team that I have, and I cannot say that enough. I would be doing a disservice if I didn't just show how amazing that they are. And I say all the time, " I'm getting to build the team that I always wanted to sit on as an analyst." My way is not necessarily for everybody, but at the end of the day, I know that I can go to bed, and that I have done everything by the book, to the right standards. I've made the best choices I can. And so, for anyone listening, regardless of where you're at, especially with working with something like data, because it is ugly, it's not cute. Stay true to yourself, and be willing to put yourself out there. And I think that is why I have gotten to where I am, because of that.
Juan Sequeda: That's awesome.
Kristin Schooley: As far as who you should invite next, so I'm not going to name any names online, but I did allude to the fact I grew up in the banking and finance. A lot of it was spent in the Credit Union space. So I've listened to a lot of your podcasts, and I don't think you've had anyone from the Credit Union space. And so if you need some names, I'll give you.
Juan Sequeda: Whoa. That's interesting. Yeah.
Kristin Schooley: But Credit Unions are... I'm not really doing a shameless plug about where you should bank, but what I am saying is that Credit Unions and the way that they're structured, I know personally I had a lot of great opportunities to learn a lot of different things that I do today, because Credit Unions are smaller, and so you get to see a lot, you get to do a lot. And so if you need some names after, I'll give them. But I think some Credit Union people, they have some really good ideas.
Tim Gasper: Awesome.
Kristin Schooley: Shout out to the Credit Union.
Tim Gasper: We'll take you up on that. Yeah.
Juan Sequeda: Yeah.
Kristin Schooley: And then last, what resources do I follow? Okay, so I'm not going to try to pretend, at its root I'm a mom of two very young kids. So my world is Disney +, and Nick Jr., so I don't have a ton of time to follow. But Paw Patrol, I got you covered. Chase is on the case. So, what I would say is, I do... I mean, I usually Google a lot like, "Oh, is this a new trend or something?" But actually, if I get the chance, I love to read autobiographies of people who have been successful in how they've gotten to where they were in their careers. So, like I read George Bush's book, which was pretty cool. I read Joe Paterno's book, which was pretty cool. I recently finished Shoe Dog by Phil Knight of Nike. So, I love to read those success stories about where they got to, and what was their pivotal moment where they were like, " All right, we're going to do this, or we're going to fail." And there's some pretty cool somethings in there. So, I'll say that.
Tim Gasper: That's awesome. Those are some great recommendations for our listeners to check out. Yeah.
Kristin Schooley: So, all right.
Juan Sequeda: Well, this is a phenomenal conversation. As always, thanks to Data. World, who lets us do this every Wednesday, or whatever day today is, ...
Kristin Schooley: Valentine's Day.
Juan Sequeda: Drinking mimosas day. Valentine's Day.
Tim Gasper: Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, and cheers to your relationships.
Kristin Schooley: Cheers.
Juan Sequeda: Cheers.
Speaker 1: This is Catalog & Cocktails. A special thanks to Data. World for supporting the show, Karli Burghoff for producing John Lyons, and Brian Jacob for the show music. And thank you to the entire Catalog & Cocktails fan base. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review, wherever you listen to your podcasts.