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Summary: Elbows of data by Katie Bauer
To change the circumstances of data teams, look beyond tools, people and processes. Change the company culture.
Data tools have become more accessible and easier to use, but tech alone won’t change much. There’s also a shift in focus to processes and people (which is good!). But those alone are unlikely to change the circumstances of data teams.
Even with good data leaders, it’s hard for data folks to be successful no matter which people, processes, or technologies they put into place. The problem is company culture. Those who work for a company where data is the product are in a better position, but with persistence and positive belief, we all can elbow our way in and prove our value by driving the company forward, whether we are invited or not.
How to change the situation for the better
Make a habit of fact-finding
Find out what happens before and after a given request or project lands on your plate to understand the bigger picture:
engage with updates or newsletters
chime in on discussion threads to call out something that caught your eye
dive into the codebase to figure out how something works
ask to shadow people (e.g., participate in a sales call or support team’s channel).
Think how your work can be reused
Be a bridge and partner with other stakeholders. Tell them about your work that can help them:
provide context - ”I did this thing for team X, and it reminds me of project Y that you’re doing. Here’s the whole thing, but Z is probably the most interesting part for you”
but also share your work in a format that can be consumed without deep context.
Don’t wait to be asked - be proactive
Figure out what you can contribute and solve problems that don’t have an owner:
focused on providing value in a way that you are uniquely suited to and doing it without being asked
demonstrate the value of data work by solving company’s problems, even if the company hasn’t recognized that a problem is a data problem yet
Help colleagues understand the reasons why something takes as much time as it does - explain constraints such as legacy systems or lack of resources.
Core message & CTA
You don’t need a revolution to drive cultural change - you can always improve your circumstances by focusing on things you control, such as your habits and actions.
Teach others how you want to be treated, and elbow your way in.
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