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Tips for Data Management Novices

By Melanie Deardorff

As a lifelong learner, I’m always up for discovering new places, people and things. As a veteran marketer, the things are the thing I get excited about especially things related to digital marketing (my focus area). Starting my journey into the world of data management initially left me dazed and confused, but more than one year in I’ve learned a lot and have advice for data management novices and newbies (or wanna-bes) to make their journey easier.

My background is financial services and consumer marketing. When I joined the marketing team at First San Francisco Partners (FSFP) in early 2016, I knew my digital marketing focus area inside and out. But getting up to speed on the data management industry was out of my comfort zone. It filled me with dozens (hundreds?) of questions and occasional doubts, but I soon began soaking up all things data and could (as they say) start adding value.

Dazed and Confused? Key Tactics to Use

Here’s what I did to become familiar with and eventually thrive in my role as a marketer working in the data management industry:

  • Talk to people doing the work. At FSFP I’m surrounded by people with decades of industry experience. (Some of them literally wrote the book.) Fortunately, the company values communication and information-sharing, so it was easy to find people willing to talk about what they do. FSFP is virtual with employees and contractors working from home across the U.S. Since I couldn’t depend on cubicle drop-bys, I talked with these industry vets by email, phone, video chats, Slack and the occasional text message. Each interaction helped me grow my understanding of data management and bonus! — I felt more connected to my distributed teammates. (To learn more about FSFP’s remote work culture, read CEO Kelle O’Neal’s How We’re Making “Remote Work” Work story.)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask dumb* questions. I’ve known marketers who were more interested in appearing like they had all the answers. They held back their questions and/or didn’t suggest new approaches. But I forged ahead with my questions sometimes asking the same thing more than once to check my newly found assumptions and grow my understanding. I still find new things to question today, but the volume is smaller. (*We all know there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Or as astronomer and author Carl Sagan put it: There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world.)
  • Take advantage of online and in-person training and resources. In my role as a content and social media specialist, I’m online most of the day and evening. It’s second nature for me to research things I don’t understand, and I was pleased to see such great information online — and 99% of it is free and doesn’t require you to opt in to someone’s email list. (For example, check out DATAVERSITY’s on-demand webinars.) Also, I set up a dozen Google Alerts to notify me of key words and phrases, like data governance and big data, so I could keep current on breaking news, experts’ perspectives, new online resources and what other social media marketers were doing for their clients and employers. I also took advantage of a local data management association meetup, where I mixed and mingled with industry folks from Kansas City who came to hear a presentation by FSFP’s President John Ladley.
  • On-the-job training is great, but study on your own time, too. At FSFP, I had to do a mix of on-the-job and on-my-own training. You might find yourself in the same boat where you can’t depend on (or take advantage of) the time you’re on the clock for someone else. An investment in yourself and your future marketability is worth your personal time, though, so trade your social media and/or TV time for some professional development.
  • Don’t check your perspectives and experience at the door. I was in full-on learning mode starting off in the data management industry , soaking up information with hardly any time to add my own thoughts. But FSFP wanted to expand its marketing team and boost its social media and blogging presence, so I had to wear two hats — one of a student and one of a confident marketer.
  • Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process! Feeling like the only newbie in the (virtual) room can get tiring, but meeting new people and learning new things is invigorating and fun. Give yourself enough time to learn and also permission to have a few “What did I get myself into?” and “Am I cut out for this industry?” thoughts. You’ll get there!

Just Keep Swimming Learning

Despite all I learned in the last year-plus, I’m still a newbie to the data management industry. Stating the obvious, I’m not ready to be a thought leader or practitioner. But in my own way, I can (insert industry pun here) master data management. My goal was to get more comfortable in this world, while doing what I love as a marketer. Mission accomplished.

If you’re new to data management or think it’s an area you want to explore, rest assured you can learn what you need to learn and find meaningful work in this exciting, growing industry whether as a consultant, marketer, data governance lead or _____________ (insert your desired role here).

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