In this episode Scott Taylor, The Data Whisperer and Principal Consultant for Meta Meta Consulting, talks about how to tell a better story so that your company can focus on the importance of data management. Scott also talks about the importance of knowing your business and his experience working in consulting.
This is buffalo state data talk, the podcast where we introduce you to how data is used and explore careers that involve data.
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Buffalo State Data Talk.
I'm your host Brian Barrey thank you for joining us for episode 21.
Today we'll be talking to Scott Taylor, the Data Whisperer.
Scott is a principal consultant for Metameta consulting, where he helps tech brands tell their data story.
Welcome to the show Scott!
First of all great to be here thanks for having me Brian delighted to be here the Buffalo State podcast go Bengals I got Benji here for you watch out you gotta be a part of the tiger team so
I love it
That's a good mascot to have if you're looking to be an agile data science.
To start us off can you tell us how you help businesses to manage their data and tell their data story?
I help and try to educate and share thoughts with business leaders and data leaders at every kind of enterprise
about the power and value of data management at the strategic level and you can kind of boil my data philosophy down to three words truth before meaning. So you want to determine the truth in data which is data management
before you derive meaning out of it. From business intelligence clearly I'm on the truth team hence the meaning of my truth hat here but you need to continually reinforce that message. When I work with enterprises I help kind of evangelize what I provide is what's called data evangelism as a service. Getting people excited and jazzed up about data management, which frankly is generally looked at as a back office clerical old-time boring kind of exercise, but do we know any data scientists who aren't out there bragging about how they spend 80 percent of their time munging and wrangling. Data munging data wrangling data can be reduced if you are working more directly with the data management side so I truly believe that.
I want to help stamp out munching and wrangling in our lifetime we may not get rid of all of it but at least some of it and the purpose of a lot of my work is as you mentioned telling the data story of the importance of data management and why data management will help enable the strategic intentions of an enterprise.
Anybody doing anything in technology is going to need data management technology hardware software data. If you have data you need data governance data management data stewardship all those kinds of things.
Yeah, I agree. So now that we have an idea of what you do can you tell me about what a typical day or week looks like for you like? For instance, how's your time split between collaboratively working and working independently?
My days are never the same. It's hilarious so I smiled when I saw that question. I tend to set up certain types of days so today is a recording day I've got your podcast I've got a live stream an hour after this I'm doing an interview show for a client where I'm a host. We interview experts in location data every month so for me today is a recording day so I'm all fired up I'm in performance mode here I'm ready to emote and sing to the camera.
Yesterday I had four prep meetings for recordings so that was just more interactive talking to clients talking to other producers there are days where I just spend on creative I do a lot of videos uh podcasts like yours webinars but creating decks creating content for the brands that I work with so I don't have two days that are alike much less two weeks that are like, which is part of what I love about what I'm doing as an independent content creator. I try to convince my kids that Kim Kardashian and I have the same job only I'm just b2b. I don't do the consumer stuff so no bikinis no nothing but at its essence how do you help amplify somebody's message how do you support what they're trying to do how do you attract the right kind of audience to the messages that they're trying to create.
Yeah so a lot of different stuff every day huh that's cool. So so what is the favorite part of your
Favorite part I mean is the creative stuff. It's doing this, it's being live on camera. I love doing events as well so both digital but especially physical on stage. I think I have a fear of not public speaking. And I do as many of those as I can, but I love hosting events, emceeing, running panels, trying to get as you do trying to get the stories out of folks and that's really my favorite part.
Yeah I think I saw um a bunch of the events on your website.
Yeah there's a ton I have barely updated it yet and I do some crazy stuff so for those listening you should check out my YouTube channel I've got cartoons, I read a data a bedtime story to my grandson called the little red data hen which is about the uh kind of a cautionary tale about the lack of support for data governance, I do a puppet show with the puppets of data I got a couple of them here we got the CDO the chief dog officer and the itb who speaks only in buzzwords so I will not do their voices but I do them on the video, and obviously try and take a more entertaining, engaging approach to what is still a very serious important discipline, data management
I talk about one thing garbage in garbage out. But you've got to come up with new ways to talk about it. But I really focus on that the essence of that and why that's not just a slogan or a cute little meme somewhere it really is cause and effect and I like to say good decisions you make on bad data are just bad decisions you don't know about yet yeah you've got to have that core content that foundational structured content going into almost everything you do operationally and analytically at an enterprise
Cool um I have to play some of those shows for my daughter
Yes I'll put some links
So um and I want to talk about your career path. You have a bachelor's in history, how did you end up working with data?
What a question! Yes ,how how did that happen. There's a direct line between studying European history 18th and 19th century and working in data. I was studied history in school it gave me a really wide breadth of experience in terms of understanding, you know, kind of the dynamics of politics and and and civilization. I also did, in case you didn't notice, or guess I did a lot of dramatic arts work so I did plays all the time I did a lot of theater I love I draw on that training almost every day if not every day and looking at kind of a through line both of those disciplines this isn't as direct as it might seem are about storytelling and I got into data from the storytelling side so sales marketing strategy how do you convince an enterprise of the benefits of what you have to offe.r I came at it from the supplier side too so work for some world-class iconic data brands like nielsen done in bradstreet kantar these are just leaders in their space and were in the data business long before it was cool or any enterprise thought that they were in the data business too. I mean these are true yeah very long time long time legacy data providers. But both of them especially, dun and bradstreet and nielsen had trouble telling the story of why the data they had was of strategic importance. They spent a lot of time on how it's done. I like to focus on the why.
While I was at nielsen in this master data, reference data kind of service. wW had to talk to enterprises about their master and reference data activity especially in their customer side and every enterprise has customers they all have relationships they all have master data. Those of you who are listening if you don't understand and realize what master data reference data and metadata are go read up on that because those are the true foundational piece parts to everything you do with data in an organization.
So at nielsen I helped them tell a better story. That was the essence of it looking back, on hindsight I can kind of put this nice thematic approach. I didn't walk in there going I'm going to help you tell a better story, but I was in sales. The first day they walk in they show me this thick sales deck and before the manager even opened it up I went 'that's too long', whatever this is and they start going through page after I'm like I'm paid to understand this and I don't care there's no wonder this business isn't doing very well. And I did you know to brag a little bit I re helped reposition the brand almost all of that was about a better story the capabilities were awesome but we were going to die with our secret if we didn't tell the right people about it. And transform the business grew over 10 times its size I went from the bottom rung line sales person to a to the general manager of the business over the the 15 years I was there and it was I never looked back.
I loved it and learned a lot from clients about what they were doing with this data how it was being integrated how master data, unique keys standard hierarchies consistent categorizations, common geographies really enabled so much of what they did operationally and analytically enterprise systems were starting to be implemented things like sap was new when you move from these old legacy systems to a new enterprise system this is still something that happens today you've got to really look at the data you're bringing over you don't want to bring this crappy data over into a new system the system won't work as well and that's the functionality that's the capability we provided was structuring, cleansing, maintaining that kind of data core content.
Fast forward to donna bradstreet same thing, same situation and I helped them tell a better story. I helped them tell a better story create a narrative that their CEO on down could explain the value of master data and why it was important to every enterprise. So my through line here I come to data from the storytelling side not technical I've never done the work I talk about I just am really good at talking about it and that's you know today. I sit hereas just a guy who talks about how people talk about data.
Yeah I mean it's it's so necessary a company to kind of change their mindset about data and really kind of change the way they're doing things.
So we have a lot of listeners that are you know in high school or college so what education or training would you recommend to someone who is interested in being a data scientist?
Figure out all the technical stuff. You're gonna have to do that I'm not the guy for that so whether it's you know R, or Python, or SQL, or nosq,l or MySQL. I'll do a whole riff on how ridiculous those names are. MySQL by the way doesn't mean it's my sequel it's named after the daughter of the guy who created it. That's a really good example of the problem in the data space these ridiculous terminology noSQL, if you know what no stands fo,r it means not only. When I heard that I just it blew my mind. It's the data space is the only area where no means yes I just don't understand it.
The advice I can give is learn the business. Learn your business understand the dynamics of business if you don't know what business you're going into and then once you get a role somewhere learn the business as much as you can. The advice I gave my children when they went out in business is you it's impossible for you to learn too much about the business you're in and data can help every part of a business there isn't another part of a business that can help every part of a business in the way data can so it helps sales, it helps marketing, helps operations, finance, legal, executive level, field level. Tell me another department that does that.
So most of these vertical departments that you go into and enter gauge engage with are kind of siloed and so on data can bring this horizontal value. Learn the business and you will find the problems that data can solve. They do not spend time figuring out something in a petri dish and try to sell it to the organization that's along way in. Start by talking to sales people talking to marketing people, talking to operations, finance any of those other disciplines hear their problems and you'll find a data solution. But learn your business and the most important part of it is what do you make and how do you get it to the people who gain value from it. It could be digitally over the internet it could be created and manufactured in a factory which then goes on a truck which goes in a warehouse which goes on another truck which goes in a store which goes in a cart that goes in a consumer's kitchen. Whatever it is, all the more complicated they go to market the more data opportunities are there to help.
The four things that data does helps grow the business, improve the business, protect the business, sustain the business. That's the four areas of value but short answer version of it is learn your business.
Yeah that's excellent advice. I I completely agree.
So could you tell us how you got into consulting?
I got in consulting I left nielsen and I had this very particular skill sort of a particular set of skittles as it might be articulated in helping data providers productize and position their master and reference data assets. And to give a little example of what I mean by that if you think about a really fancy data visualization technique let's call it a table people are really good at columns they're not good at aligning the rows. So analytics to oversimplify it for dramatic effect those are the columns, those are the indicators KPIs percentage, share numbers, transactions. Whatever those happen to be but the columns are about the rows and if you have the rows right you can add more columns. It's the simplest way I can explain it. So I was in the row business a lot of analytics companies a lot of data companies are in the in the column business. As in a row business and if you can provide again speaking metaphorically at least the rows to an organization it's really powerful.
At nielsen the rhones were brands they were locations they were retailers at d and b the rows were different segments of an enterprise or a company so finding companies that had this potential to really leverage these master and reference data assets was a unique skill. I found a bunch of opportunities I worked with another consultant under his umbrella to do that but they're hard to find. So I went that went to donna brad street after down in brad street I started doing more consulting but now I've gone into more the content side which I find like somewhere between 100 and a million times more fun and satisfying. There's some challenges you know what do people what I like and dislike about being a consultant. It's fun because you can go in and you've you know the one thing if you want to be a consultant they didn't hire you to say yes so you've got to find the problems they got plenty of yes people in their own organization believe me and when you go into an organization you start to feel the politics you can see this dynamic it's like going to somebody's family for dinner and watching them kind of give each other shots or somebody's angry with somebody else. You kind of get attuned to that to figure out the political landscape what's fun is being creative enough and on your feet and on the ball to understand and hear a problem and come back and say here's what I think can help you.
The thing I like the least about it is they hardly ever listen to you. I was an independent consultant I came in what I thought were great ideas but you know then you got to take that and do it. Now I do events as a consultant now I consult with people on how to amplify their message on creating webinar kind that's you know they got to listen to you because you're doing it. But consultancy is really important again they don't hire you to say yes you better be on the ball and goes back to that understanding their business can you understand that company's business do you know enough about the premise of business to be able to go into a bank, or media company, or an automotive manufacturer, or a packaged goods manufacturer and still recognize the essence of their business without knowing the category of the sector.
There are some it's like businesses are like bodies they all were all made of the same things different personalities different outlooks different skills. But at our essence every business at the enterprise level is trying to do the same thing and is built on these same foundational elements.
Yeah that makes a lot of sense
So, um, are you still able to set aside time for professional development and if so what kind of activities do you do I do?
I mean I got to get better what I do what I do now is in communication I just recently stumbled on this ted talk called 110 techniques of communication public speaking by Savid Phillips. So he puts up this post and I'm like this is my kind of stuff. So he's got a class about all 110 of them and for me I just want to get better and better and better at the communication element of it even though I know I am good at it you still need coaching you still need training if you want to focus on that sort of thing. And I also found a book recently called look me in the eye the how to get better at virtual communication and so I'm starting to read that one these are things that you know people probably think all right well you know you're good at it you already do it but you you know everybody needs coaching you can always get better and what I found too no matter what you're doing if you find an expert in that field and they say here are 10 things you have to do and you're already doing eight of them or five of them take that as validation. That's what I do I go oh they said do these I don't take it as I already know that I take it as oh wow I'm doing those five things that's great here's three more that are applicable here's two I would never do. But don't be afraid to go into an area where you think you're an expert and find other expertise around it because you are going to learn something
Yeah so you're quite active on LinkedIn, um how do you use this to grow your professional network and personal brand?
I wouldn't have a business right now without LinkedIn. With a big breakthrough for me this might seem kind of a little, you know, obvious to some of the younger folks out there but I realized oh it's social media and so there this social I've made true absolute what I believe will be lifelong friends on LinkedIn. There's a group of us that hang out together you've had some of them on the show Susan Walsh the classification guru, George Firican. I love both of them and we spent a couple years together online before we even met in person and it's really helped me and almost all my business now inbound comes from LinkedIn people seeing my stuff posting videos but you know doing what I can do for folks and the puppet show took off on LinkedIn the little red data handbook took off on LinkedIn. So it's been a real lifeline for me and especially when Covid hit. I don't know how I would have survived without that. But it's been the most important tool I've used in my business has been LinkedIn
So if someone was interested in data science what resources would you suggest our listeners check out?
There's probably a lot of classic ones that people have named, I certainly think you might want to check out my book telling your data story data storytelling for data management. Tt's 99% buzzword free
I did want over promise but I wrote it to help data managers and data leaders create that narrative but I also wrote it with the data science world in mind because I think it does a really solid job of explaining business and the connection of data to business from a fundamental operational side and how data management enables analytics and business intelligence and data science. But I specifically I mean even in the intro it's like here are the audience types I'm going after so that would be one its a quick read it's got pictures it you know talks about a lot of that kind of framework side but I explain in really simple business-like terms.
Beyond that go find a lot of these social media folks so there's you know Kate Strachani, if you don't follow her you should, Andrew Jones, there's uh Dave Langer, there's a bunch of folks that are part of uh we call ourselves the date avengers and we do a lot of content and support each other. I guess KDnuggets. I don't spend a lot of time there because I don't understand a lot of it. So I won't give you any of the heavy data science stuff learn that other side because munching and wrangling is wasting too much of your time. If you can find ways to fix that, I don't know another role, if you say you're spending 80 of your time doing something that is not your role then what is your role?
Sounds like something uh artificial intelligence can help with right
You wanna, you want you wanna reduce that prep time as much as possible yeah so learning about the data management side I think would help you
So what advice would you give someone who's interested in working as a data analyst?
Focus on the on the why. Nobody cares about how you do stuff your manager might in terms of technique but if you're helping your enterprise get value out of data. I don't know a CEO who cares about how you're doing something until they understand the why. There's plenty of books, Simon Sinek did a great you know does a great job about why he didn't invent it he really helped kind of amplify it but it's always the most important question why are you doing this
So finally uh before we let you go is there anything else you'd like our listeners to know that we didn't cover today?
Just follow me, take a look at my videos, all this wacky stuff if the book works for you we'll put a discount code somewhere in the in the show notes if you like.
Data is the only thing I believe can that can truly transform the nature of a business. When you look at these huge disruptors out there they are all based on data oriented data enabled data driven data inspired whatever you want to call it and it's an incredible opportunity it's been around for a lot longer than people give it credit for but I don't know another part of the organization that can transform itself like data can. So it's a really exciting business to be in and there's plenty to learn out there.
Yeah well thanks uh for joining us today it's a pleasure to talk to you and meet you.
Absolutely Brian this was fun went by as you as you mentioned went by really quickly but I certainly hope some of this uh some of my background has helped some of your listeners out there get excited and really validate the fact that they're in the right space they're doing the right things looking at the right kinds of opportunities.
Yeah totally. Scott thank you so much for joining us today and to all our listeners if you haven't already checked out our previous podcasts they are available wherever you listen to podcasts. For more information about starting your career as a data scientist go to dataanalytics.buffalostate.edu. Don't forget to subscribe so that you get notifications each time we release a new episode of buffalo state data talk.
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