I’m Liz and I’m firmly a word person. My kindergarten teacher told me she knew she’d see my book in the library one day, and that proved prophetic when my first novel was published in 2008. Words come naturally to me. Numbers don’t.
Like, they really don’t. An elementary school teacher told my mom I was careless with calculations. I didn’t grow out of it. I got my lowest grade in four years at Penn State, a B minus, in the school’s easiest math class for Liberal Arts majors.
My career started at the magazine Highlights for Children (which you might remember from the dentist’s waiting room). Twenty years ago, I moved to Seattle and worked in a kids’ bookstore while getting my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Books happened. I wrote for magazines and websites. I took a full-time copy gig at a now-defunct online shoe retailer. That led to other online retail jobs. I was the first copywriter at Zulily. I learned about marketing there. Then I started doing content marketing jobs, and now I’m a content marketing director.
So imagine my surprise to find out I’m excited about data.
How I became data curious
In December, I started working at Falkon.
Making content for Falkon means understanding metrics, cohorts, attribution, and other concepts that have always sounded like a foreign language to me.
Clearly, there are words involved in my role (I’m writing some right now!). But to tell the story of this product and why it’s awesome, I need to deeply understand why myself.
Our CEO and Co-founder Mona talks about “data curious” people, people who understand the value of data but aren’t actually analysts or data scientists or any other data-centric kinds of people. Now I consider myself to be data curious.
The first thing I’ve learned: Yeah, analytics means numbers, but not in a mathy way. The math just happens, thanks to the geniuses who figure it out and program it.
During my time in the MFA program I mentioned, one seemingly small idea hit me hard. You’ll need a little background to understand: I’m what you might call an emotion-driven writer. I’m good at creating characters who feel things. I’m not good at building exciting plots.
One of my teachers, a fantastically emotional-type author herself, said: “Plot is nothing but characters doing things.”
Thinking of it that way totally freed me up.
And here’s what I’ve learned about data analytics: It’s nothing but stories.
Maybe you already know this, but it was not obvious to me.
Data is information and being able to understand that information tells you a story about what’s going on.
Then you can use that story to go make decisions about changes, which you could maybe even call plot twists.
Yeah, the information generally comes in the form of numbers. And math helps those numbers mean something. But if you’re doing this right, and I trust that Falkon is a tool to help people do this right, the math is done for you.
You get to skip right to comparing changes over time, finding out if any little metric characters have tossed a surprise at you, and generally getting a sense for how your business is rolling.
Of course, I will have to understand a lot of new concepts to understand methodologies, why certain metrics are helpful, and other fancy-seeming things. I’ve got a team of smart data scientists and engineers to learn from here, so I’m feeling good about my chances of becoming literate about business analytics.
(Literate. Get it?! 😂)
I’m guessing I’m not the only word nerd who’s ever found themselves curious about data. If you’re like me, come along as I share what I’m learning. The plan is to offer quick definitions, explanations, and insights as I add them to my brain files.
Let’s find out what happens when this different kind of story becomes readable.