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When I was asked to write a blog about “how I got to where I am today” I thought that maybe the intent was to have a quick summary of historical events followed by instant success, (e.g. “then I found Alteryx and my career really took off!”) In reality, it followed a more roundabout path. So instead of approaching this from a historical perspective, I want to focus on some core principles that have helped me get to where I am today and hopefully you can learn from them too.
Education – Never Stop Learning. Period. Once you land that first job you may find that all of the education you received in school didn’t prepare you all that well for the real world. Certainly, there are technical skills that you possess from a college education, but each company has its own way of doing things. What if a company uses a particular software that you didn’t learn in school? Who is accountable? Your boss, your co-workers, or you? Hit the books, watch YouTube videos, enroll in online courses, do whatever it takes to learn and then keep on learning after that. I have a degree in Geography/GIS and was a Geographer for the U.S. Census Bureau for several years before joining the Marketing Research department at Signet Jewelers. Had I ever conducted focus groups or surveys? No. Had I ever used the various software platforms I was introduced to at Signet? No. Did I learn? YES! On my own? YES! Which brings me to Alteryx. During the Great Recession, two of my team members were reassigned to other departments, which meant I was going to need a way to automate some of my processes. Had I ever used Alteryx before? No. Did I learn? YES! On my own? YES! That was more than ten years ago. In the past ten years have I learned even more about Alteryx? (What do you think?) I’m even learning a little Python. The “never stop learning” approach has led me to my being an Alteryx ACE today.
At those times you have to believe in a cause greater than yourself.
Persistence - There will be difficult times in your career. Persist. There will be change. There will be difficulties. That co-worker you enjoy going to lunch with will find another opportunity. Your friend that likes to talk sports will be let go. Bosses will come and go. Sometimes they are your friends and sometimes not. Sometimes they are people from inside the organization, sometimes they are from outside the organization. Sometimes it can be difficult, pressure-filled, deadline-driven, stressful, and overwhelming. Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will understand your vision or your motives. At those times you have to believe in a cause greater than yourself. You need to rely on your faith, and family, and friends. Persist. When you find out about Alteryx, your natural inclination may be to go tell as many people as possible. Sometimes the response might be: *YAWN* “that seems good – for you”. It doesn’t mean you are wrong. It may mean they don’t want to change. Stick to your guns. A constant drop of water can wear away a stone. You may face internal politics, you may face hoops to jump through. Jump through them. Nothing worth doing is ever easy! In my career I’ve faced many obstacles and overcome them simply by showing up. Persist.
Demonstrate value – You are at your company for a reason. Prove it. Live it. Make your insights actionable. When you can demonstrate if I do X, it results in Y and then make it happen, you are demonstrating value for your company. Many analysts fall into the trap of simply reporting data without providing any value. You want to be in a position where you not only understand what the data says, but based on that data, here’s what we should do. Does that involve risk? Yes. Everything in life carries with it some degree of risk. My team has been responsible for almost every sales forecast for every new store that we have opened in the last twenty years. Are we right every time? No. Does the overall result provide significant value to the company? YES! In terms of research, I had a boss tell me once that it was not enough to simply present the data, you had to tell the story. Let me be clear though, you are not providing value to your company if you make up the story and then use the data to support said story. Let the data tell the story. As my career progressed I moved from Marketing to Real Estate. The department was rich in data but locked up in various disparate sources. We have made significant progress within Real Estate in our ability to read the data and make data–driven recommendations using Alteryx. This has also led me to where I am today, bringing value to the enterprise, to the company as a whole, with a recent promotion to Director of Enterprise Analytics.
Mentoring – Nothing is more rewarding than seeing growth in others. This is not only rewarding, but critical to your success. No one person can produce what ALL of us can produce together. I find this to be a challenge sometimes when entering an already established team. There are sometimes those who think they know everything and are not receptive to change. I’ve learned the hard way to look for those who are open and receptive to development. This can be a formal agreement within your company as a mentor or sometimes mentorships can develop naturally within your supervisory role. One particularly receptive employee in my current organization has asked for books on analytics and will often challenge or debate various principles with me and has grown into a leader in his own right. Sharing with the community can also be a way to mentor your team. Your participation in local user groups, speaking engagements, and conferences not only helps the community at large, but what better way to mentor someone than allowing them to participate and play major roles in these events as well? The proof? Talk to any of my team members, all of whom are Alteryx Core certified and some who are Advanced. Today I have many people tell me, “You know what? You have an awesome team!” and I’d have to agree.
So, there you go. Not an exhaustive history of how I got to where I am today step by step and day by day, but basic principles that I’ve followed to get to where I am today. I hope these are insightful and will help you in your career, and that one day I can get to know more about you! If you will be at Inspire, please join me for Path to Brilliance: Building an Analytical Center of Excellence at Signet Jewelers – Thursday June 13, 2019 from 10:00AM to 10:45AM in Governor’s Ballroom B. See you there!
Gary Gruccio Alteryx ACE & Director of Enterprise and Market Analytics at Signet Jewelers
Gary grew up in northeast Ohio where he currently lives with his wife and kids. He's always had a passion for data - specifically geospatial data which led him to get his BS and MA in Geography from the University of Akron. In 1996, he went to work at the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit on the TIGER product for Census 2000. After the Census, he went to work at Signet Jewelers because they were looking for someone who could do geospatial analytics. He's held various roles within Marketing and Real Estate and currently leads a team of enthusiastic analysts. Follow him on LinkedIn here.