Beginning of a Journey 2/2

This article is the second part (see first part) of my article explaining my Journey to Analytics and career development. This part will be less focus on human growth but more on actual “career development” – if you think of curiosity driven job search a career plan 😀 .
I will try to show the salary and (some) learning of each career step I took as we are now entering the real career part of my journey.

At the end of my last post, I was teasing my departure to the U.S. but the whole process on how I got there is already a story.

United States of America (2010-2012)

Everything started as I was still in my final internship. My goal was to be able to go abroad for my early career as I really like(d) to discover new cultures and new countries. A way to do that in France is to participate on a “VIE” programme (international voluntary program that was kind of an option instead of military service – which doesn’t exist in France anymore).
In these positions, a company get a position promoted by the French government in order to develop the company abroad.

A position was open for Palo Alto, CA, during my internship and I wanted badly to apply. Unfortunately, I had a family weekend at that time with my girlfriend at the time. Due to a lack of internet connection, I couldn’t apply in time for the position and the position was receiving application anymore. It would be normally over after such start.
However, I wanted that position so badly that I went to the interview event with a friend, who was interview for a different position (you needed to be invited to enter the event, so I pass as her boyfriend) and before all the interviews start, I jumped in and placed my CV on the table.

After 5 minutes waiting, and letting the recruiter get ready on her table, I jump on her and told her casually that I have been directed here as my profile could be interesting. To that, she answered that my CV was on the table so she could spent 5 minutes chatting with me.
The rest is history, I got the job even if I didn’t get an appointment for the position beforehand. I knew afterwards, that the position had a hidden requirement of knowing… Joomla! (so internship did finally paid off)
When asked about Joomla, I said that obviously I get around it, even thought I forgot everything. So next thing I know after getting the job is to buy a book on it and work on my laptop to learn PHP and Joomla (again).

My position was at Palo Alto but I decided to live in San Francisco, precisely in Outer Richmond. I found a flat pretty easily and obviously I got a convertible (old red VW). I was technically employed by the French government and detached to Criteo.
I couldn’t give you my salary back then because it was something fix every quarter following some administrative rules, but I was living OK. The real good thing is that I had french vacation (5 weeks!). It was monstruous for the US and I really enjoyed that time.
I went to LA, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, I took the “1” along the coast and went for San Diego.
After a year, I moved to New York where I lived for 8 more month in the U.S. (in Brooklyn, next to Propect Park). Even though I liked the city very much, I would have preferred the Californian side.
In any case, that proved the point that talking about United State of America as a single entity is a big exageration (as for any country mostly) and I can definitely understand why New Yorker and Californian people see each other as different people (in movies mostly).

My experience at Criteo was focus on maintaining the website, trying to do SEO and SEM. I discovered a lot of new resources online such as Moz (and its famous “Whiteboard Friday” – call out if my company reads this and wants me to do this kind of stuffs for Analytics) and I started to learn programming a bit, but very a bit. I knew what changes to make in order to obtain my results but little I understood the concept of programming (object oriented, or just variable and scopes).

At that time, learning SEO, I was feeling a bit of a hacker already and it was me vs Google and how you can leverage the technics to improve your ranking.
Criteo being a B2B company, the challenge on itself was not very fun in the long run so I didn’t see myself staying. I like to learn and try new things but very little I could learn there, at least from someone, I was looking for a mentor without knowing it.

Learning: If you really want something, never give up.

Aposition / iProspect (2012-2013)

Coming back to France, I went back in Paris where 90% of the job offer was at that time (and probably still is) and applied to SEO consultant position. This was my first “real job interview”, in a sense that I had to do salary negociation and let say that it was pretty bad. As usual, my lack of confidence on what I could bring to the company got me to be paid pretty low. It was OK for the beginning.
To be honest, I had a lot to learn, especially on this agency because Aposition used to be the leader on SEO consultancy in France with very advanced technics at that time. I started at 27 K. For Paris, it was / is low, very low.
We had our own crawler, our own log analyzer, analytics data could be used to analyze the discrepancy between googlebot crawls and user visits seeing if there was low hanging fruits.

At that job I learned lots of things, especially that automating things can be achieved with a bit of coding. It was like magic to me and from that time I took on my self to learn a bit of bash (that I forgot since) and linux commands to improve my productivity. I see that kind of technical setup to be a way to focus on interesting tasks. Removing the boring and repetitive tasks.
At that time, I started to learn Python (in 2012, before the “hype”) and it was a long journey as I didn’t have any programming concept in mind and no tutorials existed like there is now in Youtube.
I learned a lot of them through a mentor and it was the best time of my career so far, I never really had one like that since then. He taught me a lot of things regarding mindset on programing and even though I had to learn a lot on my own, he always gave me the direction(s) to go and gave feedback straight, honest but still encouraging. He never took his role as a mentor seriously, I was more of sparing partner. Through my dumb questions, I opened doors for new possibilities and then we tested them together. There I learned, that there is never dumb questions, just people lazy to answer the questions or test the possibility (because it defies correct reasoning sometimes).

I was doing 8 am to 8 pm, working and learning. It was exciting time and I developed a lot of technical knowledge during that time. Some that are still relevant today, some that I forgot but even the ones I forgot indirectly helped me through their concepts.

In the span of a year and hald, I went from Junior to Lead Consultant for key accounts. My position moved, I was now teaching other consultants on my technics for analysis. However, my paid didn’t budge a bit so the situation couldn’t last.
I really liked the analysis part of my job so I was looking for an analytics job.

Learning: With lots of work, you can acquire knowledge to (almost) anything.

Adversitement (2013 – 2015)

After my position as SEO consultant I went to Analytics consultant to an agency that was own by a Netherland company but established in France with 5-6 people. This company was a partner to Adobe so I learned Adobe Analytics (Site Catalyst at that time). There my paid increase drastically to 40K per year. A much better pay for my level of experience and capability.

It was before DTM (Launch now) so I had to do s_code changes and learned JS. I loved it and I learned it in 6 months (I was / am not a front end dev but I kn[e/o]w my way around) I found it super powerful. The fact that it is very flexible is a huge advantage when you want to learn programming. Now I know that it is DEFINITELY not a good first programming language because lots of bad habits come from learning it first.
I was still learning Python on the side but I didn’t have anyone to show me the rope(s) so it was harder to get into it contrary to JS. Because I didn’t know enough Python, I couldn’t apply my learning at work so it was really more out of curiosity.

I was using VBA a lot at that time to make the most of the ReportBuilder option. I was not very good at it but enough to have something working. I still consider VBA as a good first language because quite unforgiving. Also it forces you to “type” your dimensions.

During that job experience, it was the first time that I was going in house as a consultant. Spending 4 days out of 5 at a client office. The partner was tough, rough to say the least. I remember wanting to quite several times as I was feeling more or a punching bag than a consultant. I had to know everything and I never allow to do mistakes (which obviously the partner never did…. if he did one, it was because I didn’t inform him/her that it was a mistake).
This phase taught me too be more resilience and a lot on Adobe Analytics and DTM.
I really enjoyed working with the guys there, they are quite smart and taught me a lot on the tools and analytics mindset (that I already had).
They were having very different backgrounds and personalities, and at the end, it was quite fitting together. A small team requires you to be agile and that I like(d) a lot, and I miss it on a big structure like today. The management was relax and counting on everyone trying its best, which obviously I did but I recognized that not everyone played the game fairly.

Nevertheless, I wanted to go abroad again as my thirst of adventure and cultural curiosity was not really filled in Paris. Also Paris is so big that I never felt like I could fit in.

Learning: Everyone can not do everything. Different point of views is important.

Autoscout24 (2015 – 2017)

For the first time, I didn’t go to the next job because my job didn’t satisfy me, I was just not feeling it in Paris, in France in general. I was loosing myself there. I like being a bit outside my comfort zone.
After considering several options (Amsterdam, London, Stuttgart) I joined Autoscout24 as A/B test Manager in Munich. Autocout24 is a platform where you can find used cars.
Cars in Germany are a big thing as one can imagine so used cars is also a big thing. The company is a lead generation website.
For me, it was the next steps after analyst. You first analyze, then you drive actions from your analysis. So it was naturally fitting there. I developed lots of JS / jQuery knowledge working on Optimizely and with Google Analytics as Analytics backend. This is where I found that Google Analytics 360 (the solution used at that time) was good but not really an analytics tool. It was/is a reporting tool, lots of sampling for your analysis that skewed your low traffic pages or tests.

I didn’t stay long there, the paid was good and atmosphere fun but my boss got fired 1 month after my arrival and from there, I was having hard time making myself visible on the org chart. Not a problem of skills or demand as people came to me for things to do but problems of organizational structure.
Also, I saw that A/B testing is very ingrate (sorry Adobe Target colleagues 😉 ), you need to have lots of preparation, it takes usually lots of time, for the test and the analysis. Unfortunately, at the end, the HiPPO can decide the next steps, not your analysis. You could prove A>B with all the facts, if the HiPPO decided it was B, then it was B. Really frustrating. Lack of data driven management and very low on the maturity ladder are usually the reasons for that but it doesn’t make your job more acceptable to know that.

I learned that there are so much you can achieve without organization backup. Being well presented in the org chart is important, even if you cannot always do something about it. (so don’t stress about it 😉 )
I also started to touch a bit on product management, I was responsible for a team of developers in order to feed them with new ideas to implement.
At the end, I ended up with 2 teams of developers, doing backlog, grooming and reviews. Scrum (or agile concepts to be more vague) was barely known to me beforehands, it was my second nature afterwards. I also developed a keen sence of documentation. If it is not documented, it didn’t / doesn’t exist

I also used my time there to improve my python skills to automate my tasks and start to learn German. As I didn’t know any german, my landing was rough… On every day basis, it is OK but at work, it may be a blocker for some people to talk to me. Fair enough, I am in Germany so I need to improve (learn) on that part but to all german people reading this:
I think you don’t realize how hard it is to learn it 😀 (5 years and counting).

I got paid 55 K€ there and it was more than enough to start in Munich, because I was not being really challenged, neither really listened to, I ended my position pretty fast. The company probably has changed since then, re-structuration there were going on yearly basis for a time.

Learning: Try your best to be identifiable in the org chart.

Learning 2: When not busy at work, hone or learn new skills. It will eventually pay off.

Zooplus (2017 – 2019)

Zooplus is an ecommerce website for pet food. The leader in Europe.
Originally, I did not plan to work at Zooplus, then I didn’t want to work for Zooplus.
I was not really looking for a job but a recruiter called me to propose me a job at a german company. It was not Zooplus and I didn’t get the job. However, by a lot of improbable coincidences, I was made aware that the guy having the position was leaving Zooplus. As you know the situation that I was in my previous company, I applied there bu also to an agency called Feld M. I did my interviews at Feld M and everything clicked very well, they didn’t know that but I was really “in” to join them. We discussed python, Adobe Analytics, and lots of interesting topics. It is a medium agency with very smart people and I was hoping to get back to my Adversitment days.
I went to the Zooplus meeting just by pure courtesy, not really interested in the position anymore. However, after the interview I really connected to the team and the challenge there. There was everything to do there.
Feld M didn’t play its advantage very well and I ended up choosing Zooplus.

I was right at the end, as I had a blast setting up Adobe Analytics from the ground up. I was responsible of an Analytics implementation of a massive e-commerce website and no one knew a thing of what I did. I could screw up massively. I believe I didn’t and set up things nicely.

My boss was/is very nice and always trying the best to encourage me and understand what I was doing even though I had more experience than her in the fields and I can be a bit difficult to follow in my thought process. She had more experience in the company and its machinery. We were very complementary and even if it was hard socially at the beginning.
I didn’t connect to anyone, neither anyone tried to connect to me, except my team and a guy called Markus (if you read this, I never forgot 😉 ). As a very lonely and social distant person, I don’t mind …but… as I left and made very good friends there, I cannot but feel sad on the time lost when we just couldn’t take 5 minutes to introduce ourselves (me as well as them). Nowadays, even though I am not the most social person, I am trying to force myself as it can make the difference to new people.

Everything really kicked in when we launched a program to teach online marketers analytics, I played then the role of mentor to people the same way that my mentor very back in the day.
I believed I set a spark(s) to some colleagues and I inspire some interns that thanked me for the time I took for them.
As I was alone managing a billion euro analytics implementation and reporting, I hone my skills on python to automate tasks (learned when I was less busy on my previous positions).
I may have been busy but I tried to answer every requests so people could see the value of Adobe Analytics.
And they saw it … from me on my desk, it went to 4 people help, we recruited 3 other colleagues to help me maintain and improve the implementation and reporting. I believe it is now even more people taking care of that.

In that position, I learned my first management skills, how to try to motivate people, speak to different level of management and be more than efficient on the very little time you have to realize your tasks (not in meeting). I also put lots of pressure on myself so my colleagues were happy, some sleepless night were not due to over work but from pressure I had put on myself for proving value of the tool to my colleagues and my new recruitees (proving they made the right choice by coming to the department).
I had a range of internal partners that made my job very interesting. In a 3 hours time span, I could discuss Database schema design (SQL & NoSQL), cache implementation on servers and business reports & objectives with Product Managers.
I really used and applied everything I learned there, becoming quite a single point of contact regarding online data from technical to business. Being 30 and feeling like you actually do (some things) good was nice… but in the back of my mind, I was feeling that I could probably be learning more.

Am I the single eye man in the middle of a blind crowd ?

There was nothing new to learn for me at Zooplus, no mentor to look for. I could wait my time to go up on a management position but this was not for me, I am not the patient type and my thirst of learning is always getting bigger.

By the way, my salary increased to 65K € (+ bonus) at that position, and it was a fair pay for the amount of work I was putting there. One of the thing was also to take a bit of distance with your work, as much fun as it is.
I know how it can be that your work is so fun that you do not feel it is work anymore but you still need to have energy for other things. A career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Learning: Take time for yourself and for new comers.

Learning 2: Teaching is learning

Adobe (2019 – …)

We are now approaching the end of the post. I started mid 2019 at Adobe as a consultant.
I will not go into much more details there because this is still in-progress but I definitely learned a lot about different solutions there.

My knowledge of Adobe Analytics was really good beforehand but I learned about Audience Manager and more importantly, I actually started my blog.

I was always looking for Jan Exner blog back in my Zooplus days and wished he tackled some topics that never came…. So when started, I decided to share my knowledge and tackle the topics I wanted him to tackle through my blog. I also decided to share my python wrapper on my github as well and as people requested to be more and more official, I published them on pypi. The rest is probably known to you now…
As I am more famous for the Adobe Analytics API 2.0 wrapper now, my first one was about Launch by the way.

My philosophy (as consultant) is always to make myself useless for the clients through knowledge transfer. It is probably counter intertuitive to how people look at agencies, trying to increase the number of hours sold. However, I think it increases the client satisfaction, and I do not want to do the same task ad vitam aeternam. Usually, there are so much variety of work to do in our field that when the clients are satisfied, they often find another mission for me. Actually, my current clients are ons that requested to work with me again…
More than my knowledge, I think (personal opinion here) that they like the mindset. I may not know everything but always try my best to get the answer and being transparent on it.

I also have the chance to have very nice customers, I learned during my previous experiences that they could be very difficult to handle and I have nice colleagues to back me up when needed.
As said before, I am always filled with a thirst of learnings and the Adobe Experience Platform rise proved that I made the right choice to come to Adobe.
I hope to learn a lot on how to manage large data from multiple sources thanks and have effective pipelines for actions on data driven setup.

I just hope to continue writing an interesting journey in the future even though my life changed recently with the arrival of my first child.
So the journey will probably has a slightly different focus now.

Learning: … in progress...

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