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EP 52: Career growth in data roles (w/ Hubspot's Kasey Mazza at Coalesce 2023)
The career growth software development lifecycle
Kasey Mazza is an analytics engineering manager on the RevOps team at HubSpot. She presented at Coalesce 2023 on data careers, where she relates the software development life cycle to career phases, emphasizing the importance of focusing on skills and personal passion rather than titles or specific job roles. She has a strong background in analytics, math and mentoring her team members to help them find fulfilling and engaging career paths.
In this conversation with Tristan recorded at Coalesce 2023, Kasey Mazza discusses the roles of data analysts and analytics engineers, the allocation of time for different tasks, the importance of building internal data communities, and the evolving landscape of data teams.
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Key takeaways from this episode:
I'm sure that you've been working on your slides, you've been prepping, you're ready to go on stage. What's the big takeaway?
Kasey: The big takeaway is you should not be working towards titles or the next step in your career. Think about it as skills and grow specific skills. Think about what you want to learn in that way. Kind of thinking about them like Pokemon cards or something like that, where you're collecting skills.
Then you can use those combinations of skills and the things that really excite you to kind of fit that into a title or fit that into a role or an industry, but focusing on what energizes you first and what you're good at, then using that to grow your career. , sure.
Tristian: If I were going to just play devil's advocate for a minute, that seems like a perspective that takes money out of the equation. Is what you're saying that career satisfaction matters more than anything else, or that somehow, paradoxically, by not caring about titles, you will find that you will achieve titles and money without even that being the focus.
Kasey: I think my experience has been the latter. Following the things that I'm interested in and passionate about has led me to be more successful.
There's recognition and growth in that way, but just in general, I'm not saying, “quit your job and follow your passion.” I think you need to be logical and you need an income.
So my advice is: find ways to move within your current role that think about the skills that will help you to grow and then see where that takes you versus throwing everything away and deciding, I'd like to be a fisherman. Maybe be a fisherman on the side while you're being an analytics engineer too. It’s kind of finding that balance of what you are passionate about but don't throw away your current role either.
Can you talk to any examples of how you've coached people through different parts of their journey?
Kasey: I can give you an example from my own experience and then a coaching experience.
I was at a point where I was like, “Do I wanna be a data scientist?” I got my master's degree in business analytics, but it was really a data science program. So I was like, alright, this is interesting. And I, I took on a couple of projects, and in my role at HubSpot, I took on a couple of data science projects.
I did two of them. I really hated the feeling of there's no right answer, and it wasn’t good for the way that my brain works. I had a manager at the time who told me to just try out being a tech lead and see if I like management. So that's kind of the same approach that I use is to try out projects, take on little bits of this work, and then you can decide what path you want to go down before you fully commit to something.
So my coaching is a lot of, what do you like doing? What do you wish you were doing more of? I'll show them our project list at the beginning of every quarter and say, what here is interesting to you? What excites you? And I try to assign things in that way.
Thinking of data teams, can people be trusted with powerful tools or how much governance do you need to give them in any of these data tools you’re using?
Kasey: I am definitely the optimist here, which isn't true in every situation, I'll say, but here definitely. And I think HubSpot is biased in some ways. We have no employee handbook. We have a general Use Good Judgment philosophy, which is interesting to see scale.
I think the one caveat I'll add is you have to give people the right guardrails within those tools. Here's how our project structure works or something, even as simple as that, so it doesn't turn into chaos right away. However, I think generally, if you give people the tools, give them the right guardrails, they’ll be ok.
When we adopted dbt, we did it as a completely distributed team. There were analytics engineers across HubSpot that I had never met, but we were all working on the same project and you needed some degree of kind of alignment there, but we still were very empowered to use the tool in the way that we felt best.
What do you hope for the data industry in 10 years?
Kasey: I'm hoping that executives in the C-suite will see the value of data much more than they do today. I think we spend a lot of time explaining why what we're doing matters and how we're impacting the business. Because it's often like we built the data set that improved revenue, but we didn't actually improve the revenue.
We spend a lot of time telling that story. I'm looking forward to a world where the execs truly get it. And I think we're starting to see those data-minded folks in those positions, but that's what I'm looking forward to.
Tristan: But Hubspot has made a huge investment in data. You've clearly got believers, but you feel you have to continue to surface those wins and the impact?
Kasey: I think they see it. But they see it for the benefit of automation or for the benefit of AI. So they're seeing kind of the next layer above us versus seeing data purely as such a valuable asset.