Can’t Buy Me Love – Happiness in Analytics

It is a good time to be in Analytics. Sure, we have our challenges – our work is not as frequently associated with revenue growth as it will someday be and there are too many different ways to measure Unique Visitors, but our services are relatively in demand. We are expanding further into the enterprise from the web to multiple platforms. And thanks to Moneyball, we now have Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as the patron saints of Analytics. Not too shabby!

But what does industry recognition mean for us personally? We spend the best hours of our day measuring customer behavior, but as Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen asked in his recently published book(1), how will we measure our lives? How can we ensure our careers map to our passions, our ethical standards and our happiness? Happiness, however measured, is what we are really after anyway, right?

I recently read an article in UCLA’s alumni magazine(2) about happiness and how it can be cultivated. According to Professor Rakesh Sarin, socializing with friends, enjoying meals and having a positive outlook actually brings us closer to happiness than winning a mega-jackpot. He went on to argue that an excessive focus on compensation and net worth could ultimately be counter-productive in our quest for happiness.

Professor Sarin recently published a book with Manel Baucells called Engineering Happiness: A New Approach to Building a Joyful Life(3). One of the themes of the book is that if we can quantify our degree of happiness, we can take corrective action when we encounter periods of unhappiness and set goals toward achieving a more fulfilling life. Have a rough day de-duplicating UVs? Take note of your emotional temperature and be sure to offset with something positive like a bike ride or a visit with friends. This isn’t terribly original, but it does take effort to measure oneself.

Come Together

I recently participated in a huddle conversation at XChange Berlin on the topic of Career Management. The conversation was enlightening for the diversity of perspectives. One participant commented that they love what they do because every day is different. Someone else said they know they are in the right place because they are excited to go to work everyday. I came away from the conversation with a plethora of inspiring ideas for how to look at my career satisfaction.

Even if we love our jobs, as many of us do, there may still be room for improvement. As analytically minded people what action can we take to maximize our career happiness? Consider the following questions:

–          What is the core mission of your company or division? Are you passionate about this mission?

–          Who are the influencers in your organization? Do they know you? Are they relying on your work? If not, what can you do about that?

–          What can you do now to pave the way for Analytics contributing to your company’s quarterly financial results in two years? Are you energized to make this vision a reality?

–          Are you still learning? What skills do you feel prompted to strengthen?

–          Can you see people from your company’s Analytics practice taking their skills into general management? Can you see yourself doing this? If so, how?

–          Imagine your company successfully accomplishing its goals. Are you enthusiastic about being associated with that success?

What do your responses say about your current career satisfaction? What should you do next?

The McKinsey Global Institute said last year that, “there will [in the coming years] be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data.(4)” This shortage will be most acute, according to McKinsey, at the management and analyst levels; in those functions that possess the knowledge to use big data to make the right decisions.

One might be tempted to use this forecasted growth as an opportunity to maximize compensation, which may lead to job-hopping. While there are a number of reasons for changing jobs, Professor Sarin’s happiness research indicates that we should also place significant value on non-salary factors. How much time can we spend with loved ones? Are we able to contribute to the well-being of others? Are we enjoying good food? Are we passionate about the work? Is it consistent with our values?

And In The End

In a TED talk delivered in March 2012(5), Regina Dugan, then Director at DARPA asked “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” She suggested that amazing things start to happen when we refuse to fear failure.

Could it be that amazing happiness is just around the corner as we refuse to over-value our salaries and promotions and give due focus to the quality of our relationships, the service and love we provide to others, and the causes we devote our energies toward every day, both at work and within the walls of our home? I hope we can take advantage of the tremendous gifts we have been given to bless the lives of others. Opportunities to do so abound. It is up to us to prioritize our commitments, make a plan consistent with those priorities and work that plan. This outward focus is a proven path to true, quantifiable and lasting happiness.

[1] Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon, How Will you Measure Your Life?, (Harper Business, 2012)

[2] Norma Meyer, “Engineering Happiness,” UCLA Magazine, July 1, 2012, 6

[3] Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin, Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, (University of California Press, 2012)

[4] “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity,” last modified May 2011,

[5] “From mach-20 glider to humming bird drone,” filmed March 2012,