Data Strategist Ben Magnuson kicked off his career at a technology startup, and that entrepreneurial spirit has helped him transition from managing accounts to creating a role for the new Digital Strategy team.
In the following Q&A, Magnuson describes his experience as the first Data Strategist at One North and the mentorship program he introduced to the company in 2016.
Can you give us a quick breakdown of your career history?
I started out at the startup Groupon in 2010 working on a seven-person team. I was in charge of one of its digital products, including sales, set up and support. I was able to wear a lot of hats in that position, but I was also working with about 1,000 different customers a month.
From there, I started at One North as an Account Coordinator. Instead of checking off tasks and feeling like I was on an assembly line, I wanted to work towards long-term visions and build lasting client relationships.
Because of my experiences at the startup, I was very good at understanding the technical working of our digital services and the technology we used. I found myself doing a lot of strategic problem-solving, so I took a new position on the Digital Strategy team and simultaneously enrolled in a data course through General Assembly. This helped me get into data, analytics, reporting and analytics tools.
How do you fit into the Digital Strategy team?
Because of the nature of the team, I’m deeply embedded with the other strategists in our work. I am often pulled into digital workshops, helping clients plan long-term marketing goals and consulting on how to implement them. I also collaborate with the team by thinking critically about data, identifying possible issues and implementing the best decisions based off analytics. We use data to create an iterative system for digital programs.
In general, I feel more in my element in this new role. It’s interesting to be the first person in the data strategist position because I’ve been able to make it the most valuable for myself and the company. I’m able to learn from the people around me, experiment with processes, learn new technologies and define what works.
What do you bring to the table for clients?
The main problem I’ve solved is assisting clients who want to include data in their marketing process, but feel like they don’t have the tools, team or understanding to do so. It’s less about giving them the proper tools and more about creating a process to empower their team to use analytics throughout their work.
Can you tell me a little about your mentorship program?
It’s a program within Perspectives Charter Schools Network, specifically the Leadership Academy and the Math & Science Academy. Kids at the school take a course and are assigned mentors from a company (us). The students come into the office for five weeks to learn professional skills.
The main goal of the program is to teach the students what it’s like in a professional environment and let them explore career options they may have not known about organically. It gives them a taste of different skillsets and offers a chance to learn about new passions.
At One North, the program is designed so that students create something tangible based on our company’s capabilities. The first year, students built a website. This included the actual process of how to create the digital strategy, design the site and build it. Even if they weren’t the ones actually doing all of this, they were learning the process from a business standpoint. This year, we had the kids do a hackathon, ideating a product that could be created in-house.
The mentorship program creates a community for the students before college. They have the chance to build professional relationships and get an idea of different backgrounds and professional routes – the various ways to get from A to B – while recognizing that they don’t have to have it all figured out.
I had one student who learned about coding when he was here. It wasn’t even on his radar prior to the internship. Now he’s going to college for computer science.
How did the program get started?
My sister-in-law was a principal at one of the high schools originally. Now, we have a continued relationship with the school network and do it independently.
It does take a lot of work to do, but it’s a fun activity. So many people offer to help. I get to work with team members I wouldn’t usually. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the kids, but also for me to connect with my coworkers.
For more from Ben Magnuson, read his blogs here.