Crushworthy Tech Jobs — Dir. of Strategic Insights & Research with Viacom

090bff6How does one become a web analyst at one of the largest entertainment organizations? Scott Calise started from scratch, with very little knowledge of what a web analyst did, but he utlizied his curiosity and enhanced his analysis skills to grow with the digital era. As Director of Strategic Insights and Research for the Entertainment Group, Scott works to develop the best online experience for fans of multiple Viacom television shows.

What is your job title? Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? Describe your job and how long you’ve been at it, etc.).

I’m Scott Calise and I’m the Director of Strategic Insights and Research
for the Entertainment Group of Viacom Media Networks (longest title ever). The Entertainment Group of Viacom includes Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike, and GameTrailers. I focus on Comedy Central and TV Land. Our group is responsible for any digital experience a fan can have with one of our channels, whether that be the Daily Show Headlines app, our Tosh.0 Facebook page, or our traditional .com web sites.

I landed my first job in web analytics working for Martha Stewart’s company. I had never heard of web analytics before, but was an analyst previously so my background fit the description.  I’ve always been a bit of a techie nerd and loved media, so the job of a web analyst was a perfect blend of those. In that role, I had to teach myself web analytics and how to use Omniture, I quickly fell in love with it. After working there for 2+ yrs, I moved on to Viacom and have been in this role for over three years. We lived in Manhattan for over 6 and just moved back to NC and live in Durham.

What is a typical day like in your position?

I would say that atypical is the typical day for me. Aside from the fact that I now work remotely, each day poses a different challenge due to the speed at which we are developing new experiences and content for our fans. The challenge and exciting part of working on a brand like Comedy Central, is that our focus is males 18-34 and these are the guys who adopt new technology first. We then make sure our content is where they are, so we’re usually early adopters of technologies and social media platforms which then require my group to figure out how to analyze each of them. This is the challenge because often the data is not readily available.

Our days are also filled with working with internal clients to answer their questions. A somewhat unique characteristic of Viacom is that my group is contained within a dedicated Research department which reports all the way up to the Chief Research Officer, so we have C-Level representation for Research! This gives our group the autonomy to do research, but also allows us to work with any and all departments, including Digital Marketing, Programming, Ad Operations, Production, or Business Development.

When did you know it was what you wanted to do? What lead you to this position?

I only knew this was what I wanted to do when I started doing it.  I feel very fortunate to have found digital research and  when I started the role of a “web analyst” it was just beginning. That being said, once I got into my role at Martha Stewart and became a student of web analytics, that’s when I knew this is what I wanted to do for a long time. I quickly became a part of the web analytics community in NYC, attending events like Web Analytics Wednesday and  speaking at conferences.

What did you do to prepare for a position like this? Skills? School? Internships? Previous positions?

As I mentioned, web analytics  found me, rather than me seeking out the profession or specific role I wanted. My previous jobs did give me skills that are applicable to a role in digital research. Things like attention to detail, being able to extract insights from raw data, and communicate those findings to others and being able to see how those insights or data points relate to overall business objectives. I feel those are fundamentals of doing analytics in any industry, digital or not.  So if you can do that, then it’s just a matter of knowing the tools and technology that get you the data you need. Another key skill is being genuinely curious. To uncover the non-obvious insights and nuggets that really can drive your business forward, you have to ask questions and have that curiosity to find out the answer.

Internships, definitely!  At Viacom we have a very strong internship program and fully believe that taking advantage of internships is a great way to learn and get your foot in the door.

What is the best part about your job?

What’s not to love, I get to watch great content (The Daily Show, Hot In Cleveland, Workaholics, South Park), while keeping up on the latest technology and social media developments. Then I get to help figure out how utilizing those new developments can help us reach our fans and give them a great experience.

What is the worst part about your job?

Worst is a strong word, challenging, how about that? It’s the nature of being in a large organization, I can’t be in all meetings at all times so my team and I hope that the information and analysis we provide are in the hands of the right person, at the right time, when decisions are being made. Our goal is to have data be used in all situations and we work hard to support that, we then trust that key stakeholders seek that information out when they need it.

A second challenge is one facing the entire media industry and that is inadequate measurement. This in turn makes it difficult to monetize our digital assets/properties as efficiently as we do our linear ones (TV). In digital, there is no standard third party data source, think Nielsen ratings for TV, that holistically captures the consumption of our content digitally. The measurement services out there today have a hard enough time measuring traffic or viewing on our traditional .com web sites, now layer in the various devices accessing our content, iPhone/Android applications, tablets, Hulu, Netflix etc. etc.  The list goes on and all pose measurement challenges or are unmeasurable by these third parties, but then they don’t fully reflect the state of our digital business to the market. So this is a vicious cycle and keeps more revenue from moving to digital, which would help us validate further investment in digital content and resources. 

What is the work/family balance like for you?

Viacom is truly one of those organizations that practices what they preach. They say work/life balance and family are important and they mean it. I have a great balance and just took advantage of our paternity leave when we had our daughter, it was great!

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

Hmmm, I’d say most who aren’t in the digital space don’t know the job I do exists or that it’s a full time job. But, the biggest misconception is that people think these analytics tools are stealing their information when they visit a web site. People love to tell me, “Oh well I use an ad blocker so you can’t see what I do.” One, what sketchy stuff are you doing online, two, I can’t see who you are, nor do I care. All the info we capture is 100% anonymous and not personally identifiable. I just want to know if the person fit our target and whether you had a good experience with our site or not.

Any other advice, tips, commentary or anecdotes you’d like to share?

I’ve seen the role of a web analyst change over the years and now there is curricula at universities that focus on it, so I would definitely encourage anyone interested to look into those options. The easiest way is to get hands on experience and begin to understand the terminology and information available through an analytics tool. Put Google Analytics on your own site or a friend’s site to begin collecting and reviewing the data. The industry and technology are constantly changing, so you really need to be a student of it and read industry blogs and white papers to keep up. It’s an evolving field which is a big part of why I love it.

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