Never Too Experienced to Learn


Whether you're an analytics neophyte or have been working in the data trenches for what seems forever and a day, the learning never stops -- or at least, it shouldn't.

That's something I always like to keep in mind for myself personally, and I hear it echoed from career-development professionals and industry thought leaders. I caught this same message just earlier this week, while chatting with Susan Johnson, director of corporate performance management at Northeast Utilities (NU).

New England's largest utility system, NU serves more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Johnson came to NU via its 2012 merger with NSTAR Electric & Gas, where she had been in charge of performance management, as well. While we chatted mostly about the challenges and goals Johnson has at NU, we also got around to talking about her upcoming trip to Orlando, where she plans to immerse herself in the learning opportunities SAS has put together in its annual events, Analytics 2013 and Premiere Business Leadership Series (PBLS). I'll share a look inside NU's performance management strategy in a post next week, but for now, I'll stay focused on the learning topic.

As Michael Steinhart, our new executive editor, mentioned in yesterday's post, these SAS events bring together analytics, IT, and business professionals for jam-packed days (and nights) of learning and networking. Johnson said she's looking forward to being in the thick of it all.

At NU, Johnson and her team are looking to advance the use of performance management-related measurement and analytics. Company leaders are striving to take the utility to new levels of customer service and operations efficiency, so it's an exciting time. But it can be overwhelming, too, Johnson said. "I'm trying to figure out how best to support that effort."

Since NU uses SAS analytics software, heading to Orlando affords her the perfect opportunity to learn from analytics practitioners and thought leaders. While she may stop by a booth or two to scope out some products, her real motivation is learning from others. "My interest in next week is hearing how other people are using analytics to improve their businesses, and how are they're delivering value."

As Johnson looks to build her skills, she said, "I'll be taking in a lot more than giving next week." But I would bet, should you be in Orlando and bump into her, Johnson would be a great source of advice from her years of experience in corporate performance management. And the great thing is, her experiences at the utility will likely be applicable to whatever business you're in. As Johnson said, she's looking forward to hearing anything and everything she can about the advanced use of analytics, in any industry.

I'm with All Analytics blogger Tricia Aanderud, an author and independent SAS BI consultant, in sharing our disappointment about missing the events. We have conflicting commitments keeping us from these Orlando opportunities.

The good news is, we'll both be immersed in other learning-oriented confabs. I'll be attending and moderating sessions at The Big Data Conference in Chicago, and Aanderud wrote on our message board that she'll be elsewhere in Florida "giving a presentation about creating a stored process" to the Southern SAS Users Group. "I'm hoping to pick up some programming tips from other users," she said, "but I wanted to go to the Analytics 2013, as well."

Are you in or out for Analytics 2013 and PBLS? Either way, what analytics topics do you want to learn about? Maybe we can help!

Related posts:

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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The future
  • 10/18/2013 12:59:07 PM
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There is always something new to learn, no matter who you are or what sort of a career path you have selected. So if I had my way I would have attended all three of the events. The most interesting learning experiences would be the futuristic ideas and developments presented at such events.

Re: The future
  • 10/18/2013 8:05:49 PM
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One could say that if you are not at first overwhelmed with an analtyical project, you're probally not doing it right.  It takes a lot of thought and insight to narrow down and make things managable.  No two projects are alike and there is always some interesting twist to the story the data is telling. 

Also, there are so many new analytical programs popping up all the time. A/B testing, text analysis, new types of data storage and the list goes on and on.  Who can learn them all?

Re: The future
  • 10/19/2013 3:18:34 AM
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Sethbreedlove

"One could say that if you are not at first overwhelmed with an analtyical project, you're probally not doing it right."

True. Many might not understand what the output of analytics can be used for and how this can result in competitive advantage if a possibility is discovered which is not known to your competitors. The other side is the internal side of organization where effectiveness of many functions can be enhanced if all the processes and results are re-evaluated through analytics.

Re: The future
  • 10/21/2013 9:33:56 AM
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I agree. It also seems that the further you get into any project, the more you realize that you don't know. What sometimes looks straightforward on the surface, often is not.

Re: The future
  • 10/25/2013 12:07:59 AM
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" What sometimes looks straightforward on the surface, often is not."

@tomsg     Could this be a sign of the times ?    Probably not.  IMO things have always been more complicated than they initially appear.

Re: The future
  • 10/25/2013 2:37:03 AM
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It may well be. Maybe we just think we know more than we do.

Re: The future
  • 10/25/2013 3:06:42 AM
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Good point,  I think that is probably the case more often than not.

Re: The future
  • 10/31/2013 10:58:01 PM
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More than likely true, plus with the latest solutions increasingly in place, we are seeing and understanding how much more complex the answers can be.  In marketing, we were concerned about attribution to one channel, today its multichannel  and attributing conversion to the right channel. That question was always existed in one form, we just have better ways of measuring and seeking the answers.

Re: The future
  • 10/31/2013 11:00:08 PM
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I'll add it is also a challenge in properly managing a project to conclusion.  Believing in something as straightforward overlooks the complications in which good project management can address (or maange, at least).

Re: The future
  • 10/23/2013 8:13:05 AM
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@Seth,

" It takes a lot of thought and insight to narrow down and make things managable."

When we have the right tools, all projects become easily manageable. But finding that right tools is not always an easy task. Talking with experts can help you pin down what you need for your project.

Re: The future
  • 10/24/2013 11:58:25 PM
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@Hospice   I agree but what do you do when there are no experts around ?

Re: The future
  • 10/25/2013 12:05:30 AM
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" Also, there are so many new analytical programs popping up all the time."

@Seth  Good point.  It is getting to the point that you spend more time trying to find the right tool or package than you do trying to answer the questions you have in the first place.

Re: The future
  • 10/31/2013 11:01:03 PM
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I also wonder if that confusion is from too many vendors and too many options that result from vendors trying to "engage" customers. ;-)

Re: The future
  • 10/23/2013 8:03:04 AM
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@Phoenix,

" if I had my way I would have attended all three of the events."

Conferences are venues for interesting learning experiments, expecially when the keynote speakers include experts in the domain. I would have atttended the Analytics 2013 conference as well, If I could. 

For their organizations
  • 10/19/2013 3:13:47 AM
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It is interesting to see these learning events taking place on analytics. This shows how people are interested in learning about new possibilities and implementing systems at their organizations to enhance performance.

Good stuff
  • 10/20/2013 4:08:27 AM
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I love technology conferences. Not just because i get to travel but nearly every conference i go to serves me an epiphany moment at some point. That moment that stirs you again out of your newest comfort zone when you see what others have been working on. Never to old to learn..

Re: Good stuff
  • 10/20/2013 3:55:43 PM
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@kicheko -- I love the idea of having "epiphany" moments at conferences. It's so important to keep an open mind and be willing to embrace what you hear and think about how it might apply for you and your organization. Do you have any examples to share of those aha! moments you've had at conferences?

Re: Good stuff
  • 10/25/2013 12:02:09 AM
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@kicheko   I agree conferences have the potential to be eye opening.  I must be going to the wrong ones though, because it just seems like the ones I have attended have a ulterior motive - the selling of their product.

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