HerDay: What does a data strategist do all day?

Hello, I’m Edafe and I’m a data strategist.

My work involves helping organisations get the best out their data by focusing less on technology and more on what they really need to succeed: people, culture, and clarity. Then I help them combine best-fit technology with good practice and digital skills training. And I do all this without the tech-speak.

Being a woman in STEM and an independent consultant, I aim to be a scenius – someone involved in creating startling, delightful, and useful innovation with others (a communal genius if you will).

That’s why today I’m sharing my “day in the life of”, because it’s part of my practice. I’m inspired by others and I’m paying that forward.

Join me throughout the day for updates and conversation here or tweet me.

5am – 6am
I’m an early bird so the first thing I do is make a cuppa. Now it’s time to contemplate my calendar and to-do list. I have a couple of meetings spaced out during the day, several forms to post, a client report to finish, an article on Leeds digital technology to tidy up and this mostly-live blog.

Oh, I’m also making breakfast and my partner Alex’s meals for the day. I’m going to need another cuppa.

6am- 7am
With my task list organised, I’m tracking my earnings. As a small business, I need to keep on top of my cash flow. Do I have outstanding invoices to chase up? Have all bills been paid? How am I doing for income this week?

Balancing work that sets you up for the next paying project with with volunteering on things you love and actual paying work is tricky. I aim to perfect this balance by tracking and analysis. One day, this will be second nature. It doesn’t take long because I do it daily.

7am- 8am
Now, I’m feeding my brain some inspiration. I may work in technology but I’m also a creative. Ensuring I’m inspired first thing sets me up for the day. It’s part of my ritual, like Richard Eaton’s The 10 Daily Rituals That Work For Me.

Today, I’m reading Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon, an artist and inspirational visual author. Stepping outside my domain is a great way to shake up my neurons.

8am- 10am
The first 3 hours of the day have been preparing myself to be productive. The next 2 hours are about maximising that productivity in 15 minute chunks. A quick trip to the postbox and I’m done with forms. On to the paid project.

I’ve met this small firm twice so far. They want to expand their operations but their knowledge is in Excel spreadsheets and people’s heads. This is a familiar situation with small firms but in this case, they are eager to move forward and happy to invest time in doing so. The time investment is important as I run a collaborative consultancy: to get the best out, we both put our best in.

I’m spending a good chunk of time going over my notes and completing a model similar to the Business Model Canvas. This acts as a checklist so I don’t forget anything, is highly visual and written in plain English. The added bonus is I can send it to the client as a visual progress report. Which I do at 9:45. It’s time to get ready for my first meeting.

10am – 11am
I’m meeting with Olof, Thomas and Karina from Dreamler, a startup behind a visual planning tool. As a visual learner, I’m quite taken with their product. I got in touch via the website, it’s great speaking to a founder face-to-face and finding points of connection. Face-to-face, even by Skype beats email and feeds into another important aspect of my practice: collaboration. The meeting has ended with some action points and a lots of ideas. I’m now writing up a to-do list and scanning my notes into Evernote with my iPad. A little bit of prep work that pays off in the long run. Next up, emails.

11am – Noon
I keep on top of emails between 15 minute bursts of work. I either read & reply, read & mark to-do or delete. Being ruthless with email keeps me from being distracted but I have a weakness for a sunny holiday sales pitch when the weather is this cold and turbulent. I file that one away to read later!

I’ve got a good crop to go through, mostly from the Open Data Institute where I’m an associate and trainer. Like all well-run operations, there is a lot of planning, collaboration and administration going on in the background of a training course. I deal with anything simple and prioritise things that need more time or consideration. I’m really pleased to see a good response to my Leeds digital technology article requests, more on that later. Right now, I need a bite to eat and a stretch because:

One Cannot Think Well, Love Well, Sleep Well, if One Has Not Dined Well – Virginia Woolf

via FolioCreations on Etsy

Noon to 2pm
I’m back on my client report, now with added reclining time! I work from home (or hot desk at Unity Works), which gives me two great sources of pleasure: temperature control and a bed. The bed is an integral part of the next process. In an ideal world, I’d have a chaise lounge but needs must. Anywhere I can sit or lie quietly and think deeply.

This morning was all about wrangling my notes into a model. This afternoon is about seeking a strategy and complementary solutions to the people, cultural and technical situation. Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. A solution may not work because it neglects the people and culture, even if it ticks all the technical boxes. This morning’s efforts mean I have an emergent strategy and have longlisted technical solutions. This afternoon is a four-part exercise: identify the culture, understand the people, shortlist the technical solutions and refine the strategy.

My overarching recommendation is to make small, iterative changes and monitor for impact. Not everything works everywhere but with this approach, we can adjust, improve and minimise failure. I’ll be done soon with a raft of notes to analyse.

2pm to 3pm
*phew* This is the busy part of the day. My next meeting is a phone interview. I’ve spoken to the stakeholders before by Skype but this will be trickier by phone with no visual cues. I’m really looking forward to this conversation and hopefully ongoing projects.

While I’ve been thinking, emails have arrived and I have notes to analyse. That’s for later. Right now, I have to decompress!

3pm to 4pm
My decompression is only just starting, I had another phone call and a quick trip to pick up some milk. It’s nearly 4pm and I’m taking stock of the day. I still have emails to review and notes to analyse, so that’ll be my priority for the next hour. I may be losing my voice but I have tea, twilight and a sense of satisfaction.

4pm to 5pm
Draft 1 of report written and emails sorted. I’m taking a little break till 6pm. My next task is completing the blog post inspired by the gorgeous coffee table book: London: The Information Capital.

6pm to 7pm
Done and dusted. It’s been an interesting day and live-ish blogging is a lot more involved than I’d imagined! Looking forward to reading other HerDays and peeks into your professional practice.



Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder

London: The Information Capital by James Cheshire

Image: Ken TeegardinThe Strategy Of Chess

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Consultant: Data Science & Data Analysis – Making the complex, simple

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