Adventures of the Analyst Adjacent

Posted on October 18, 2022

old town

I’m sure many of you are still basking in the joy of the ELGL 2022 Conference held in Phoenix last week. It was a great opportunity to finally meet many people we’d only gotten to know online—pocket friends as ELGL board member Jessica VanderKolk has called us—and to discuss the work so near and dear to our hearts. From personal experience and all evidence on social media, it looks like a great time was had by all, making a ton of convivial connections with their amazing peers and learning a whole heap about local government leadership while enjoying a couple of days of lovely Arizona fall weather. view of sdale

Some of you may not know, however, that the day before the main conference, ELGL and the City of Scottsdale kicked off a brand-new program called the Analyst Academy which hosted just under 40 participants in nearby Scottsdale where I happily work for the library system.

Full disclosure: I am not an analyst. I am a library services coordinator, but I was able to get in on the ground floor of the analyst academy as part of Scottsdale’s team because planning and programming educational content is right up my alley. At an early meeting, I joked that I considered myself “analyst adjacent” because even though I wasn’t totally sure what analysts actually do, I work with some brilliant data people who are able to take raw information and turn it into amazing narrative slices of our city, complete with colorful charts and graphs.  

The idea for the academy was spearheaded by one of our assistant city managers, Brent Stockwell to offer data people a chance to make connections with people who really get what they do and learn from one another. He was joined by Jennifer Teal, from Raftelis who handled the administrative reins and made the spreadsheet that kept the rest of us on track. Along with Brent and Jennifer, Raman Shah, Rebecca Heywood, Cindi Eberhardt, Lacy Lewis, Stephanie Zamora, Cassie Johnson, and I participated on regular calls, brainstormed, and came up with a slate of sessions to appeal to analysts at all career stages. These included a presentation about discovering our “leadership superpowers,” a workshop about how data can tell a directed story, a panel discussion about the career journey of an analyst, and a quickfire round of analysts making presentations about exciting recent projects.  

The quickfire session turned out to be my special corner of the academy, because I got to moderate presentations by three analysts: Jennifer Harrold, walking us through the process of a cost research project from the Scottsdale water department, Lauren Freeman, sharing the analysis of factors considered in hiring in-house counsel for the city Of Sun Prairie ,Wisconsin, and Lacy Lewis, describing the development of a data academy to help departments across the city of Irving, Texas wrangle their own data by learning to use Excel and track their data effectively.   Listening to their stories, I found that their work was not just a matter of collecting and presenting data. Jennifer, Lauren, and Lacy each identified and researched a complicated situation, learning everything they could about the stakes and the stakeholders, because their job was really about understanding what was behind the numbers and what that meant for the people involved. old town

What really came through from each of the presenters was their love of gathering and sharing knowledge, and that’s really what I love too. It turned out that being “analyst adjacent” was more than a quip: I realized that the analysts’ work was not so different from mine as a librarian when I help someone learn all they can about a topic by setting up a program or help a patron find resources and information to solve a problem. At the end of the day, we are all working hard to make our communities better by learning and sharing that information in a meaningful way. That’s where ELGL members excel every day– learning, sharing, and solving global problems at the local level. 


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