I have known Corry Prohens since 2009 and have been lucky enough to call him a friend for most of that time. I have worked with many different recruiters over my career and none of them have taken the time to really get to know the industry and the people that they work in. Corry is a fixture at industry events and takes the time to find great opportunities for people and great people to fill them. Corry was kind enough to sit down and let me turn the tables and interview him this time. I hope you enjoy the conversation below.
Q: Tell us about your background and be sure to include: How did you get started in Analytics ?
I have been a recruiter since I was 16 (summer job). When I was 24 I started and built an IT Staffing business during the dot com boom. After the bust I sold it for pennies on the dollar and took a job with a Fortune 500 staffing company.
From there I was recruited to a bigger job at a smaller shop. I made them millions of dollars, fixed their business in NY and got fired.
In 2005 I started IQ Workforce in my attic. My son was 2. My wife was pregnant with my oldest daughter. It was pretty scary.
In 2006 I was retained by Dow Jones to recruit what they called an “online analytics team,” and I fell in love with the space. The practitioners at that time were all very enthusiastic about their fast growing field, there was a really nice community building around web analytics, so it was fun and social and growing like crazy.
Over the last few years we have grown broader. We now recruit for a pretty full range of strategy & analytics roles… from analysts up to the C-Suite.
Q: What are your favorite industry events and why ?
IQ Workforce sponsored Web Analytics Wednesdays for a while and I still think those are great events (even though I haven’t attended one in a while)… mostly because they are free, local and frequent. They are mostly about networking, although some organizers do a nice job bringing in speakers and content.
My favorite conference is probably X Change. They have the best format (small group discussions – no presentations) and the best venues. I was kind of bummed that this year it is in Arizona… no surfing and I don’t play golf. Mountain biking expedition anyone?
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just trying to get started in this industry ?
Do. Get started. Digital analytics is an easy way to break into analytics. Whether you have a background in tech, quant or business you can learn and study these packages and principles on your own, sign up for relatively inexpensive training, volunteer, intern or work cheap to get experience… and then you’re off and running. Somebody will hire you.
Q: You manage the premier Analytics recruiting and contracting placement firms in the industry, what are the top 3 types of people that companies are looking for?
1. People that can communicate highly technical and quantity data into business insights… both in terms of reporting (data viz) and presentation of recommendations. In other words, they have to be able to sell and defend their analysis… which means they have to understand the business.
2. Cross-channel experience. Anybody that has experience solving business problems and answering questions by mining data from multiple sources, synthesising the analysis and presenting the insights.
3. Cross-silo experience. All of our positions are some combination of tech, quant and business. People that have deep expertise in any 2 of these are much more valuable.
Q: Do job seekers have reasonable expectations of the types of jobs and compensation levels that are out there?
Yes, for the most part. Most people do not put compensation as their top requirement… or at least they don’t admit it. The biggest motivators that we find are impact and growth. People want to see their results move the needle and they want to continually build their quiver.
Q: What are some of the most common pitfalls that people who are looking to get ahead in this digital measurement industry make ?
They become an expert at one thing and then they stop. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller: Things move pretty fast in analytics. If you’re not continually learning and evolving the world will pass you by.
Q: Do people still use resumes ? Or is LinkedIn enough?
LinkedIn is good for getting found. Most companies want to see a proper resume… for whatever reason.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite interview questions? What would your answers to them be ?
It depends on what your role is in the interview process. Technical people should ask technical questions. Quant people should ask quant questions… I am neither, so I ask motivational and fit factor questions. If you want to know what motivates someone, it’s helpful to know why they accepted and why they left each of their jobs. Sometimes there are patterns – good and bad.
Q: What has surprised you the most in the past 5 years in this digital analytics industry ?
The drama. It is a very competitive space. People are passionate about their work. There is a lot invested and a lot at stake. As a result, it can be a bit of a soap opera at times.
Q: What keeps you awake at night ?
Thinking about the next day’s surf forecast.
Q: We have heard volumes about Big Data, Privacy, Democratization of Analytics. What is next ?
I’m not really qualified to predict trends like these. I am only sure about the big picture: companies that are good at analytics are going to win in their marketplaces. The consequences of that will drive the careers of everyone in this space… high tide raises all boats.
Q: You win a business lottery, but there is a catch. The money must be spent to create a new business within the digital measurement space. What area would you focus on, and what kind of team would you assemble?
When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As a recruiter I see that the biggest obstacle to growth in all of analytics is talent. If I won the lottery I would invest more in my own company… not start a new one.