Episode 14: Gain Influence by Improving your Data Communication Skills with Britney Lovett

Gain Influence by Improving your Data Communication Skills

To kick-off the 2nd season, listen to our guest, Britney Lovett, share her advice and tips on how to improve your data communication skills as an industry professional. She’s a lead data analyst and has also started a free mentorship program to help data professionals.

You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

What You’ll Learn in this episode

  • 3 buckets of data communication
  • How to overcome doubts about communicating in front of people
  • Tons of tips and stories from Britney’s own experience

Additional Resources

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If you enjoyed this episode, check out this episode where I share tips on ways you can improve your data visualizations.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back to another episode today, we have  guest, Brittany, who is going to be talking to us about her data analytics experience, as well as her advice on communicating for data professionals who are working in the industry. So welcome, Brittany. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Could you tell me more about yourself and the role you have in the company you work.

Sure. So first off, just thank you for having me on your podcast. I'm very humbled that you're allowing me to talk about what I love to do. So I am actually a lead analyst. I was recently promoted from senior analyst to lead analyst.

So I've been very, very busy. But the company I work for, it's called Chick-fil-A it's a, I work at the corporate office and it's, I've worked there for. I'm say about a year and a half now, formally I worked at home Depot, corporate office and they're us based company. And I have been in data for.

Almost 10 years now. So I've been an analyst majority of those 10 years. I do, I have a bachelor's and a master's degree, both in information system from the university of Georgia. I've been interested in data and analytics for a very long time, and I hope to You know, keep going with this track of like just coaching and helping others understand how to better use data to improve the way that they work to help us see gaps and to encourage people that may be looking to get into data that it's possible for them.

That's really awesome. I know there are a lot of folks who are interested in getting into data and they're often confused or.  Overwhelmed by a lot of resources and sometimes even confused by hearing different opinions. So I'm really glad that you are on here with your program that we'll talk about later in the show, as well as on social media, helping other people get into the world of data. So thank you so much for doing that. 

So you mentioned you just got promoted to be a lead analyst and that's terrific news. Could you share different forms of communication, either in this new role that you just started or the previous role you had as a senior data analyst?

So the different forms of communication you often use to communicate your work.

So. I think there are really just three buckets here. So I make it very simple. The first is done usually in meetings. I would say 50% of my work in a week happens in meetings. So these are one on one sessions that I'm having. I didn't say also I work in. The legal department of where I work.

Before I worked in like merchandising, I've like I've worked in many different departments. So I've worked in supply chain. I've worked in just marketing at one point. So I I've done a lot of different departments, so I've, I've had a, a broad experience right now. I'm in legal. So I'm doing a lot of data coaching right now.

So I'm trying to build data literacy with attorneys and, you know, leadership and it's, it's, it's exciting. And so I'm trying to explain this is sometimes why we use the average instead of the median or why we use median instead of the average, or like I'm trying to communicate how I'm able to pull together different data sets from different systems using SQL.

Or I'm trying to communicate my recommendation for Where they should go next for a certain process. And so these meetings are done all the time. It's very typical for me to have four or five meetings a day just with different stakeholders. So sometimes they're internal to my department.

Sometimes they're external to my department. It really just depends, but A lot of meetings happen for me on a daily basis. So I would say like 50% meetings for sure. The next thing are presentations. So this is different for meetings. Presentations for me are usually given to a larger audience.

And so that may be me doing a presentation on. A certain dashboard or scorecards or talking to the department about why data matters for us, what analytics can do for us. Or I might be just talking about, you know, what. What our spend may look like for the next couple of years, like what we project them to be just depending on the use case, but presentations about a quarter of the time.

And then finally the next thing I do a lot of written communication. So this may not be like me physically speaking to someone, but I am writing down. In emails, reports, summaries, recommendations. I have to write down what it is I'm trying to get across. So if it's a report about a process that we're working on or sales or.

Just trying to communicate a specific concept to somebody, maybe a statistical concept or maybe I'm trying to help somebody understand coding and Python and they can't talk right now. So I have to literally write down directions. I have to write business process guides for people. And so that, that's also very important to understand how to write effectively.

What sounds good. What can be confusing? You know, hearing things from different viewpoints in your head, you know, you're, you're just trying to get it right. And so these things, although I think typical in a corporate settings, having meeting presentations, emails, they're very foundational. I think to skill sets of analysts, even if you're, if you're just coming in or.

You're you just graduated college or something, having both written and oral communication skills is very important and foundational to what you'll be doing every day.

Yeah, that, that's really interesting. How you mentioned it from the beginning, like 50% of your time. Is spent on meetings and, you know, verbal communication that doesn't even include presentations, which is another quarter. And your audience are often non-data folks. So you're communicating to them in a way that is hopefully understandable for them.

And it will look different depending if you're communicating to a technical or a data audience. So that's really interesting that you're spending a lot of that time. Right? 

Most people that I interact with currently are non data people. So.  I spend a lot of time trying to educate on just this is why you need to be looking at your data. This is a dashboard. This is how to use a dashboard, how to navigate it.

This, these are the tools that I use and why I use them. So it's a lot of just. You know, getting to teach and coach, but when I am talking to more analytical people that kind of live in my world it is a, a very different conversation. We often get into the technical versus explaining just kind of concepts.

So it's a very different, depending on the audience.

right. You also mentioned you sometimes create dashboards for folks. How often are you creating dashboards or data visualizations?

Yeah, that's a great question. So I create a, I think I, I create a dashboard probably once a month. Visuals, I create probably once a week though. So. Dashboards are often requested especially. From like people that, you know, they may think that they need a dashboard. But they actually really don't.

And so it's important, especially as an analyst that you really do the requirements gathering stage of analysis. I don't think this, this part of analysis gets as much attention as it needs to. Oftentimes we're kind of excited and jump into, okay. Let's build a dashboard. Really try to figure out why they need one, what they're gonna do with it.

How often are they actually gonna be looking at it? You will come, you will come to find that dashboards don't often get used as you think they are, or you think they will be. And so it's important to really understand the why behind it. 

I create many visualizations all the time to help my audience see what it is. I'm trying to communicate, especially if I'm recommending a change somewhere. I do want to use data to get my point across cuz that's what I do. I like to use factual evidence to support my cause. And so whether that is a bar chart, whether it's putting together something a little bit more fancy with images and just doing line charts that look a little look a lot more cleaned up.

I like to clean up my chart. As much as possible. I keep them simple but effective. So that's my, that's my motto. Simple but effective. So if you go out to like Tableau, public, and the visualizations of the day, I do subscribe to the vis visualizations of the day to see what other people are doing.

Oh, you do that as well. So it's not just me.  okay. Okay. And so 

Audio Clip for Promo

I like to see the visuals of the day to see what other people are creating and get inspired for new ideas. And so I will I'll look at them and say like, okay, I didn't realize you could do certain things like that. And so I I'll get ideas all the time.

But.  I see for my audience. If it gets, if I'm into the aesthetics too much, it takes away from what they need to know. And so I always keep that simple but effective in the back of my mind. Depending on that audience.

That's a really good motto to live by especi. Because sometimes we get maybe enamored by a more complex looking visualization, but it may not be the simplest and easily under understood one by your audience. So, and I really like the point that you made about gathering the requirements with your audience or your stakeholders before creating dashboards, because there is like this important distinction that you mentioned between what they want versus what they need.

And we should focus on the need. And sometimes I. Your stakeholders don't even know the difference,

right. And so it's in this requirements gathering stage where you have to ask these questions carefully worded in a way to figure it out while talking with them to differentiate what is it that they need versus want.

And I think that really helps with. Having your dashboard get used at the end, because if it is what they need, then they'll actually be referencing it often. So, and if they also follow them out of QB sample, but effective,

absolutely. absolutely. It's it is a balancing act for sure. And you will you'll learn over time. The best like questions to ask. The key is in the questions that you ask So you ask, ask good questions. You get good answers. So keep them open-ended. When you go in to have these discussions with your stakeholders get them to talk the more they talk about the problem, their needs the more insight you're getting into the, the why that they need it.

Yeah, this is a great tip. Thank you for sharing that with us. Could you tell us about the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in your career when communicating your work and how you overcame that?

Yeah. So I think the, my biggest challenge, I think that many people can probably relate to when communicating. My work is literally communicating my work and standing up in front of a group of people and. Talking about something that I've created and having to look out and not freeze up or think about oh, I'm, I'm talking too fast.

I'm talking too slow. I don't know what I'm talking about at all. So all of the thoughts that go on in your head when you're speaking publicly to a large group of people any that, that imposter syndrome kicks in really, really fast especially when you're up there alone, having to. Like talk through your analysis and then, you know, the questions start kicking in and then you really get nervous.

Like, oh, can I answer these questions? They're really gonna be over my head. But of course, none of that ends up happening cuz it's all, it's mostly all, all in your head. But I think what's helped me overcome it. And this is very practical advice, but it does work is to practice. What you're going to say in front of your colleagues, friends, your family, and get feedback on the way that you're communicating asks people for feedback.

Does it make sense or you able to follow? So asking these questions presentation and communication is not just all about what you say. It's also about how. You say it and how it comes across. So making sure that you're nonverbal and your verbal is matching together understand, you know, how to work technology, what you do with your hands.

There's so many elements that goes into communication. That's it's not just being able to speak.  It's a lot more than that. And then also, if you're, you know, you're an analyst, you know what you're doing? You know that obviously you're gonna triple, quadruple check the numbers, make sure they're right.

Make sure you're. Presentation deck looks great. But go ahead and practice it as, as much as you need. I like to over practice a lot because I like to get different opinions. And the more I'm saying it, the more comfortable I feel and. I'm less nervous after I practice something just than just stepping up there and just speaking out of nowhere.

So that is, I know that's, that's very practical advice, but it definitely works.

It's very helpful, especially as you mentioned for nerves and calming anxiety. I used to be a very anxious presenter and I think I still would be if I didn't start to practice several times before delivering a presentation, and sometimes I do a lot of it, depending on what's at stake with this presentation and.

It's what I advise my students as well is like the more you practice, the more prepared you feel, the less nervous you feel if you know the content of your presentation really well, but at the same time, what you mentioned as well, you know, when we practice, if we can get feedback from others.

I think that when we're talking about a topic that we know very well.

It's hard for us to understand how other people will view it. And so it's great to get feedback if as you mentioned, like if the flow makes sense, if the content, the message is very clear, and if you cannot do that with a colleague or your boss then at least. Recording yourself, video and audio, and then playing it back to, you know, as you mentioned, like a lot of it is nonverbal communication to see if your hands and your facial expressions and the tone of your voice, all these things, they all also contribute in delivering the message to your audience.

So you brought up very great points and it's really great to see you overcome this challenge that I know a lot of people can relate to. So thank you for sharing that with us

Yeah, my 

On the flip side, what is like the best thing that has happened to you since you've started to work on improving your data communication skills at whatever point you did that in your career?

Cuz I know you've been working in the data field for 10 years, so I imagine that happened a while ago. And how did it feel like when that happened?

I think the best thing that's happened to me is I started to gain influence. And so I thought was so important, especially in a corporate environment. When you start people. People listen to you, and then they, you know, your advice is taken and applied and you are heard because people acknowledge that she knows what she's talking about.

And when you're confident in what you do, you're able to communicate effectively. You've shown up, you've done the work. You start to get recognized for that. And then comes promotions, more responsibility, more complex work challenging. And I, I personally love a good challenge.

That's awesome. Especially since I know they're for many data professionals, they will be in situations where they don't have a lot of authority, but there's opportunity for influence. So I like how you mentioned that is actually a, a positive thing you saw come out of this. So that's, that's very inspiring to hear and a great benefit and motivation for those who are listening to improve your data communication skills.

Thank you for sharing that 

Can you share your top three tips for data professionals who want to improve their communication?

Yeah, absolutely. So I think my first hit would be to. In order to improve your communication skills, you have to work at improving your communication skills. So I would say volunteer to speak publicly. It, and it doesn't have to be data related, but if it's just something else that you really are passionate about, you don't have to do a bunch of research on it, but just volunteer to get in front of people and speak.

Not only does it just build exposure for yourself. But you need to get in the habit of doing things scared sometimes. If it makes you feel uncomfortable that's okay, go ahead and do it anyway. Raise your hand, you know at the big meeting. , you know, use your voice. You have it for a reason.

Go ahead and offer your input, offer to host a training session on something. I don't really care what it is, but the more that you get in front of people speaking, getting used to it, getting more comfortable you will get better at it. I honestly believe that anything that you work at you will improve on that thing.

The second thing I would say is something that I like to do. So there is an app called speak O is a public speaking app and essentially I downloaded it on my phone. It's a, it's a free app, but you can pay for like certain upgrades, but essentially what it does is takes you through exercises. It gives you like prompts to read and you read them out loud, it records, you plays them back and then gives you feedback.

So it's recording how fast you're talking, how slow you're talking the pitch. Of your voice that you're using. And then it gives you tips on how to you know, enhance your public speaking skills and how you're communicating. And then you could try it again and work on it until it gets better.

And it's just, it's just a great resource. It's a great app. Please use technology whenever you can. Especially there's just an ad for everything right now. And I, I love using. Technology using resources that are available to me you know, especially a lot of people, maybe not have the money for a professional coach to help them through their communication skills, but this is a free app that you can download that will help you in your communication.

So I love that. And my third thing specifically, this is going to be specifically data related. Work on your data visualization skills to help you communicate with your, with your audience, the things that they should care about. The communication as we talked about earlier is not always speaking, but your presentations they, they can speak to.

So the way that your data. Being visualized or the way that you set it up to communicate to your audience can help you when you're up, up on a stage or maybe just on a teams call or a zoom call trying to communicate slides or your dashboard or your reports working on those data, visualization skills or certain colors to use or not use certain charts are better than others.

And so understanding kind of what, what looks best when communicating with data is a way to prove, improve your communication skills as well.

I appreciate you sharing all these tips with our listeners. And one last thing before we end, I wanted to also talk about this mentorship program that you are starting for data professionals. Could you tell us more about this program and who, who it will be catered towards?

Yeah, absolutely. So it's a really funny thing. So when I first started her analytics, my Instagram page, I at first thought it would take some time before. It would, it would get any attention at all. Cuz I just talked to a few people that are on social media on Instagram and they're just like, yeah, it might take like a year or two years before anyone actually, you know, notices it.

So you know, you'll have some time and so I'm like, okay. Cause I really wanted to, I wanted to give back to where I felt that I lacked early on in my analytics journey. And that. That was my reason for starting it. And especially women just because there. Are I, I feel like we have everything against us  in, in the corporate world and just like in analytics in general.

And so I wanted to give back to other women that were looking to get into data or wanted to transition into data. And I was thinking, you know, only, oh, there's only gonna be a handful of people. It won't even be that many . And so literally a few months after starting, I think I probably have three, 400 DMS right now.

People requesting to be part of this mentorship program.  like, okay, this was in the last two weeks alone, I think I, I went from like, 5,000 to 8,000 followers in two weeks. And I am I'm, I don't really know what's going on. Obviously I need to analyze my own data to see what's happening here.

But I wanted to do more like one on one mentorship. Right now, I'm trying to find ways to scale the program to help more people. But I, I still haven't worked that completely out. So currently right now it will be a one on one mentorship program. With only a handful of people, unfortunately.

I can, I haven't found a way to reach the masses. You've, you've done a great job with the, with the podcast, I think. But I'm trying to find a way to scale a mentorship program to reach a lot more people, but right now  and by the end of may, I will be going live with the mentorship program.

It will only be unfortunately open to 20 people.  And you will get to sign up basically for slots of time with me, and then I'll be available through like text message. So like offering advice, resources, things like that. And I was gearing the programs who women that are interested in analytics or trying to transition from what, what they may be doing now into an analytics career.

So that's who it's targeted.

That's amazing. And I know you seem surprised by your Instagram account blowing up, but I am not. I mean, for anyone following Brittany, she has been consistently putting out great content reels, which. I know it takes a lot of time to put into that, but you've been so consistent.  I feel like you're always put posting real, so that's amazing.

I mean, it's definitely well deserved and I'm really glad that


Yeah, that you started this, I know you felt unprepared because you thought you had


a couple of years, but you know, it's, it, I'm not surprised. You're also getting hundreds of DMS about mentorships because I also, I, I don't do mentorship.

I have online courses, but I still get questions about mentorships and you know, where people can find mentor because that's still something that people need. Like they could, you know, I could provide them a podcast in courses. There are some people who still want that one-on-one mentorship. And so now I know where to point people.

Yeah, absolutely. 

teams, but yeah.


That's why I created this Instagram for people to reach out and feel comfortable that, you know, they can't ask questions if they have them. So I don't turn people away from sending me DMS if they have just know that it may take me some time to answer them.

So I may not answer the same day or the next day, but I will answer them.

Thank you so much for doing that for the data community. So if people have questions for you or they just wanna connect with you, where can people contact you?

Yeah. So please go to my Instagram account. It's her analytics. And send me a message. You can also reply directly to one of my many, many real that I have. I do get the notification for them and people. Put comments. I do like to answer as many of them as I can. I do have three young children as well.

So like I said, it may be some time before I get back, but I will answer.

Thank you so much, Brittany. Again, for coming on the show today, to share all this valuable advice and tips, and I look forward to hopefully having you again in the. Or for another episode,

Yes. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.