Why you should set moving targets, be deliberate and dig into data with Slalom Consulting’s Eric Redinger

Eric Redinger is a Management Consultant for Analytics Strategy in the Information Management & Analytics (IM&A) department at Slalom Consulting. With extensive experience in Business Analytics & Data Strategy, Eric works alongside senior executives of large and medium-sized organizations across the financial services, media, entertainment, and oil & gas industries, in designing Data strategies and information governance models. Eric graduated with Distinction from an honors Business Administration degree from York University’s Schulich School of Business

Looking back five years, where did you think you’d be by this point in your career? How did you get here?

Setting goals and planning ahead has helped keep me focused and has enabled me to accomplish quite a bit in a short time. Before graduating from business school, I created a short, medium, and long term plan for my career which has set the pace for my progression thus far. My short-term plans have changed often, my mid-term plans have changed occasionally and I continue to change my long-term plans as I accomplish more and look at the market. Initially, my long-term plan was to reach upper mid-management in the technology consulting field, which is roughly where I am at the moment after progressing quicker than I expected at IBM in their consulting and analytics practice. When I look back on what I’ve accomplished so far, I attribute a lot of my achievements to having a moving career plan that I refresh and update often. It’s been an invaluable tool that I continue to leverage today.

What are some of the most important business lessons you have had to learn the hard way so far? How have they contributed to your current success?

When I first began my career, I didn’t have any corporate experience. As a result, I learned a lot about the many quirks of large organizations and the intraorganizational politics that effect how decisions are made and how things get done behind closed doors. Learning how to anticipate political situations and acting accordingly has been an important (albeit difficult) lesson to learn. As a result of some very lengthy, complex, and ultimately failed projects, I learned that staying well-organized is a key to success because large organization-wide projects spiral out of control due to lack of regiment.

On an individual level, I’ve come to realize that getting pigeonholed into a specific field or role has pros and cons. Education teaches us that having niche skills are always useful and provide a competitive advantage however, obtaining those skills usually comes with a label. Over time, you become defined by that skill or experience.

Finally, it’s so important to create win-win situations for yourself and the company you work for. Finding ways to keep your employer happy while also staying happy yourself leads to holistic life satisfaction.

You have done a lot of important work with very senior people while begin relatively young, how did you go about building your personal credibility with clients and stakeholders?

Gaining the respect and trust of senior stakeholders is as difficult as it is fruitful. Many are initially hesitant to trust those younger than themselves. Having comparable experiences – past projects, usage of similar tools, etc. – provides some initial weight. Having a foundation of contextual knowledge is also very beneficial.

Understanding the solution, the needs of the client’s business, and being able to support arguments with facts and context proves to them that you are worth their while. Being honest and genuine is crucial. Senior people are more inclined to trust you when they see you are being open with them.

It’s also very important to learn how to speak in their language. Learning your client’s jargon, keeping messages short and specific and framing insights around themes that are important resonates well.

Finally, a lot can be said about maintaining a polished and comfortable demeanor. If you communicate confidently, senior members take you more seriously despite any age differences.

What does leadership look like to you and from your perspective, what is the most exciting leadership opportunity for the next generation to make a real impact in today’s organizations?

I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and work with leaders at many different levels, across many industries. The most defining characteristics of the greatest leaders I’ve seen have been vision, drive, and deep knowledge.

Great leaders tend to act as a beacon for the rest of their team and organization. They have a unique perspective that has been honed by a fundamental understanding of their market, customers and their business’s capabilities to navigate outside contextual forces. As a result, they’ve often thought deeply about where they want their business to be and how to get it there. Passion usually is derived from this deep thinking. Finally, the best leaders I’ve worked with have the drive and relentlessness to create action.

Those of our generation with natural passion and determination have the ability to develop their foundational leadership abilities by taking the time to deeply understand an industry or service line, and build capability.  From my experience, I feel that younger folks often like to put the cart before the horse and do things like release a product or service without having done the necessary planning before. Getting in front of leaders and building relationships with them does a lot, as they can serve as role models to help young and ambitious people learn important qualities.

You are on the cusp of how Data Analytics and Strategy come together. What are some of the themes that you are seeing in the market regarding what leaders are looking for when leveraging analytics to drive strategy?  

Companies generate more data than ever before and they are starting to understand the massive value that analytics can drive. Competitive advantage can be gleaned and achieved through leveraging data in a more intelligent way to gain insights into customers and business operations. Despite this awareness, many organizations still don’t understand their own technologies, or have patchwork solutions stitched together without a cohesive plan for management and growth. This common approach is expensive to maintain, difficult to expand upon and largely inefficient. Thus, spending the time, effort and making the investment in developing cohesive technology strategy through utilizing the right tools leads to major downstream payoffs.

Today, many companies are focusing a lot on re-configuring their operational KPIs to getting a better understanding about customers through online interactions (social media, website messaging, etc). I have also seen organizations that are eager to begin implementing cutting-edge technologies (machine learning, real-time processing, etc.), but they lack the ability to properly utilize these tools without having a solid database and governance strategy. A lot of firms just aren’t there yet.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to those new to the workforce to help them get ahead of the game in today’s marketplace?  

Given the prominence of technology in the modern business world, new workers should keep up-to-date on emerging technologies and trends in their fields. Spending the time to learn about useful technologies will save time, effort and increase your marketability. For example, Visual Basic and Python, relatively-simple programming languages, are powerful tools to dig into.

Networking has also become more critical than ever. The old maxim “who you know is more important than what you know” has great relevance today. Make sure you deliberately develop close ties with a variety of people to build a personal brand and network. Ideally, your network should be leveraged for information and learning opportunities as much as it should be for career advancement.

I find that most people don’t leverage the greatest wealth their company can offer – the experience and deep knowledge of their people. Spending the time to sit down with co-workers and learn from them can be a quick win early on in one’s career.

Always operate with a sense of deliberateness. Plan and consider before you act. Be it career, projects, roles, or otherwise, focus on putting the most effort into the most important tasks and opportunities. Doing these kinds of things lead to the best results.

Finally, never let yourself get trapped by salary. Taking a job that is a bad fit purely for a larger salary often results in quick burn-out and disappointment.

Aubrey Chapnick