Keep Calm and Collaborate: Creating a fun, data culture that works
“Always remember who this is for. If they don’t understand your data work, you might as well not do it!”
Nicole is the passionate Data and Insights lead at Katoo, a startup digitizing the relationship between restaurants and suppliers. She recently sat with Count Head Evangelist Mico Yuk for a wide-ranging interview that covers her rapid journey from analyst to data leader, how to collaborate using data, the purpose of data in decision-making, and how Count helped her and Katoo grow into data maturity.
Nicole, Katoo, and Count: growing together
Nicole joined Katoo early as an operations intern and grew alongside them to become the Data and Insights lead in just a few years. Katoo changes how restaurant owners interact with their suppliers by replacing paper and phone-based order placement and tracking with an intuitive app. This generates a ton of new data that the industry didn’t have before and makes it easy for restaurants to track profitability and reduce waste. As the volume and usefulness of data grew, Nicole’s role expanded to eventually head the data team, and Count was there to help her every step of the way.
“Count is the reason why I’m in data. We didn’t have a tool that worked for both restaurants and suppliers until we found Count. When we started I didn’t know SQL and I was able to build from simple queries to something more complex. Ultimately it’s all about understanding the logic. And actually, Taylor (Head of Product at Count) helped me a lot, that girl is amazing!”
Leading Through Collaboration
“The goal of data is to give an extra set of hands or extra tools in making a decision. So don’t overcomplicate things and work with the business to help them learn to ask better questions. If my team comes to me and says, Nikki, this is great but now I have more questions, I know I did the job right.”
When it comes to leading a data practice at a fast-growing startup, Nicole is all about collaboration. “It’s very hard to stay up to speed with changes in the company as the data team if you aren’t plugged into the business. You have to be flexible, get the data that you can, and work together to ensure that it’s what they need.” Nicole seeks input early and often and isn’t afraid to pivot if a better solution presents itself.
One great example of this in action is her team’s ability to deliver an analysis of the top products ordered across the restaurant industry. Before Katoo, it was practically impossible to answer this question, but her team worked very closely with sales and restaurant owners to clean and present a very challenging data set that didn’t exist before using Count.
Count makes it easy to collaborate by providing a real-time, multiplayer experience and giving the data team the ability to solve problems quickly and build great outputs that contain all the context necessary to make a decision or ask better questions.
Be Curious, Have Fun
“I am at the very beginning of this journey, I still have a lot to learn. I’m excited and thankful to be doing this.”
Nicole has already helped Katoo make major shifts in direction using data, but she recognizes how data fits into the bigger picture of life at a startup. “Data can help you move in the right direction, but you also need passion and gut feeling and you need to take bets, even if the data says the opposite.”
As for advice for data analysts aspiring to leadership, Nicole sees the importance of staying on top of industry trends and following the conversation on platforms like LinkedIn. But writing great code is only part of the equation. “Remember, data is about people at the end of the day. You have to learn to communicate in the right way and so I try to read things outside of just data to improve as a data leader.”
“Most importantly, never forget who you’re doing data work for - if they don’t understand it, you might as well not do it. And at the end of the day, be curious and have fun.”