Own Your Career podcast – Find something that can become an obsession: Meet Nick Koenig

26 min read
Katelyn Armas

Janelle (Host): Hello and welcome to the Own Your Career Podcast. My name is Janelle Jordan and I'm a Program Manager on our Talent, Performance and Engagement team and I'm excited to be here with you today. Throughout the series, you'll hear inspiring interviews with employees who have achieved career growth at GoDaddy through internal promotions and movement. In addition, you'll hear tips, best practices and advice to support your career. Career management is necessary for a successful journey and we hope you'll walk away ready to own your career. Thanks for spending time with us today. Now let's jump into the career spotlight with our guest. I'm here today with Nick Koenig who is a Senior Director of Analytics on the Customer Care Analytics team. Hi Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick (Guest): Excited to be here.

Janelle: Let's get to know you quickly. Can you share with us a little about who you are outside of the office?

Nick: Let's see. I feel like most of my time outside of the office is spent taking care of my very large Labradoodle, who is a little bit crazy, but yes, I'm a very proud dog dad. I live in San Francisco and I'm an active member of the San Francisco Gay Men's Course, which is a fun commitment and fun way to express my creative side. Just like to get out in the city, spend time with friends, go to movies, go to concerts. I think, yeah, that's a pretty good summary of outside of work Nick.

Janelle: How old is your giant Labradoodle?

Nick: He is almost five physically, although he is perpetually a puppy.

Janelle: I have a brother in law who used to live in the heart of San Francisco in Pack Height, and I frequented a lot and I feel like for a big city with really tiny places to live, a lot of folks there have giant dogs. What's up with that? Nick, I'm serious. There's a lot of dog owners. Everyone's a dog owner and they're all medium to large sized dogs.

Nick: They are large dogs. I don't know the skinny on the size, although I do know that San Francisco has more dogs than it does children. Yes. Which is abnormal for any city.

Janelle: Thank you for sharing about Leo and yourself. Can you start us off here and give our listeners an overview of your career journey? And you can start with before GoDaddy and then of course including any movement that you've made here at GoDaddy.

Nick: Yeah, I'm happy to. So I've been at GoDaddy for a little over nine years now. I came to GoDaddy essentially out of college, didn't have any formal education in anything I did at GoDaddy. What I studied in undergraduate was psychology and music, and I came to GoDaddy into the call center as a blended Sales and Support Guide. Over the course of the last nine years, I've mostly done data and analytics. Within seven months of being a Call Center Guide, I took a position as a sort of like a Quality Assurance person, which exposed me to a programming language I never seen or heard of. To be fair, I hadn't heard of any programming language really, but it was this language called SQL, which is what one would use to query a database, and we used that to get call listening log. I saw this and it interested me and so I spent a couple of months familiarizing myself with it, making a relationship with the manager of what at the time was called the Business Intelligence team, who was sort of like the Data team within Care, and then just boot camped it in my apartment with some SQL textbooks and started to learn the language and really tried to set myself up as someone that could take stretch assignments from this manager I mentioned right when she only had a team of like two or three, and there was just an abundance of projects they had. And so for some of the easier tasks and the more entry level tasks, I would ask her to just give them to me and I would just kind of go do the work in my free time and give her the results. And it was a great way for me to get some initial experience in the analytics field while at the same time positioning myself as the shoe in for her and for her team when and if an opening came up and that's what happened, I think within a year or so I was able to transition into an entry level Business Intelligence Analyst. That was maybe seven or eight years ago. And since then I've had the opportunity to just incrementally be promoted up the individual contributor chain and then into management of analytics. And then I've been able to secure a few promotions as a Progressive Manager. Some of the time, few years was spent in Care. The last, I'd say four years or so, I had the opportunity to go into other departments within the business or other functions, I would say like, I've been able to work within competitive analytics, product analytics, website analytics, I think almost every analytics department. And then eight months ago, I took the position as the Senior Director of Analytics for the Care and Services team, which sort of feels like a nice full circle moment.

Janelle: I love this story because there's where you are today and then the really low key mention of undergraduate degree and studies in psychology and music, and now I'm an expert in SQL. But, like, I just want to rewind because I feel like you were in Care and Services and you were in this Guide role. It started with this opportunity in quality assurance. Can you just share, was that a job that you applied for? Was this a position, like a volunteer position within the team? Like, hey, we need somebody on our team to actually also help us with this side of the business, too. So can you share just kind of where that opportunity came from or how you got into that? Because it sounds like that's really the catalyst, what helped become really self taught in this area.

Nick: Yeah, that's right. So it was a position I applied for. It came up at the time it was called was Operational Excellence Analyst. And it was a job posting where they were essentially looking for someone in the Care Center. Right. And they encouraged those folks to apply. You only needed to have three months of experience at GoDaddy. But sort of just like a knack for thinking analytically is really what they were looking for. And at the time, I was actually able to use some of the experiences I had in my psychology studies. Some of those experiences are actually what set me up, what differentiated me. One of the parts of that Operational Excellence job was calibrating with team members about how they would rate different calls. Right. And so basically, do you agree on a scale of one to five, this is a three in terms of X, Y or Z? Right. And I did that in my research lab in psychology, just in my psychology studies, just on child behavioral development. Right. But some of the same components were there. And so I was able to use that tangential experience to differentiate myself. And then, yeah, once I got into that role, which was honestly my most exciting promotion I ever had, because it sort of felt like, oh, my gosh, I came into GoDaddy. And a big part of coming into GoDaddy was, I'm going to make this my home. Right. And then I found a job that was like, oh, my gosh, this is analytical. Right. And this is going to be so cool for me. And that felt really exciting. But that was definitely the catalyst job because once I got to that point, I sort of felt like I was part of the internal career engine where I was able to just start to learn new skills and use them to advance.

Janelle: The growth potential and the learning curve just opened up to you in so many different ways. And then it sounds like you were and are extremely self motivated to take every opportunity that you could to expand your skills and capabilities, which is really part of GoDaddy's culture and belief around owning your career. Right. Like really digging in to what interests you and what you're passionate about or what you're curious about and exploring what that looks like.

Nick: I totally agree. That's so part of the GoDaddy DNA, finding a discipline to your point that you're curious about. Right. And that you can, if you spent 4 hours on Saturday learning about it, it wouldn't feel like a drain. It would feel like it was giving you life. I feel really lucky in that sense that I sort of stumbled into that. But, yeah, that was instrumental to My motivation to really pursue this as hard as I did.

Janelle: Well, this is a great segue. So the next question we want to ask you is, can you tell us what do you think are some of the secrets behind getting you to where you are today?

Nick: Yeah, no, I think that is a good segue. I would double down on finding the discipline that interests you and then just going ham about it. Right. Like finding something that can become an obsession. That for me was like analytics, which I know is not the case for everyone. I talk to so many people on a daily basis that the first thing they tell me is like, I hate math. And I'm like, okay, you don't have to take my job, I promise. Math is a big part of it. But, yeah, I think for each of us there are different areas that are intrinsically interesting, and so it's been super important.

Janelle: I feel like we could go, like hours talking about how people will state so confidently that they're not data people. And I'm one of those. Like, a couple of years ago, I took this project and it was like, so excel, Smartsheet space. And I remember being like, why did you choose me for that? And I was chosen. I was like, I am not a data person. A whole new world opened to me around how actually we all are, and we all can be and could be and should be for so many different reasons. But I just love that because you're right, so many people will probably look at what you do and say, well, that could never be me.

Nick: That's so true. And it’s interesting, because I think more and more we're sort of moving into this time where being data driven, being quantitative, is becoming more of an expectation of everyone. And if not like a formal expectation, then a very strong, like, “hey, if you develop this skill, it will supercharge your career no matter what field you're in.” So I think, to your point, it may seem daunting, but learning those fundamentals just unlocks so much about your ability to showcase value of you or your team. Or think more, just analytically in general, about the impact that you're having or the impact that you could have for our customers. It's so important.

Janelle: And it's not that you have to even learn it in order to practice it. I think for me, going through that project and having learned it just allowed me to be able to tell stories with data. And if that's all I ever do, I'm so thankful for that, because you're right. Data and analytics in some capacity is table stake. I'm thankful that I had that very brutal experience because I have this capability, and data can really help you tell stories, and that's literally what we do here in everything that we're trying to propose and solve and solution and ideate. And so, yeah, I'm with you.

Janelle: Awesome. Well, I'll let you know next time we're hiring, Janelle.

Janelle: No, thanks. I unsubscribe. Do you see how I'm still digging my feet in the sand?

Nick: I would say another element of success has been starting to develop my own internal compass for what's valuable to the business. That doesn't just happen overnight. That came out of many experiences doing the work and getting feedback from either my peers or cross functional partners or managers just about the quality or how else I might think about how to reframe an analysis or another question that I might have asked or a double click that I might ask. But over time, I think for any of us, particularly if we stick with a specific discipline and learn the skills of that discipline, we can start to become experts and develop mastery within that. And then I think it's like owning that mastery and still having a degree of humility about it or situational humility about it, but really starting to realize that, oh, yeah, you know what? I don't necessarily need to look to others to know what is the most valuable thing to go look for, to go analyze. I can start to answer or ask my own questions, and I think that's been really instrumental in my growth as well, because that leads to a sort of a pattern of just being very self sufficient. Right. Or uncovering new opportunities that your boss never even thought to ask. Right. I think we all have the ability to gain that lens, and I think many of us are in the position, or are starting out from the position where we began our journeys in Care and Services. What that means to the rest of the sort of corporate GoDaddy population. Those folks who began their career in Care and Services have a secret weapon, and that secret weapon is the customer empathy that they were able to develop when they were talking to. There's probably thousands of customers. What's really differentiated me across the rest of my peers in analytics is that I'm able to fall back on those experiences and just understanding our products super well. Understanding our customers super well. Certainly that's not specific to an Analyst. I think any of us, whether we're in learning and development or communications or even engineering, we can anchor to those experiences, to just really exponentiate the ways in which we work and the impact we have.

Janelle: Just to recap, it sounds like at the very, very foundational level, you had an awareness of your own experiences and your own skill set and capabilities. With that awareness, we're able to anchor as superpowers all the way back to your experiences with your psych degree. Like you understood the superpowers that you had, and then you were able to use all of that, I guess giving yourself permission, because we're waiting, what you said is like, we're waiting around, right? Everyone's waiting around for the permission to tap into their creativity, to tap into their curiosity. We're all waiting for permission to be what we're already capable of. We're just waiting for permission. We're like, I'm just going to sit over here until you invite me in the room, then I'm going to sit in the corner of the room until you invite me to the table, and then I'm going to sit at the table quietly until you call on me. But really, nobody has to do that. And one of your secrets was having the discernment to be able to say, I guess in certain moments, or maybe you probably have mistakes where you did and you shouldn't have, or you shouldn't have, but did, but just having the discernment to be like, no, I'm going to follow this, I guess, take a risk, or I'm going to have the courage, or I'm going to just give myself permission.

Nick: Yes, I love that you mentioned the discernment because that was so hard. One, if you ask some of my earlier managers to describe the qualities of me. I'm sure there would be many positives, but another would be like, continuously asks me to get into all of the meetings, super whiny about new projects and I was. I was like borderline annoying. It took a long time for me to sort of refine that approach.

Janelle: You had golden retriever energy, that's all. Because you were passionate and eager and ambitious.

Nick: Yeah. And then I think the final point I'd want to make on this question is I say “yes” whenever a new opportunity comes up, I change roles, I take on new scope whenever I'm starting to feel comfortable, that expansion of what I'm exposed to and the different areas and functions of what is commercial, what is part of being a business, and learning some of those foundations of all these different areas, that has helped me become so much more well rounded than I think I would have been had I just stick with one specific area for my particular growth. I've had a lot of advantages as a result of that sort of instinct to just try something new and try something different and say yes to an uncomfortable new space that I don't yet fully understand. I will be able to learn it, right? I'll be able to catch on. It may suck for a few months, but eventually I'll be able to add something to my tool belt. And I feel really proud, I think right now, in particular, of the knowledge I have in Marketing, the knowledge I have in Product, the knowledge I have in all these different spaces.

Janelle: Thank you so much for sharing. I think people that are listening to us are going to want to know. I'm new in my career and I don't want to mess up, but I don't want to make the wrong moves. And there's so much fear. How can folks just get over that fear of failing? Or maybe it not looking exactly the way they thought it was going to, or maybe that learning curve taking a little bit longer. What's your advice for folks? Just to get over that fear and to still do it if that's what their heart and telling them to do.

Nick: A wise approach might be to develop a reputation and a brand for yourself that is one where you're trusted and you're highly competent. And once you have that, particularly if you stay within GoDaddy, that affords you a lot of, I would say, a lot of wiggle room, right. To go experiment and to go tinker and potentially to go do something that you do fail at. Right? And that's okay. But at that point you can fall back on like, oh, you know what, though I have established wins at GoDaddy still, you can go back, you can change course, you can turn it into something that doesn't necessarily need to feel like a complete failure. It's all along the journey of incremental ups and downs and learning whatever the outcome is. You learn something about yourself, about your strengths, about some of your areas of opportunity. But if the backdrop is I have this company that I work for values me, then I think that can sort of be the baseline of confidence that you can have for yourself.

Janelle: Fantastic advice. The most foundational level, you work for a company that supports you and your growth and then knowing at the most foundational level, like you're totally worthy of this experience and you will be no matter what the outcome is. And that if you look at everything as a growth opportunity and a learning opportunity, then that is what it is. It's a success.

Nick: 100%.

Janelle: Being a leader here at GoDaddy, I feel like folks might want to learn from you around what advice would you share for those who are in leadership roles or even preparing to be a leader here at GoDaddy?

Nick: My answer to this question probably would have changed throughout the last few years. Where I'm at right now, I think would be to suggest not taking yourself so seriously. And that can be, I think, probably taken a few ways. But really what I mean is having, and I mentioned the term situational humility before and I think it's really important here, like having a degree in understanding and awareness of like I have strength and I was selected for this position for a reason. And just because you're designated as a manager or a leader doesn't mean you need to know the answer, or it doesn't mean you need to act perfectly in every situation. And what I found is my own bosses that I've had, as well as the progression that I've had in my own management journey. I see a lot better results when I'm Human First, meaning I show up and I'm like, I'm okay being wrong. I'm okay changing my mind. I'm okay soliciting advice from others. I'm okay being vulnerable, both with how the outcome with my own team, and then also my observations. When I've had bosses that are more like that versus much less transparent and much more sort of command and control style, to me, it's like it's night and day in terms of the experience that I have, the learning that I'm able to either get from above me or instill below me. You're not going to be expected to know everything or be perfect. That self awareness and exhibiting that humility up and down is going to just make the journey a lot smoother and make you a lot more likable. Just like so many benefits to adopting that orientation as an individual contributor, you are evaluated on your own performance, and so you're optimizing towards your own performance. As a manager, though, your success is your team's success. That mindset shift of realizing that, “oh, I can let my direct report shine, and it's okay that they know more than me on this subject, and I'm going to let that flourish and set that up to grow.” It's a double win. It's a different perspective. It's a different paradigm that I don't think anyone explicitly told me, but just something I realized within a few months.

Janelle: And I'm sure there was a learning curve there.

Nick: It can be completely different than what you initially thought. than what you initially thought. And it's not all about your competency or your mastery. It's about your ability to inspire your team that is just such a different muscle to build versus what you have to optimize as an individual contributor.

Janelle: Yeah, we used to call that at my previous organization, followership. When I first started there, I was like, followership? What is that? That's not a skill and capability that shows up on resumes, right? It wasn't a term that I was used to, but that's what you're describing as followership. And what you're saying is like, okay, if you don't take yourself too seriously, if you're humble, if you're vulnerable, if you are able to say, you know what, that idea is better than mine. Are you able to say, I don't have the answer, but I can help you find it, or you're able to say, you know what? Go with that. And I'm not sure what that's going to look like, or I'm not sure how I can support you, but I'm here, or I'm sorry, right? Like, I made a decision and maybe I should have made a different decision, but here we are. Let's learn from that together. That's going to gain you likability, but followership and trust, and that's how you continue to inspire the people to do great work right with you and for you and for GoDaddy.

Janelle: Yeah, super well summarized. Awesome. Okay, last question, and I love this one. What is a common myth, perhaps, about your job, your department, or your field of expertise?

Nick: Many people might think that a formal education is required, or formal training is required to be successful in analytics. And if you look at my background, I'm one data point suggesting that's not the case. And so I would say needing to either be super, super good at math, particularly advanced math, like calculus or trigonometry. There are a few folks within our teams that PhD level scientists, but in 95% of what a very data savvy, no, 100% of what a very data savvy business person would need to wield would be stuff you learn in the first couple of years of high school. It's not necessarily like a super high barrier to entry from that perspective, either. Going back to the earlier point that it is accessible to most everyone. And so I think the myth is that it's not accessible. And sometimes I think folks within our industry, I don't know. I don't want to say purposely, but folks within our industry do a disservice by making it seem inaccessible. Using data to tell a convincing story or to court your findings is something that I do believe can be taught and trained.

Janelle: I think a lot of folks that are listening are going to be really excited about what you just said because there's a credibility there and you're saying you don't have to be a data scientist to field your curiosity and to do something in this field, or to do something with data, or to follow your curiosity around what data informed means. I guess find that discipline and explore it. How could somebody get started? What would you say? Read a book, read a blog? What would you say, take a cornerstone on demand course? What would you say to someone who's like, I am super curious. I get excited and energized. I don't even know where to start. I want to know what it means to go into analytics and I have no idea where to start.

Nick: I actually might suggest not going the path of external resources because I think that is the path in which you find a lot of the inaccessibility. Hey, these folks are talking about mathematical concepts. I'm not necessarily anchoring to this with anything that I can relate to or know. I think if we're to take my experience and the playbook that I followed, which is to first know a business, GoDaddy - GoDaddy customers. And then secondly, go and explore that data which like have an intrinsic connection to, and then start to explore more data related concepts there. And also talk to my network, talk to folks within my sphere that I know are more analytical than me, either peers or my neighborhood business analysts in my space. And also we have just an abundance of data out there in tableau. So if you have tableau access and you're looking at dashboards, that's a great way to make a connection to concepts such as counts and sums and visualizations and how you do aggregations and all these different sort of table stakes. When it comes to data manipulation, I think my strongest suggestion would be connect it to a journey with data that is based in your network and based in a business that you know. Such sound advice.

Nick: Thanks.

Janelle: So good. I know our listeners are going to be so appreciative and also super inspired and motivated after listening to this podcast. I want to say thank you for spending time with us today. Thank you for sharing your personal and professional career story with our listeners. Thank you for opening up and giving us so much advice, points of feedback for folks to be able to grip onto and take and soar with. So anyways, if folks wanted to connect with you, professional mentoring, networking, or just to follow up on something you might have said, what's the best way for them to reach you?

Nick: Yeah, I would say Slack or LinkedIn. Either would work. Nick Koenig, you can find me on Slack and also on LinkedIn via my name, so those are fairly easy ways to get in contact with me.

Janelle: Excellent. And folks, I hope you do reach out. Nick sounds like an amazing leader here at GoDaddy and someone who's really passionate about career growth. So take advantage. I want to thank everyone for listening to the own your career podcast. We aim to inspire, motivate and empower our employees to meet and achieve their professional goals. If you are interested in being a guest on a future episode of this podcast, please reach out to myself or visit the MyCareer Career Spotlight page and complete the interest form. While you're there, check out the many resources and articles available and as always, let us know if you have questions, content, ideas, us. We would love to hear from you. Thank you Nick so much for spending time with us today. We really appreciate your time.

Nick: Thanks Janelle. Thank you everyone.

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