Analytics aren’t there to tell you what you want to hear; they are there to solve a problem…Data gives you the tools to make the right decisions, but you also have to be a critical thinker who can think outside the equational box.
Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft and a writer for various business and technology publications. Dixon consults with businesses on data analysis and computer engineering. As a strong believer that numbers tell stories, Dixon focuses on helping companies uncover the details and figures that signal where they should go next.
Previously a systems analyst and business advisor at Kronos for 12 years, Dixon earned a master’s in engineering from Boston University.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I’m a writer with more than 20 years of experience under my belt on business analytics. I write about my experiences, consult companies on how to up productivity, and love pulling together the analytics to support it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a facilitator, moderator, team player, connector, people engineer, and advocate. My typical day involves looking at a business to see what makes it tick. How do I make things go smoothly? How do I make the productivity support the math, and vice versa? Was the SQL query done correctly, and what were the results? Are these goals SMART?
I try to keep productive by managing my time effectively. Listing out exactly what needs to be accomplished during the day, recording how much time I have to do it, and how much time it actually takes helps me predict future time needed as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by being the connector between engineers or analysts and managers or stakeholders. I focus on how to build that relationship and make it efficient or effective.
What’s one trend that excites you?
OK, I almost hate to admit it, but I’m huge into crypto. Hordes of people finally jumped on the bandwagon this past year and have already tapered off, but I don’t think it’s done yet. Decentralized currency is just a strange phenomenon to me.
My kid brother also recently got me into gadgets and said it’s how to understand the “younger generation.” I showed him — I haven’t missed a CES since.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
If the math doesn’t support it, neither do I.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so angry with your mama; she’s doing the best she can with what she’s been dealt. Seriously, though, I was just an angry kid, and I missed a lot of what made that time special because of it. I spent too much time frustrated that we moved to Boston, and now I honestly don’t know if I’d ever leave!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m sure other BAs would agree with me, but the companies I’m consulting don’t always agree with this statement: Analytics aren’t there to tell you what you want to hear; they are there to solve a problem. Using analytics and data is imperative, but they alone will not solve the problem — just because you have an equation telling you one thing doesn’t automatically make A + B = C. Data gives you the tools to make the right decisions, but you also have to be a critical thinker who can think outside the equational box.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Wash my hands. Hahaha! Do you know the number of germs we carry on our hands every time we touch a door handle?
Being serious, business analysts often find themselves getting tripped up with requirements — think of what you need to get from one point to another in your business. I recommend every entrepreneur go back to the underlying plan being SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realizable, Time-bound. If your goals don’t meet those requirements, they might be the wrong goals to work toward. If you want extra credit, add in SMART-CC for Clear and Concise — that helps me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Follow the money, and follow the math. Money will always lead you to the reason something was done, and math will help you find a better (and typically cheaper) way to do it.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Being overconfident. When you have some success, it’s easy to immediately start being a little cocky, but just when I’ve become overconfident, something happens that brings me down to earth. Having the right type of confidence is key to succeeding at most tasks, so it’s important to surround yourself with amazing people who will keep you grounded while building up your self-confidence.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Start a trust agency for Facebook and other platforms that are starting to value credibility on their platforms. Recently, Facebook announced a trust rating that will affect your influence on social media. I think it would be amazing for a company to focus on trust-building on these platforms so companies will know best practices to keep trust rather than just do what every other social media marketing agency does and bombard people with ads.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My step-nephew kept talking about this video game that had a Boston apocalypse in it. There was some town or something located in Fenway. I took him to see a real game, and the way his face lit up was priceless. It’s personal, but some of the best money spent always is.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I really like Zapier. For me, it’s all about saving time, so anything that limits the amount of time I’m spending on something is my best friend. Zapier helps me connect an API to another API so that the software I use all works together.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read “What Every Body Is Saying” by Joe Navarro a few years back; it’s basically an FBI guy’s “tells” on how to read body language and catch the bad guy, etc. But the idea struck me as strange: What if we could read people’s bodies the way we read a book? Be able to tell exactly the moment they stopped paying attention to the presentation or disliked the way our tie looked or formed an opinion contrary to the point we were making?
Would it help us analyze and create more effective ways of communication? Be more efficient in the often-time-wasted meeting? Regardless of the philosophical questions, it was a great read, and it helps you pick out certain movements and sounds that people exhibit that are very helpful in business.
What is your favorite quote?
I really loved reading when I was a kid. I convinced myself that it would set me apart from all the other poor black kids who wanted the same spot or scholarship that I did. My favorite quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “Sherlock Holmes” actually influenced me to go into engineering and work as an analyst: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
• Time spent angry or frustrated at things you can’t change is time wasted.
• List what you need accomplished in the day, and segment your time wisely.
• Analytics give you tools to solve problems, but they alone won’t solve them.
• When building a business, are your goals SMART? If not, they might be the wrong goals
• Theories should support facts, not the other way around.