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Using Data to Navigate: Data Leaders On Leading Companies Through Economic Uncertainty

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Jessica Schimm, Senior Content Marketing Manager

June 2, 2022 NaN minute read

The first weeks of crisis can be overwhelming. Companies must make rapid decisions based on a limited understanding of the current situation. Analysts and data scientists may feel pressure to respond to requests for more information, but they aren’t always equipped with the right data and dashboards to provide concrete answers right away. 

In March of 2020, Intercom’s Bobby Pinero watched COVID-19 spread rapidly through the United States. As stock markets plunged, Pinero expected the pandemic to slow certain sectors but didn’t know what the outcome would be. He wanted to look more closely into the risk the pandemic introduced to Intercom’s customer base, then use that data to make assumptions about how it might impact Intercom’s own financial performance.

“At the very early stages,” Pinero says, “it was mostly a finance question. We didn’t have data on how it was impacting our business yet, but we could examine broader economic scenarios and decide how we would execute in each one. We created five plans of action based on these scenarios that really helped us focus and move forward as a team.”

- Excerpt from Finding Resilience in Data


Welp, we’re back in turbulent economic times. 

In the U.S., we’re in the midst of “sky-high inflation,” the stock market has had a rocky month, and earlier this spring, VCs slowed investments across the globe. 

Companies that saw pandemic-fueled growth are now seeing stalls and some that saw stalls during the pandemic are now seeing upticks, TechCrunch reports. More than 15,000 tech workers lost their jobs in May due to layoffs. Things are chaotic.

Last we saw a dramatic downturn like this, it was in the late spring of 2020 when the world shut down due to Covid-19. As the economic climate sharply changed, we heard and witnessed through customers at Mode how data could help us get a sense of what was happening and help teams make decisions.  

In times of uncertainty, we search for answers—and data holds a lot of answers. 

Data leaders have been said to be “chief decision officers of their companies.” Executives often turn to them to assess the impact of what’s happening; they help leaders make decisions by gathering a picture of what's true.

Learning from those who’ve been here

About 4 months after the pandemic started in 2020, Mode’s co-founders talked to a handful of data leaders at marketplaces and B2B SaaS companies to ask them how they were leading their companies through massive change. 

Data leaders at Lyft, Intercom, Patreon, Greenhouse, and Sisu generously shared their advice and stories, which we organized in a downloadable pdf. They shared how they teamed up with executives, approached company-wide communication, drove alignment, and rethought “north star” metrics amidst volatility. 

While this guide was written with the 2020 pandemic as a backdrop, we’re bringing it back into circulation, as the learnings and advice from these data leaders still very much apply today. Each company had its own challenges and each data leader had their own strategies for how they used data to stay resilient. We hope you find it just as insightful as we did.

Download

We’d like to thank our data leadership panel again for taking the time to share their lessons and advice with us and reviewing this guide: Maura Church, Director of Data Science and Engineering at Patreon; Andrew Zirm, Analytics Engineer (formerly Senior Data Scientist) at Greenhouse; Bobby Pinero, CEO & Co-founder at Equals (formerly, Senior Director of Finance and Analytics at Intercom); Matt Isanuk, Head of Homebase Data Platform (formerly Head of Data Productivity at Lyft), Peter Bailis, Founder & CEO at Sisu.

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