Sunday, April 18, 2010

WAA Certification - three advices and why I'm doin it

If you are in the web analytics industry, you certainly heard of the Web Analytics Association Certified Web Analyst Exam launched a few days ago. Applications are now being accepted and I'm enrolled to take the test at the upcoming eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in San Jose.

I did "test the test" in San Jose last year and again in Toronto this month. I registered as soon as the application process became available. The confirmation email I received stated: Congratulations, you were the first individual to submit an application so you have an opportunity to receive the first certification that is awarded!

Here's why I'm doin it!

Advice #1: don't put fancy suffixes to your job title

You can't pretend to be an expert, you can only be recognized as such. And to be recognized as an expert, Malcolm Gladwell states in his best seller Outliers, you need at least 10,000 of real experience - over 5 years full time! Guru is so... v1.0, while "ninja" is v2.0 but so over rated...

The only title that should accompany your role is "WAA Certified Web Analyst" - the only professional certification specifically addressing our field.

Advice #2: develop critical thinking

Let's take an example: I have utmost respect for Avinash. In his unique, exuberant and bold theatrical style, Avinash is amazing and probably the only one who can get away with “puke”, “sucks” and God in the same speech. However, being on such a pedestal is also dangerous - some "newbies" will simply “drink the words of wisdom” and run away saying “bounce rate - I came, I puked, I left”... “It depends” isn’t such a bad thing after all!

Regardless of the tool, regardless of the "web analytics is hard" or "web analytics is easy" approaches, regardless of your background and years of experience, there is one universal truth to analytics: how an entity (i.e., business) arrives at an optimal or realistic decision based on existing data. This requires "critical thinking" - determining the meaning and significance of what is observed or expressed ... whether there is adequate justification to accept the conclusion as valid.

The WAA Certification is exactly that: critical thinking in the field of online analytics. Take a look at the sample questions - they are not about the tools and they are not easy - they basically reflect a real business environment. It is your job, if you claim to be a real analyst, to understand complex issues, understand them and make sound recommendations.

Advice #3: mix training, education and experience

Jim Novo was the lead behind the Certification project and explains the numerous considerations that went into developing the WAA Certification: tools, the "book smart" phenomenon, the role of vendor-specific certification and who should apply for it.

The Certified Web Analyst designation is open to any qualified practitioner with at least four years of online business experience, with three of those specifically in the web analytics field. Check out the knowledge required for Certification for further details and "Where did the Requirements to take the Test Come From?" in Jim's post.

My take

The biggest benefits of the Web Analytics Association come when you get involved with a committee or a project that contributes shaping industry standards, education and best practices. That's why I volunteered to the Board, why I got actively involved in Web Analytics Without Borders, served as a jury for the Championship, tutor UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics courses and serve on the Certification Board.

In "should you change job?" I stated one of the three important questions you should ask yourself is "Am I increasing my value in the market?". One of the best way to actually prove your value is through Certification.

Are you up for the challenge?