5 Minutes with Analytics Conference Speaker, Simo Ahava

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Simo Ahava is the Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor and a Google Developer Expert for Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. He’s an avid tweeter, G+’er and blogger, spending his free time helping others better their digital practices. In just 5 minutes you’ll find out where it all began, the people who impress Simo the most, his most difficult project ever, and if he can pick between love and data. After reading this interview you will turn into a fangirl, devoting your everything to Team Simo.

Disclaimer: sorry ladies and gents, he’s already taken.

Already sold? You can meet Simo in person at the 2015 Analytics Conference (yes it’s true, we sold out last year!).

How and when did you first get interested in what you are doing?

I created my first website in 1997. It was a fan site for the rap artist Notorious B.I.G., and I ruthlessly scraped the content from other fan sites. I was only thirteen, so I wasn't that finely tuned to the intricacies of IPR law. Anyway, thanks to my meticulous scraping strategy, the site soon jumped to number one in Yahoo! search for ‘Notorious B.I.G.’, so I wanted to know how many people and what type of folks were coming to the site.

I installed a simple stat counter, which gave me very, very basic analytics data, but it was enough to get me hooked. Over the years, I worked as a freelance web developer, and with every website I created I had a measurement-driven development principle. This helped me understand the quirks of JavaScript, client-server communication, proxies, race conditions, DOM rendering, and the messy, messy jungle of web standards.

Even though I also work with analytics in a professional capacity, it's always been, and always will be, a hobby for me first and foremost.

Tell us about someone who impresses you with their love and knowledge of data, and how they make the most of it.

There are many individuals who impress me with their analytical skills, and most of them are the unspoken heroes who work in-house, sifting through millions and millions of rows of business data every day, contributing massively to business growth and understanding.

These are the people I work with daily, and they inspire me to realise the connection (and disconnect) between a data set and insights derived thereof. So my shoutout goes to the amazing clients and colleagues I work with, and their amazing approach to how data should be the backbone of any business.

What has been your most difficult analysis project to date?

Since I mostly do implementation and development work, I have to say that I'm never excited to work with the Microsoft tech stack (especially ASP.NET). It's as if the whole platform is resilient to JavaScript-based measurement.

In terms of the full journey of implementation to analysis, the most difficult cases are the ones I love the most. They always involve querying, warehousing, and joining data across very different systems. At Reaktor, all our clients fall into this category, as we have really embraced the idea of Big Data as something that supports our full-stack development work.

What’s the weirdest statistic you’ve ever heard?

I'm the biggest NBA fan in Europe (self-proclaimed). If you know the sport, it's CRAZY with statistics. You hear the play-by-play announcers saying stuff like ”And with that basket, LeBron James became the first person named ‘James’ under 31 to score a 27pts/16reb/16ast game at the Madison Square Garden while it was raining outside and Don King was not in the audience." Completely weird, off-the-cuff stats that I absolutely adore.

If you had to choose one: love or data?

I'm a hopeless romantic, and I'm married to the most wonderful woman on the planet, so I will always choose love first. Besides, LOVE of data is the foundation of good analysis, and inspires to strive for better quality data day in, day out.

So, where can I meet Simo and learn more from him?

The Analytics Conference is an annual Google Analytics user conference, hosted by Google Partners, Loves Data in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a must-attend for marketers, analysts, IT professionals, SEM specialists and social media practitioners. Expect two action-packed days of insights, best practices and ‘out of the box’ thinking to make you question and improve your own digital marketing methods.

Joining Simo Ahava will be speakers from Google, Twitter, Optimizely, ADMA and other international industry experts. Tickets start from $575, talk about ROI!