Inside Tigunia: A Conversation with Kenya Williams, Business Intelligence Analyst

 

Thank you for reading this month’s Inside Tigunia. Tigunia is comprised of industry-leading experts. Inside Tigunia features full-length, candid conversations to introduce the team to our friends and clients.

 

This month’s spotlight will be on Kenya Williams, Business Intelligence Analyst.

 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

 

 

Tigunia
Hi Kenya, thank you for joining me today. How did you first find yourself working in the IT and business intelligence space, and what has your experience looked like since you started?

 

Kenya Williams
That’s a great question. I actually started my professional career in sales, but I always used analytics for my sales process. I’d look at how my sales doing compared to other salespersons, where could I improve my sales, things like that. I’ve always been a bit of a numbers person. Fifteen years ago, I found myself working for an outsource company as a sales manager and as a supervisor. I was running my team using a spreadsheet I’d put together showing their performance using all of these different data points. My bosses, my operations manager, really liked that idea, and they wanted me to help their IT team. They said, “Hey, you understand this IT stuff. You understand what we’re trying to look for.” So I actually got started as a liaison between the sales department and our reporting department, where the sales team would send me over to the reporting team to get specific metrics. Then, I would talk with the reporting team, and we’d come up with a report and go back and forth that way.

It almost started out as like a client for business intelligence at that point. From there, the reporting department got busy and I started to take on some of the tasks. I had some limited SQL experience from previous jobs. I had worked in a call center before that where part of my job was looking up expired gift certificates. The only way they had to do that was to look through a SQL program. They showed me how to use SQL and I was like, well, what is this? I started doing some homework on my own to figure out SQL and then in my new position I started applying concepts. I learned how to write sequel and how to produce results from a database that could be used for business intelligence and data analytics.

That progressed to the point that my bosses decided to put me on the reporting team. I had the good fortune to work with Ryan Paterson at this job. He became my boss and he kind of led the way for what was a blossoming reporting team. Once that company dissolved, they got bought out by a bigger company, we both went our separate ways. I really enjoyed the reporting space and I found it to be more satisfying than sales. I went and pursued some other jobs throughout the Northwest region that were in that same vein, and ended up working with some great companies.

Then about 2 and a half years ago, I happened to run into Ryan after he had moved back into the area and we were talking about the different things that we were doing. I talked about a Power BI project that I was working on for the City of Spokane and he thought that was really interesting. He wanted to show me what he was working on for Tigunia, and then we went from there. Eventually a spot opened up here, I interviewed for it, and now I’m here.

 

Tigunia
And in that time that, how would you say that the industry has evolved?

 

Kenya Williams
In the last 12 years, there’s definitely more of a focus on reliable data, reliable reporting, and business intelligence solutions. I think the C-level executives are seeing more of the value of having automated reporting to run their businesses versus having someone compile those reports daily. And then there’s the reliability of those manual reports to consider, which can improve with automation. All of that data is at their fingertips, all those corporate and company insights, whether it’s in sales or production, in inventory, or any of other pockets within their business. People recognizing the value of having a business intelligence component, and more people are taking data analytics seriously.

 

Tigunia
Yeah, I would imagine. With all that in mind, could you describe a time when you were able to assist a client, whether that be by improving upon existing BI infrastructure or translating data analytics for a layman?

 

Kenya Williams
I think one of the biggest in a business intelligence or reporting space was when I was working for a paper company. Their new CIO was trying to get some insights into their production space. He was spending approximately 3 weeks every month putting together a report by hand that tracked each of their production machines and their production environments, positive production states versus negative production states. He was looking at the overall efficiency of their production environment. Again, he was spending about three weeks every month putting together this report that he could only look back a week for what happened during the month previous to where he was running the report.

In the process of him working through this report, we worked together and it took us probably about two months to automate that entire report. We created an overall efficiency equivalent where we were looking at production, uptime versus downtime, a machine’s utilization positive versus negative. The report could display a rolling pattern over a three week course or ten week course or a quarterly versus a yearly, and so on. The report showed here were some obvious improvements, some easy things to address to improve production. Within the space of about three months of finishing that report, he had improved the production environment from about a 64% efficiency to about 80%.

We were looking at three separate metrics: for productivity, job occupancy of those machines, and then the quality that was coming off of those machines. Multiplied against each other, you got to an 80 to 85% window where everything was running seamlessly. It was great to see. And then, obviously, his workload went from having three weeks of building this report to having three weeks to work with his production teams to improve these things on the ground. It was a great win for the company and a great win for him. It goes to show how analytics can affect a company, right?

 

Tigunia
For sure. With the BI field, the growth of big data and using data in more and more spaces, it seems like there’s a lot to keep up with. What are your go to resources to remain up to date on the latest information and tactics in the field?

 

Kenya Williams
I find that Microsoft Learn is a great resource. It encompasses a lot of the main pieces that many companies are using because Microsoft is such a great partner, and they have such a wide reach in business intelligence and data analytics. I find a lot of value in industry articles and in going to LinkedIn and seeing similar fields and business intelligence companies to see what everyone is talking about.

 

Tigunia
It’s fair to say that you’re the kind of person who gets excited by numbers, correct?

 

Kenya Williams
Yes, I have always been drawn to numbers. When people ask what I do, I’m like, “I want you to think of all that stuff in algebra where you had the numbers and the letters and you were trying to figure all that out. Yep, I do that. Except it’s on steroids.” It’s a lot of numbers and a lot of reporting.

 

Tigunia
So maybe this question isn’t as relevant to you, I assume you’re like most people and you experience burnout occasionally. How do you create motivation for yourself when you’re working in a remote environment surrounded by numbers?

 

Kenya Williams
Sometimes I have to step away. I love numbers and being in the middle of it so much. I love puzzles. I love figuring out data and seeing how the data flows and how to get to the solution for a client or how to match current reporting and get data aligned and all of that. It’s a big puzzle to me, so I tend to have my head down and I’m in the puzzle. And sometimes when you’re in it, you can’t see it as closely. So, I do have to walk away at times or focus on a different item. I might have to go back to some resources to look at best practices, keeping in mind sometimes simple is better.

A simple solution can be an elegant solution. It doesn’t always have to be super complicated. And leaning on resources and teammates, even though we’re all sort of siloed, it’s nice to have our business intelligence team and the resources that we do have at Tigunia to lean on. I have talked with several people in the company, not just on the business intelligence team, but also in our platform team, about Dynamics solutions or NAV implementations connecting Business Central to Power BI reporting. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to a spot where I’ve had to bang my head on a wall to figure out a problem. There’s always somebody else I can reach out to. Where in previous IT jobs, even though you were in the building together, you were still sort of siloed. You were expected to just do this stuff yourself. There wasn’t a whole lot of collaboration going on.

 

Tigunia
Yeah, that makes sense. Well, we’re going to transition to a few questions of a more personal nature. What is your favorite book and or movie and why?

 

Kenya Williams
Favorite book and or movie? I would have to say my favorite movie series would be the Star Wars series because of the way the story is told, having a hero and that sort of a hero’s journey. For books, I’d have to say the Dark Tower series. To me, it’s a great series of books. It touches on a lot of different genres, it mixes a lot of different motifs, but it’s still about a person’s journey through different motivations, whether it’s to help another person or to hinder another person. But it’s not always comfortable, so there’s a lot. For some reason, growing up I really identified with that series. I really enjoyed that series. When I first read through it, I thought I identified more with the character called Jake, who was a lost boy who kind of gets thrown through these adventures, and I wanted to be Jake. And then as I’ve gotten older and reread it, I more identify with the Gunslinger who’s kind of walking through this precarious world and trying to find the good path and stay on that good path. But he’s also having to deal with all of these other absurdities that come along. Any story that I can go through and see myself or experience through different peoples’ eyes is always good.

 

Tigunia
Agreed. Who is your hero in life and why?

 

Kenya Williams
Ah, wow. It’s kind of two-fold. I was raised primarily by my mom, and my mom is a hero to me because she’s always found her own path. I was talking about this with her the other day and realized that it’s been 30 to 40 years since she’s had an actual boss. She’s owned her own businesses and she’s followed whatever professional path that she wanted to follow and just did it herself. And that was a huge motivation for me as a child. Growing up, she empowered me to follow my dreams and not take anyone else’s opinion of me as the truth.

One of my other heroes passed away last year. It was a family friend of mine named Oscar. Oscar was very influential to me because he lived by the motto of whatever you find for your hand to do, do it with all your might. He already had a full family. He had four kids of his own. In fact, that’s how I met him. His oldest daughter and I were in the same class in school, and there were three or four of us kids that gravitated to their family. We essentially became their extended family. We were all sort of his kids, and we all did family functions together. He was a huge influence for me, on my work ethic, and how you carry myself despite being in either a bad place financially or a bad place emotionally. He taught me to put those aside and to do the things that were necessary to solve problems.

 

Tigunia
Thank you for sharing that. We have one last question. What do you do to make life count?

 

Kenya Williams
Breathe. Spend time with my family and spend time with friends. Focus on the good things. One of the things I do truly appreciate about Tigunia is that there is a strong implied work/life balance. Previous to being at Tigunia, I had worked with many companies that would stress work/life balance and claimed to value their employees very much. I think Tigunia is a very interesting company in that it truly lives those beliefs. I have never been happier. They have empowered me to do the work that I know how to do and to adventure into areas of my work that I want to get better at. But they also encourage me to make sure that I’m taking that time for myself and for my family, which I need to in order to be happy.

 

 

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