How Approaches BI

We sat down with Dr. Robyn Rap, Business Intelligence Analyst at


Robyn Rap, PhD. is a data-driven sociologist and Business Intelligence Analyst at Indeed. Using her social science and statistical training, she helps Indeed's internal teams make better, data-driven decisions from their vast stores of data. Robyn's expertise has helped enable more proactive client outreach, identify swings in incoming customer service traffic, and inform building capacity planning.

We sat down with her ahead of her presentation at the Business Intelligence Innovation Summit, taking place in Chicago this November 29-30.

How did you get started in Business Intelligence?

As I was finishing up my doctorate at UT Austin, I realized that my sociological training could be applied to complex business problems beyond academia. It was around then that I was recruited by Indeed to help build out their rapidly growing Business Intelligence team. I love that I get to empower people to help them make better, data-driven decisions; and that my impact is immediate and palpable.

With self-service analytics tools now commonplace, what do you feel is the future for Business Intelligence as we know it?

Self-service tools are just that - tools. Using them effectively depends greatly on the person who's using it, their judgment, and their intuition to dig into the data and its quality. Tools are going to come and go, and you can teach people how to use them. It's much harder to teach someone how to approach data appropriately, with curiosity and a healthy amount of skepticism. That's why on Indeed's BI team we ask ourselves: Does this person like to learn new things? Do they demonstrate curiosity about data, and question its accuracy or reliability? Do they come up with hypotheses for why the data looks the way it does? At the end of the day, if you can answer 'yes' to those questions, it shouldn't matter what tools you're currently using.

Do you think companies focus enough on external data when it comes to Business Intelligence?

I think that depends greatly on the company. Here at Indeed we have a research arm called Hiring Lab, which provides economic insights from our data with support from Business Intelligence. We found, for instance, that the number of jobseekers looking for work outside of Great Britain jumped after Brexit. I'd be willing to bet that most companies have stories in their data. It just takes resources and creativity to find them and highlight what's interesting.

What new technologies and tools do you feel are set to have the most impact on your role in the near future?

If there is one piece of advice I can give to someone who is interested in a career in Business Intelligence it's this: learn how to program and learn to be comfortable with advanced statistical methods. OK, maybe that's two pieces of advice, but the point still stands. Self-service tools can only get you so far, and knowing the ins and outs enough to build your own tools like we've done at Indeed gives you and your end users a lot more flexibility.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

My presentation with BI Manager Clint Chegin focuses on how we built a diverse and productive BI team at Indeed in less than a year. Given that BI is so service-oriented, we believe it's invaluable to recruit from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives to better serve our internal teams. Our efforts seem to be paying off: the team currently consists of over 40% women and over 50% people of color, and represents a wide swath of universities and degrees. Our presentation talks about how we approach the recruiting process, with an eye to providing tools for people interested in building out their own BI team. 

You can hear from Robyn, along with other experts in data analytics, at the Business Intelligence Innovation Summit. View the full agenda here.

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