David Smith always knew he was a math-lover and problem-solver growing up. But, it wasn’t until he jumped on an opportunity at social marketing startup House Party that he discovered how to both provide value to his company and pursue his passion. David offered his services beyond the scope of his original role to begin looking at data and measuring the impact of the marketing campaigns the company created for its clients. Well, we know how important that skill has become. So, it’s no surprise that David is a huge proponent of taking the initiative and creating the conditions for your own happiness.
Talentedly: Your company, House Party, sounds like a lot of fun. How did you first become involved?
David Smith: House Party is a great company to work for – it’s exciting work and a very passionate group of people that I feel lucky to call my colleagues. I went to college for marketing and, after graduation, saw an ad for an open position at House Party. I thought the company sounded both interesting and extremely promising and jumped at the chance to get my foot in the door, first taking a position in customer service.
TLY: What drew you to a career in research and analytics?
DS: Growing up, I always loved and was great at math and problem-solving, but it was actually an opportunity at House Party that led me to consider analytics as a career. At the time, we were running these great marketing campaigns but weren’t yet able to give clients a clear picture of their impact. This seemed like both a great career opportunity and something that I was passionate about, so I began analyzing our campaign results and creating final reports for all clients that could showcase the vast reach, deep engagement, and strong lifts in branding and sales that House Party activations generate, but that had been hard to measure up to that point.
TLY: Was there a specific moment that changed the trajectory of your career?
DS: Absolutely. As I mentioned above, when I saw the need for better reporting at House Party, I offered my services even though it was outside the scope of what my role with the company was at the time (customer and client services). By taking initiative and asking to take on additional work (something very rarely turned down at a startup!), I was able to showcase to House Party this additional skill set I possessed, and they quickly realized I was a far more valuable employee in the Analytics department.
TLY: What skills has helped you most in your career?
DS: Positive attitude and flexibility. As I’ve mentioned, House Party was a young startup when I got there, and that meant the opportunity to wear many different hats. People who were flexible and could work within many different departments and with different types of people were the most valued. My team-first, do-what’s-necessary attitude and a willingness to apply my skill set to different roles were of enormous value in propelling my career.
TLY : If you could go back and talk to your younger self the day you graduated East Carolina University, what advice would you give yourself?
DS: Follow your passion! My first job after college was in B2B sales. I took it for the money, and after a few months I was completely burned out. I had no passion for what I was doing, and my performance suffered as a result, as did my attitude. If I could go back, I would certainly advise my younger self to search for a job that you will feel proud of and fulfilled by, and that you like doing — success depends on it.
TLY: What is the biggest misconception of being in market research?
DS: That we’re all “research geeks.” I am proud of my supposed “geekiness” when it comes to numbers, but in general we have fun just like everyone else. I love spending time with my wonderful wife, daughter, and dogs and cats (3 of each), going hiking, biking, etc. It’s not all surveys and spreadsheets!
TLY: What do you think is the most overrated skill in the workplace?
DS: Education level. I know it’s more of a pre-requisite to get a job as opposed to a skill, but I think it’s the most overrated aspect of employment. There are so many ways one can acquire knowledge and skills in this day and age. Employers who assume that one applicant is more qualified simply b/c they have a degree and another applicant doesn’t are potentially making a big mistake. The more we can evaluate actual skills and relevant knowledge of entry-level applicants rather than just general education level, the better off our workforce will be.
TLY: Who do you see as your coach?
DS: I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple great teachers over my 8+ years at House Party, but unquestionably my biggest mentor has been Peter Storck. Peter was the leader of the Research & Analytics department at House Party for many years, and is a veteran in the research industry. He was a great teacher and friend, and we often talked and debated about marketing, research, and life.
TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?
DS: Be happy, and if you’re unhappy, make a change. I recently read the book Into the Wild and there is a quote in there that I think is so true: “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism…” I encourage everyone to figure out what it is that makes them happy and vigorously pursue it.
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