For Euan Johnston, business intelligence is a field that works best in a state of perfect balance. It’s mathematically rigorous, but it requires understanding the people affected by the numbers being crunched. It’s all about different human perspectives, but it requires staying grounded in hard data.
Now AAX’s Business Intelligence Manager, Euan explains that he was always drawn to this blend of the logical and the interpersonal. “In BI, and this is what excites me,” he says, “It’s imperative to do both things at once: to put yourself in clients’ shoes and do the analytical work.”
Euan joined AAX having held positions in a selection of diverse companies ranging from the arts to the sciences and beyond. This speaks to the far-ranging applicability of not only business intelligence in general, but Euan Johnston’s passionate, curious, and creative approach to business intelligence.
“BI can be whatever you want it to be,” he explains. “If there’s something that needs to be measured, that someone can think of, there are no limits.”
We spoke to Euan about all things BI, the steps that led him to find AAX, and his predictions for the future.
AAX: Why don’t we start off on the subject of business intelligence: how did you find BI?
Euan Johnston: My love of maths really started as the result of studying with a number of fantastic maths teachers. I think these interests often have a lot to do with the kind of mentors you have early in life.
Then, I studied econ and maths at uni. But I wasn’t totally focused on hard skills; my ideal future didn’t involve only being in front of a computer. I wanted to be around a variety of people, learn about a variety of perspectives. I liked the practical side and the methodology, but I also liked the idea of using numbers to tell a story, to sell.
And it turned out that that combo—people and numbers—sits at the heart of business intelligence.
AAX: Was it that combination of right- and left brain thinking that drew you in?
Euan Johnston: That’s part of it! You need to understand different human perspectives even as you’re looking at the numbers. And I enjoy both. I think you need both. You can do all the numbers-crunching you want but if you don’t have an ear inside the company the work is lost. I’ve always been curious about how a company functions, and knowing the work is being used.
But that’s not the only thing that’s exciting about business intelligence. There’s also a sense that, with BI, the possibilities are endless. And this has definitely played a part in my career: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different kinds of people, see the world through a variety of lenses.
For example, I went from working at a company that worked in flight simulation to what’s essentially the polar opposite: startup ecommerce with a focus on design. It was a similar role in a completely different company, but it afforded a completely different perspective.
AAX: How do you make the necessary switch in perspective when switching between roles?
Euan Johnston: Immersion is key. Deep absorption of the world around you is absolutely invaluable.
That, of course, makes working from home tricky. Or… it would at another company.
At AAX, there’s a real push to keep everyone together. We’re a really close-knit, cohesive team, which is especially amazing considering that we’re working across many time zones. I’m the metrics guy, and seeing how many people are thriving is a testament to how well the team is doing.
AAX: Does that mean you have positive predictions for the future of AAX?
Euan Johnston: The company is on a great path. Things really seem to be flourishing, and there’s a clear, measured plan. I really think Scott is taking the business to the next level.
And from a business intelligence perspective, the adoption of data-driven decision-making for the business is exciting. Normally the first data hire comes later—oftentimes the hundredth hire or so—but I’m joining early on. We’re a lean, streamlined team. That speaks to AAX being an early adopter.
And of course I’m excited that AAX is so keen on metrics. The attitude at AAX is very much ‘We want all the data we can absorb.’ For me, there’s really nothing better than seeing the work being used.