Young data people want to transform media companies, work on diverse problems

By Ariane Bernard


New York, Paris


In these parts, we’ve looked at how the mission of our companies — informing society — was often a big driver in candidates applying for roles in our organisations. We’ve also looked at the changing expectations of data folks in terms of work-life balance and lifestyle (read: they want to be able to work remotely, and you’re not getting them back in your office building just by making it law).

And this is one of the reliably delightful parts of getting to chat (as a job!) with smart data folks across media organisations — being mission-driven is a fuel that makes people passionate about the job they do.

I’d like to make the generalisation that all data folks at media companies are like this, but I am reminded of that time where I observed to a Canadian friend who had never met an unfriendly Canadian person. So it didn’t seem there were unfriendly Canadians: “We don’t let them out of the country and they are not allowed to speak to foreigners,” said my friend. Which is another way of illustrating that I should heed the possibility of a selection bias in my sample.

Mission — internal or external — is a drive that brings data people to media companies.
Mission — internal or external — is a drive that brings data people to media companies.

But speaking to an early career data scientist from a large Benelux publisher last week, she pointed out a key driver in her own decision to join a media company straight from university: The desire to change the company itself and change the data culture specifically. Another early career data professional pointed to the diversity of problems to work on as a motivator. 

“I want to help journalists get the information they need,” said Roza Dorresteijn, a data scientist at DPG Media. “They shouldn’t feel judged by data — our reading of data should always be in service of the mission to inform,” not in service of building a business strictly for dollars and cents. “What makes me so passionate about establishing a healthy data culture within the publishing company contributes to the outward mission of independent and high-quality journalism.”

This echoed a conversation I had several months earlier with a data manager who works on the commercial data side of a large UK conglomerate — someone who didn’t work with journalists. But they saw the mission to make the company more data savvy as an important motivator in their work: a stronger data culture as a way to underpin transformation. 

When you read job descriptions for data roles at media companies, you reliably find mentions of the company’s outward mission — its societal purpose — as a reason to join. HR teams do understand that folks work on the technical side of media organisations because they want to contribute to the mission to inform the company. But they don’t often tout the motivator of transforming media companies themselves. 

Meanwhile, another motivator of early stage folks is also the diversity of data problems at media companies: subscription, advertising, user engagement, product data — and crucially there is usually lots of data. In fact, it’s the relative abundance of the data relative to our use of it that itself provides a lot of ground for the early career folks. 

Our UK commercial data manager was able to push through new concepts and programmes because, simply, they saw an open opportunity and no one was doing anything about it. Their manager supported their plan, and off they went.

Meanwhile, our Benelux data scientist was hired to build a new practice that simply didn’t exist before. So while all the ground is fresh and new by definition — and this could feel a bit daunting — this is exactly what an early career person wants.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Ariane Bernard

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.