Opening Cross: School’s Out!

Simple ways to keep data professionals happy when they return from vacation to the daily grind... assuming you let them take vacation.

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Summer’s here, school is out, and data professionals usually tasked with managing their firm’s third-largest expense (behind personnel and bricks-and-mortar costs) and dealing with the sometimes-petulant demands of traders (“But I want that data. Why can’t I have it?”) and impatient project managers (“Are we there yet?”) face an even more daunting challenge: family vacations. Or maybe these aren’t such different challenges after all: budgeting, negotiating, ensuring payments, getting your most valuable assets to the right place at the right time, experimenting with new activities….

Either way, when your data team returns to work, they’re going to be utterly exhausted from their time off, so here’s my top 10 list of ideas of how you can make your data staff feel more appreciated.

#10 Buy them a plant for their desk. Plants are well-known calming influences, plus they instill a regime of care, watering and pruning that will ensure your staff turn up early to tend to their new leafy friend. Plus, plants are good listeners, and totally non-judgey for when your overworked employees need to vent.

#9 Buy them a cat. An office mascot has all the advantages of a plant, but with the added bonus of being able to catch rodents. Plus, it will keep staff on their toes when Mr. Tiddles chews through the power cable for the backup servers. Downside: litter boxes.

#8 Communicate with your team. If you need to assign some budget to lunches or drinks with your data staff, do it. Because while many will be forthright about sharing their opinions, others will suffer in silence and do the best with what they have, when they might have better ideas that no one has ever thought to ask them about.

Okay, we can skip items seven through four, because they’re basically all different combinations of plants, pets and drinks.

#3 Give them tools that improve their workflow in a beneficial way. For example, mobile apps and VPNs that let them work from wherever they’re comfortable (or wherever you send them), whenever they’re comfortable (within reason, of course). Or tools such as Evolution One’s Data Notification Analyzer (or Evo-One co-founder West Highland Support Services’ Data Notification Manager) that automate tedious yet critical aspects of data management, enabling data staff to focus on other, strategic issues.

#2 Give them authority. It’s all well and good to give someone “ownership” of something, or responsibility for a cost line. But if you don’t give them the authority to make changes, then you’re hampering their ability to get on and get things done. Controlling costs isn’t just about identifying savings; it depends on having the authority to implement and enforce them. And if the data expert says that no one needs a particular service, management needs to have their back and ensure no one gets special treatment.

#1 Give them a raise. This will be unpopular with everyone except the data folks themselves, but the fact is, if they’re doing their job well, they deserve to be compensated fairly. And if they’re doing it well enough that you want to retain them, then they deserve a premium on top. After all, their summer trip to Disney World or hiking in the mountains will have opened their eyes to potentially lucrative careers as Mickey Mouse impersonators or park rangers. But consider for a moment that these guys manage your firm’s third-largest expense, and are constantly tasked with delivering savings. Good traders get paid crazy money because they make crazy money for their firms. How do you compensate someone who uses their expertise and cost management tools to saves your firm crazy amounts of money? Hint: it’s money.

So to all out readers among market data minions, I hope you have a restful break, and that your employer finds some way to show that they’ve missed you. Even if it is just a plant or a piña colada

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