At cocktail parties and school meetings, people frequently ask me what I do for a living. When my unease does not prompt me to make something up, I usually respond that I am analyst.
Typically, this is met with a puzzled look and a few follow-up questions: So what do you do? Is that like a business analyst? Are you a financial analyst? As I fumble to provide an accurate answer to the first question, this line of questioning invariably leads to this question: So what do you analyze?
When I tell them services procurement and contingent workforce, I usually get either a glazed look or a look that betrays a kind of sympathy or pity. That is usually the time — after a moment of uncomfortable silence — to turn the tables and ask what they do.
But given that I am an analyst, I have felt compelled to ask myself and try to answer these questions: What is an analyst? What does an analyst do?
Here’s what I found.
An Analyst is a ‘Voyeur’ of Sorts
Voyeur has a number of definitions, including this one, which seems most apropos: “An obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects.”
Well, an analyst is at least an obsessive observer of what is. And an analyst is also compelled to peer through the keyholes of closed doors, sneak a peek around corners or furtively look into curtained windows to see and apprehend what is not exposed to public view. This is possibly the most stimulating part of what an analyst does.
An Analyst is Also a Cunning ‘Manipulator’
In this context, the most suitable definition of manipulate is “to handle, manage or use — especially with skill — in some process of treatment or performance.”
In the case of an analyst, this usually applies to information, data, events, causes and effects — all of which are subject to merciless evaluation and ruthless judgement. Analysis--which can involve the masterful massaging of data--often leads to unusual inferences and uncloaking conclusions — sometimes the naked truth. This is possibly the most thrilling part of being an analyst.
Finally, an Analyst is an ‘Exhibitionist’
Post-synthesis, an analyst experiences an irrepressible urge to not only open the kimono but also to go into public places or to leave essay-long, graffiti-like notes, all revealing the heretofore concealed thoughts and projections that an analyst has been harboring deep within.
One never knows when, at a conference or on a webinar, an analyst might appear and unveil disturbing findings or unheard of recommendations, sometimes leaving an audience insecure or agitated. This is certainly the most gratifying part of an analyst’s job.
And so it was: When I looked inward, I had found my answers to the questions I had posed. What I found was shocking, even to me. But, I had found — and could no longer suppress — this discomforting truth about myself.
My first reaction was to strangle and bury this discovery, so that no one would ever uncover it. But then I realized that this would be the opposite of what I--the analyst and exhibitionist--should do, if I were to remain true to myself and thus avoid a lifetime of agonizing inner conflict and self-doubt.
So today, that is why I tell my story.