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Hiring a Head of Data? 9 key insights for maximizing your data investment




In this article, I’d like to share a few insights that I’ve gathered based on my experiences, which I hope will be helpful to anyone looking to hire a head of data.

Hiring head of data

As the CEO & Co-founder of Saras Analytics, I have the privilege of working with a number of brands at different milestones in their data journey. With a ringside view of data initiatives at Athletic Greens, True Classic, etc. I have seen the highs and lows, the successes and failures, and I have learned a lot along the way. 

One piece of advice I often give to my customers is that hiring a head of data is not necessary until you reach series C, but when you do, it’s essential to do it right.

9 key insights for maximizing your data investment

1. The head of data should be a strong project manager

In a startup, priorities can change rapidly, and it’s essential that the head of data is able to adapt quickly. There will often be many tasks that need to be done simultaneously, and the head of data must be able to prioritize and manage these tasks effectively. Learn how DTC brand data needs scale to keep the growth trajectory up.

2. Business and tech expertise are both important

If the head of data is more focused on the business side of things, then it’s important that they have a tech-savvy partner who can help them navigate the technical aspects of the job.

On the other hand, if the head of data is more tech-focused, they need a partner who understands the business well.

Without the right balance, there is a risk of cost escalations and surprises down the line.

3. Be prepared for the data function to take time to impact

In many cases, the data function is being set up for the first time, and it can take a quarter or more before the impact of the new hire can be felt. It’s important to be patient and to allocate some of your leadership team’s bandwidth to help bring the head of data up to speed. 

Using room vs house model analogy, learn about different data functions and find what works the best for your brand!

4. Well-defined metrics are critical

If the data definitions are not already established, then it is crucial to get business stakeholders involved in defining these metrics. Without well-defined metrics, there will be a lot of rework and iteration, and the head of data should have the maturity to navigate such terrain.

5. Rationalize your tooling

Fast-growing businesses often end up with multiple tools that do similar things. This happens because data is needed, and whichever service provides the data quickly gets a look in.

Although these tools get the job done, they can make the data landscape complex. There are often multiple sources of truth for the same metric, and tools that people are reluctant to switch away from. When hiring a head of data, it’s important to ask about their approach to rationalizing the tooling, as costs can add up over time.

6. Look for an understanding of eCommerce/DTC operations and customer experience

I’ve noticed that data folks from the agency world are often not familiar with the operations side of an eCommerce /DTC business or even the customer side of the business. This is critical for a company like True Classic, so it’s important to evaluate this aspect when hiring.

Read more on dtc brands data needs.

7. Consider experience with due diligence support

It’s worth asking whether the head of data has any experience with due diligence support, especially if you are looking to raise funding. This is an important aspect of the job; having someone who has gone through the process before can be very beneficial.

8. Identify the right person to report to

It is crucial to identify the right person within your leadership team for the head of data to report to. The outcome can vary greatly depending on who the head of data reports to, so it’s important to think through. In my opinion, it should be the CEO.

If most of the business leaders will see consolidated cross-functional data getting refreshed hourly for the first time, everyone wants their data needs to be sorted first. The head of data may need help from above him on prioritization. This is where the CEO comes in, as they should be the one whom the head of data reports. This way, the CEO can help the head of data prioritize the data needs of the business and ensure that the data function runs smoothly.

9. Finally, be prepared for your first hire not to work out

It is common, and it is okay. Hiring a head of data is a big investment, and it’s important to do it right. However, sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and making changes is okay.

Just remember to learn from the experience and make the next hire better.


Hiring a head of data is an investment in your brand’s future. I hope that these insights based on my experiences will help you find your startup’s head of data to succeed.

At Saras Analytics, we are here to help you at every step of your data journey. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you craft the optimum next step in your data journey.