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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

"This Is Not an Individual Sport": Why This American Express Data Analyst Believes in Teamwork and Mentoring

Dane, Director of Network Performance Analytics within Global Collections at American Express
American Express

As a data analyst, Dane is always questioning, well, everything. In fact, being curious is unofficially part of his job description as a Director of Network Performance Analytics within Global Collections at American Express.

In his role, Dane is constantly analyzing information about collections trends and which American Express initiatives are most successful—and providing insights to senior leaders so that they can make more informed business decisions. “At a high level, the Global Collections organization is responsible for helping our Card Members live financially healthy lives,” he says. And beyond his day-to-day job, he makes a point to mentor young black colleagues and is incredibly active in the company’s Black Engagement Network (BEN).

“Coming to American Express has by far been the best decision I’ve made in my professional career,” he says. Read on to find out why—plus what he loves about the company’s culture, his involvement with BEN, and how he overcame a tough work challenge.


Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at American Express.

I began my career journey as a credit risk analyst at an investment bank. After some time there, I joined American Express in 2014 as a manager in the operational risk governance group. I was responsible for conducting operational risk reporting for the firm’s senior risk committees each month. Over time I developed an aptitude and an interest in analytics and insights, which my leaders also found value in. I continued to develop these skills, conducting ad hoc analysis for my leaders, which began to garner more and more attention. Soon this would become my primary role.

In recognition of these efforts, I was promoted to senior manager and given new responsibilities and challenges. Eventually I decided to look for new opportunities outside of operational risk. In May 2019, I was hired into my current role as the Director of Network Performance Analytics of Global Collections.

What attracted you to work at American Express?

Coming from an investment banking background, I was always familiar with the American Express brand. I’ve always admired the company’s commitment to service and its reputation of looking out for their Card Members. The company is also a great place to work. While there can be demanding and challenging times, we always feel encouraged to bring our best every day—a trait I can connect with as a former athlete. This provides a great learning environment, especially for those who may be early in their careers.

How does American Express cultivate an environment that encourages employees to seek guidance and support from leaders?

One of the areas where American Express truly shines is in its ability to foster an open and inclusive culture. By putting people first, it’s an environment where colleagues at various levels feel comfortable discussing their career objectives or seeking professional support from their leaders. The company also provides the American Express and Harvard Certificate in Leadership Excellence program to deliver an outstanding training series that encourages leaders to develop critical skills needed to contribute and grow in the workplace.

This approach has benefited me quite a bit in my time here. I have developed relationships with several leaders whom I truly respect and admire. I make it a regular practice to check in with these individuals and go to them for mentorship, career advice, and professional development. In my view, the ability to be in close contact with highly respected senior leaders is unique to the company and adds tremendous value when developing as a person as well as a professional.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work at American Express?

The best way to think of my team is as a data and information hub for the Global Collections organization. We provide information that supports our leaders’ strategic decision-making processes. I’m responsible for asking and answering important questions, supplying new ideas, and conducting analysis that drives collections outcomes. My job is to collaborate with our partners to produce insights that drive business results that directly impact the company’s bottom line.

What is unique about this type of role at American Express?

The uniqueness lies mainly in the power to drive results and outcomes. My leader has empowered me and the rest of my team to approach our roles with an innovative mindset and consider new ways to analyze data that leads to new insights. That level of freedom to create and innovate is very unique for a role like mine and speaks volumes about the American Express brand. There is something very special about being liberated and empowered by your leaders.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

Some of my primary objectives within Global Collections are “driving better results sooner” and “anticipating change on the horizon more quickly.” To accomplish our goals, my team provides metrics to senior leaders that help them make better business decisions.

What is the hardest part about your job?

The hardest part is also perhaps the most appealing part: dealing with the unknown. One key aspect of any analytics program is the process of asking questions and uncovering answers. As you can imagine, answering one question can lead to uncovering different discrepancies, which can lead to additional questions. The ability to stay focused on the task and not try to boil the ocean requires a tremendous amount of discipline and concentration. In areas of any program, there is a mass of data that exists. In others, the data is less available and needs to be built. One question I am constantly asking is “why?” Why does this operate this way? Why not try something else? Do we have an opportunity to be better or smarter?

What is your favorite part of your job?

One of the things that energizes and challenges me is being a people leader. I work with a great team with some really creative and intellectual individuals who are always pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible. One of my favorite things is listening to their ideas and hearing how they respond to my ideas. I love seeing how a project evolves over time. It often starts with a conversation or a white-boarding session with my leader then expanding on the concept and bringing my own ideas into the picture. By the time one of the managers on my team gets done with it, the project has morphed into something so different than what it looked like from the ideation stage.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting at American Express, and how did you overcome it?

When I was a new manager, my director went on parental leave and I learned that I would be taking on some of her work. I panicked at first, but then decided to come up with a plan of action. I thought about what the deliverables were, who the stakeholders were, and what resources existed to help me should I come into any challenges—of which there were many. In the end, I managed those months with success. That was largely due to the great support I received from my leadership, but also the planning that was involved from the start.

When I think of the challenging experiences I’ve been through at American Express, this one always reminds me of something I learned playing basketball: This is not an individual sport. When teams of people get together, we can do things we couldn’t do on our own.

What advice would you give to someone who is facing a challenge in their career?

I read a professional development book a couple of years ago. I keep it on my desk because it reminds me to always view obstacles as opportunities. I would encourage anyone facing a challenge to identify the things they can change and those they can’t. Of the things you can change, what daily behaviors are you doing to bring about positive change?

Some of the things we can’t change require patience and a bit of help. Be patient, be resilient, and be vocal about what your needs are and identify those who can help. Sometimes we look back on painful experiences and realize that while we never would have wished for them, they made it possible for us to grow.

Tell us about the work you do to mentor young Black colleagues at American Express. Why do you think this type of mentorship is so important?

One of my favorite ways to engage with young Black colleagues is to have casual meet-ups in informal settings—maybe a coffee chat or lunch. I view my role as a sounding board for people whose shoes I was also in coming up within my own career. I started my career at a very large investment bank that didn’t provide a platform for this type of communication, so you were left to figure out a lot of things on your own. I believe it’s always good to learn from the successes and failures of others to help guide your path. With that in mind, I am always very vocal about the mistakes I’ve made or things I’ve learned, which hopefully will help someone else.

What role has the Black Engagement Network played in your personal experience at American Express?

From my very first days at the company, I was able to make new friends through the network, forge professional connections, gain mentorship, and garner insight from those with similar experiences as me. It’s hard to overstate the value of joining an affinity group and meeting individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. What I also found to be very interesting about BEN is the network’s eagerness to welcome all colleagues—not only African Americans. I’ve met people from various backgrounds and ethnicities at BEN functions and I believe this could only be possible because of our amazing culture at American Express.

What BEN programming have you helped create or spearhead?

One of the BEN programs I am most proud to have helped develop is Small Business Week during Black History Month, a week of events that focused on the needs of African American and other minority business owners. We invited a variety of Black-owned businesses to the office for a pop-up shop and a roundtable talk with a friend of mine who is active in the small business community. The project required hours of coordination with business owners but the end result was an absolute success.

More recently, I led the development of an upcoming engagement series called BEN Coffee Chats. The intent is to connect colleagues from around the Blue Box, encouraging them to have meaningful conversations around their shared interests. Members will discuss topics such as advanced degrees (JD, MBA, Certifications, etc.), family planning, work/life balance, and career development, and have conversations with leadership about promotions or recognition.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

To maintain good relationships. I’ve found that a healthy relationship between you and your colleagues is vital to being successful in the workplace. By treating everyone with respect and applauding the successes of others—no matter how small—you increase productivity. People feel inclined to work with you when you are deliberate about being a good partner.

As a people leader, I am always looking for ways to let my team know that I recognize and appreciate their commitment to their jobs and their contributions to the success of the company. When you build positive relationships, you feel more comfortable with your interactions and more connected with others. As a result, you feel a closer bond to the people you spend the majority of your time with every day.