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  • Kayla Schmandt, Senior Director, Commercial Affairs Analytics, Universal Music Group

Kayla Schmandt, Senior Director, Commercial Affairs Analytics, Universal Music Group

Describe your career to date

I have had the incredible fortune of working at Universal Music Group for the past seven years, in both the US and the UK. My previous industry experience took me all over the music industry – working with booking agents, artist managers, and independent record stores – until I found my home at UMG. 


When my Universal career began, under the guidance of Jay Frank, I was taught early on that data could be an incredibly powerful tool to deliver music into the hands of loving fans. My later roles at Capitol Records and (currently) commercial affairs have underlined that principle, and I feel incredibly lucky to work with such a diverse group of intelligent and passionate people, who stop at nothing to help support our talented roster of artists.

Tell us about any ambitions you have in terms of becoming a data leader

I feel very fortunate to work for a company that is not only hungry for analysis, but which appreciates a balanced approach to data and ’gut’. Improving the language, communication, fluency, and relevancy of data in day-to-day business has always been a priority company-wide. Our team also hopes to celebrate and better understand different cultures to help our artists succeed, and that goal – the goal of bringing the world closer together to serve fans and artists alike – is what drives us to make data more intelligible and relevant to the wider business community.


What key skills or attributes do you consider will be essential to your success in this role?

I believe the most essential skill to help evangelise data is the ability to listen. No matter your technical ability, the talent of being able to understand a multitude of roles and, importantly, how data can help positively impact them, is essential to building a group of widespread data advocates in your team and beyond.

How did you develop – and continue to develop – your current skills or attributes? 

Solely through the help of others. I am fortunate to work in an industry that changes frequently and is measured on beautifully artistic chaos. I believe the only way to grow and progress is to rely on the insight from those in other parts of the business and on the frontlines of new opportunity. I also feel grateful to work for a company that supports any learning and development opportunities that you identify – whether around hard or soft skills – and without the feedback and collaboration of others, that personal and team development process would be siloed and stunted.


And what about the skills of your data teams and of your business stakeholders? How are you supporting their data literacy? 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my team’s work is helping to bring the wider global analyst community together. Through our global analysis forum and dedicated working groups/channels, we not only support knowledge and share resource, but seek to further mobilise and optimise global talent to reduce duplication, drive business adoption, prioritise global areas of focus, and, importantly, give everyone a voice. 


A fundamental key to achieving this is the creation of a wide network of data supporters/evangelists. This includes those not only directly related to the work, but the wider business end-users who have the ability to help turn analysis into action. Taking equal time to support all parties in the process helps lead to wider company fluency.

How do you keep pace or stay in touch with your peer group? Do you see it as important to have an active professional network? 

We have a wonderful cadence between in-person (zoom) meetings and an open short-form communication channel that keeps us all connected on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Additionally, as our overarching network has grown to transcend business units, we’ve established collaborative smaller working groups to focus on issues important to select (but varied) teams. 


We’ve built a directory for the wider data community so those who may be less inclined to publicly participate in conversations can easily find people around the company (and the world) in different roles/markets to contact and collaborate.


Outside of UMG, my recent involvement with the DataIQ community has taught me valuable lessons in how to help data flourish within any company, and this support network has fuelled many of the objectives that our wider team is pushing within the company.


Kayla Schmandt
has been included in:
  • Future Leaders 2023 (EMEA)