Meet Our Data Nerds: Strava’s Mark Shaw Talks Tracking Athlete Achievements

Data is all around us. Whether you are a CTO, CEO, CMO or fitness enthusiast, you are consuming, internalizing, and making real-life decisions based on all that data. Hence we believe: We are all data nerds.


We’ve been on a mission to unleash our customers’ stories by asking them what makes them a data nerd. Today, we’re kicking off our blog series with none other than Mark Shaw, VP of Engineering, at Strava – the data-obsessed company behind the GPS-tracking online and mobile app for athletes. Mark shares with us his perspective on the value of data scientists, global fitness trends, and even urban planning. See what makes him a true data nerd in the Q&A below.

Your data nerd line is: “Data helps us track our athletes’ achievements.” Can you elaborate on that?

Data plays a central role in delivering a great experience to our athletes. From tracking their individual goals, to comparing their efforts to other runners and riders locally and across the world, data is at the core of this experience. Of course, it’s also products like New Relic that help us gather the data we need to analyze performance trends and keep everything running smoothly. When our site is slow our users aren’t having a great experience, and data helps us avoid that.

How does your company tackle data organizationally?

Engineering is responsible for building the data pipeline for our business needs as well as for its own monitoring and alerting. While our product managers can answer some data questions themselves, many of the questions they needed to answer took additional engineering resources that were becoming more difficult to schedule and prioritize. We recently hired our first data scientist to fill this gap and to help inform engineering on what data to collect for the product team. It’s something I wish we had done months ago.

What kind of “aha” moments have you had analyzing your data?

A few fun trends to watch unfold have been the big shifts in the composition and usage patterns of our athletes. For example, going back a few years, our athletes were nearly all located in the US, primarily uploading their activities using our website, and peak load was on weekends when they ran and rode the most. Today, our athletes are mobile, global, and far more social. Monday is now the hot day when athletes check in on what their friends (and competitors) have been up to over the weekend.

How have you used those discoveries to improve your business?

One interesting discovery for us was to understand how weather affects our business–it has a tremendous impact! For example, we learned that telling our athletes about a new feature when the local weather was too rainy or too hot to train outside wasn’t the most opportune time. We should wait until more favorable weather returns and they can actually use it.

Looking ahead, how do you see data changing the world?

To give you an example rooted in our world of cycling and running, we love the idea of cities leveraging our athletes’ collective data for urban planning. It’s very cool to think that every ride or run you take could be a virtual vote for where to improve infrastructure! We’re just getting started on this project with Strava Metro.

What makes you a data nerd? Tell us in a tweet using the #datanerd hashtag. After all, we are all data nerds.

Morgan Flatley is on the customer marketing team at New Relic. Before making the New Relic marketing team her home, she dabbled in PR for startup tech companies. View posts by .

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