Several months ago, I decided to become a data scientist. It was an easy decision when you consider the impact that algorithm-driven business models are making, but the actual manifestation of the goal is a different manner entirely. It’s been one of the most humbling and downright frustrating experiences in my life. I thought I had some mathematics and computer programming chops, but the material I’m pouring through on a nightly basis often leaves me pondering if I’m simply too obtuse to ever reach the upper echelon of the hacker set.
But I’ll continue pushing through, spending at least a few minutes of every day working on my core math skills as well as my coding ability, because the last two times I did this, the long-term ROI was staggering.
The first time around, I was a sales rep with zero web or marketing experience, who raised his hand when the boss asked for volunteers to learn about this “internet marketing” thing everyone is talking about (there year was 2002).
The second time around, it was 2007, and I was already knee deep into this interactive marketing thing of ours and seemed to be holding my own. Yet I realized that I simply did not have the verbal and visual communication skills needed to reach the upper tiers of leadership, so I decided to become a professional presenter.
It was settled. I would hone my Powerpoint skills and learn how to present to a room full of people.
And man did I suck at those two things.
But over time, as I invested more and more time reading books, watching the true pros, and practicing as much as possible, the challenges seemed less daunting and the progress seemed to come faster. Mind you, I’m still far from elite in terms of building a persuasive deck or mesmerizing the crowd when presenting in person.
In fact, on most days, I review the finished product and come away thinking that I more or less still suck.
However, I’m definitely orders of magnitude better than I was when I started this adventure, and every so often a decision is made and business gets done as a result of an idea I’ve presented and I realize that all of the effort I put in has paid off.
And so the process begins again with regards to data science. I’ve come to realize that my mathematical and statistical skills are sorely deficient. I’m definitely no Nate Silver. But I also know that time and dedication will result in a significant improvement in both tactical skill and strategic perspective.
Those are crucial weapons to wield in a marketing landscape that is become more sophisticated with every passing day.
P.S. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you’re already “good enough” at whatever skills you deem necessary for long-term success. Many a career and business idea has been stagnated by “good enough”, so always strive to shift from good to great.