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Build your marketing skills with an eye towards the long run

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.

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  • http://jfwhite.org/ James

    I really enjoyed this post because you touch on career transitions. In 2002, “internet marketer” was a brand new job title, and I suspect I’ll earn a living in 2022 with a job title that hasn’t been created yet.

    It’s scary to venture into uncharted territory, but you’re absolutely right, it’s critical to continue expanding your toolbox to remain a relevant marketer.

    • hugoguzman

      Thanks for chiming in, James, and I’m glad you enjoyed the perspective! I couldn’t agree more with you about the ever-evolving nature of our tech/marketing field. Moreover, with advances in technology as it relates to healthcare, I suspect that the age of retirement will be profoundly redefined (e.g. we’re going to be working for a long time) so I want to make sure I’m prepared for that.

      • http://jfwhite.org/ James

        It’s a really exciting time to be in the tech field – this is the Model T of our generation.

        I can’t say I’ve precisely honed in on a role / position I’m in love with just yet, but my main career goal is to do work I’d happily do forever, not just a task to kill time before retirement.

        • hugoguzman

          Well said, James! I’ve often used the Model T analogy (we’re in the infancy of digital/data-driven marketing & business admin) and there’s no sense in settling for a lifetime of tedious busy work when there’s so much opportunity for true innovation and analysis.

  • vivianhoang

    I really liked this post and I couldn’t agree more about pushing yourself to be more than “good enough.” I am on a similar career trajectory, but I’ve found it’s difficult without a set path laid out. It’s great to hear of people like you pushing through these industries.

    How did you get started? What other books are you reading to learn about becoming a data scientist?

    • hugoguzman

      Thanks Vivian! Glad to hear that you can appreciate where I’m coming from. Means a lot. I’ve read some good books and tons of interesting articles, but I’d say that by far the most important things are:
      1) do math (e.g. literally buy textbooks and/or take classes to work up towards advanced math and statistics)
      2) do code (e.g. take classes as places like http://www.codeacademy.com or http://www.coursera.com or return to school)
      3) practice (e.g. get a data server setup, learn how to use SQL, R, etc.)
      4) be consistent (e.g. do some math, coding, etc. every day, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes)

      I’m a total beginner, and while that’s frustrating I know that over time I’ll progress and start to really get my head around what’s possible. And that’s a beautiful thing.

      • vivianhoang

        Thanks Hugo! Great advice. Looking forward to reading more great posts from you.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Internet marketing, especially changes and evolves all the time. Google can release an algorithm update and set marketers back by a year or so. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to be connected. Subscribe to the marketing blogs, watch YouTube videos, and network with other professionals. The truth it we all learn as we go.

  • http://twitter.com/jeypandian Jey Pandian

    I hear you and I agree Hugo.

    I’ve recently started teaching myself advanced mathematics so I can understand the information retrieval technologies. I’ve also been teaching myself how to program.

    I hope one day, I can build a software on the cloud service or a more efficient tool to handle our daily processes.

    Thank you for sharing your presentation books, I’ve recently been building up my skills in this area and they will help me out.


    PS Thank you for RT my Tweet this morning. What did you think of that MIT kid?

    • hugoguzman

      Thanks for chiming in bud and glad to hear that smart folks like you are on the same track as me! I’m currently knee deep in learning python, tinkering with Github, and understanding the Google Adwords API. Good times!