Where Algorithms Meet Anthropology

We hear a lot about STEM majors, and I fully embrace their entry and advancement in our field. Yet, thinking through this further, there are several sets of skills that we might seek in any aspiring job applicant entering marketing today. I came up with this:

Happy New Year as we assess and reassess. Last blog, we tackled where well-paid jobs flourish — right here in the United States, and right here in our field and practice of ad tech and data-driven marketing.

Since then, I learned my last summer intern just landed a full-time position at Epsilon — and she still has a full semester of her senior year before her. That makes two great interns in a row landing what could prove to be fulfilling careers in our business; the previous intern with whom I worked landed at Amazon last year, also ahead of graduation.

We hear a lot about STEM majors, and I fully embrace their entry and advancement in our field. Yet, thinking through this further, there are several sets of skills that we might seek in any aspiring job applicant entering marketing today. I came up with this:
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  • Anthropology: This is perhaps my “current” liberal arts fascination. I wrote last month about empathy. Am I able to walk in another person’s shoes? Can I understand and embrace cultural influences and personas to which I don’t personally identify — but recognize such motivations as real and a force — not just for marketing, but for living (perhaps, one in the same)?
  • Business: I’d probably include marketing as a discipline within business because marketing objectives must match business objectives. There is no success in marketing if the business goals are not sustained.
  • Economics: Another bias, I read The Economist. But more than that, I welcome seeing in others their understanding of how the overall global economy works — and its impacts on local and national economies (and jobs). New York, for one, is a city built increasingly on a global economy to which it dutifully serves. And Silicon Valley, as well. However, how much Wall Street and venture capital create an impact on Main Street matters … just as they do on High Street, Camino Real, The Bund and elsewhere. If the U.S. election (and Brexit before it) showed us anything: national economies and local communities cannot be ignored in the free trade march forward, and “data” is one asset that flows as freely across borders as national governments — and consumers — allow.
  • English: Well read? Can you communicate an idea? Can you write a complete sentence? Can you analyze or process the written and spoken word, and learn from it? A thesis that is unarticulated is an idea not shared.
  • Geography: This may be related to anthropology, but having a sense of where places are distinctly matters. Technology may create its own geography: The digerati of Buenos Aires may have more in common with their counterparts in Tel Aviv than they do with some local citizenry, but it’s still helpful to know where people live, work and play — and just where they are on a map.
  • History: Without knowledge of history, we are doomed to repeat it. There’s also history in data. Can we learn from it? Can we discern where data histories are missing so we know what to test for?
  • Journalism: Strategic thinking and not being afraid to ask uncomfortable questions brings us closer to the truth. Bull may be in fashion, but uncovering the truth still matters.
  • Mathematics and Statistics: Pardon the grouping, but it is comfort with numbers, data and analysis that helps us make sense of data. Not in a vacuum, but in concert with all the previous skill sets listed here.

So data is having its The Graduate moment. So what other skills should we throw into the skill set mix? A prosperous and healthful New Year to all!

Author: Chet Dalzell

Marketing Sustainably: A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing. Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated marketing. He serves on the ANA International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too! 

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