About three months ago I had a career change from do-it-all-marketing to focused-driven-analytics. While trying to immerse myself in the new agency culture, I also find myself at the crossroad of defining my skillset for advancing my career and providing more valuable service to future clients.
“You should be able to learn everything from work” is the feedback I received when I listed out all the programming tools and asked for direction.
So here is a question to all of you: can we learn everything we need from work?
I have my own answer to the question. I feel that the industry right now constantly demands well-rounded professionals, whether in programming or statistics, engineering or social science. Being in a position that focuses on specific areas might not evolve as fast as the changes businesses have been going through for the past few years. Take social media for example (I know, here we go again), 2 years ago there were a lot of attention on Facebook advertisement, social engagement rate, and community management. I am not saying these fields have gone away, but in my opinion they transformed into something more tangible with business operations and ultimate goals. The same thing applies to web analytics. In the early 2000, companies might have been looking at page views and bounce rates on their websites. Now, according to Avinash Kaushik, the focus is on multi-channel attribution (http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/multi-channel-attribution-definitions-models/). In a sense, those who are in the analytics industry not only have to grasp on fundamentals such as reporting and dashboards but also have to learn how digital and traditional media channels fall into the holistic picture of businesses.
Aside from industry-related knowledge, which can be gained over few years of experience, professionals like you and I find the tools are evolving too. While Excel and PowerPoint are still crucial to how businesses analyze and deliver big data and insights, proprietary tools like Omniture and SPSS are in high demands nowadays. If you are in analytics industry, do you have access to those tools?
In a nutshell, I do believe professional individuals have to branch out for new learning opportunities beyond their work. But where to find the relevant resources? It is another thing you and I need to learn.
Personally I am a fan of open courses. Universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard and Berkeley all offer courses free of charge online. Lately I found two other resources: Udacity (http://www.udacity.com/) and Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/). The founders of these sites came from top-notch institutions like Google or NASA, and they strive to offer everyone access to the world-class education. Even though I am only taking one course at the moment, I am excited about the whole borderless education and want to share with all of you.
How do YOU learn different skills outside of work?
PS. There will be a Udacity Global Meetup on Saturday, September 15th and I’d like to organize a meet & greet event in Ann Arbor (http://udacityannarbor.eventbrite.com/). If you are interested in attending, please contact me before Friday, September 7th. Hope to see you then!