Technology Sucks

By: Conor O’Neil

When we talk about social media and digital business, we often focus the conversation on Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Uber. However, we often fail to recognize that today, in the 21st century, almost every business is a digital one, with some sort of app or web presence to enhance the customer experience. I didn’t realize this fact for much of my life. That is, until I stepped into the world of Technology Consulting and was whisked away by the never ending demand for tech savvy minds to give digital facelifts to technologically outdated businesses. But, this wasn’t always my plan.

The Recruiting Vacuum

When I started at Boston College, like most of my classmates, I wanted to be an Investment Banker or Management Consultant and chase the big bucks. I held tight to these ambitions for a while until I got sucked into a Sales and Marketing Data Analyst Role my sophomore summer. A recruiter from Raymond James Financial, who knew I was in search of a financial services internship, reached out to me and asked me about my experience with Python and SQL. After our conversation, I was hired on the spot and brought in to help the only database administrator, my boss, migrate and clean over 120k sales contacts so that they could be used with Eloqua, a mass email marketing tool. In this massive financial services company with over $6 billion assets under management, I was amazed to be one of only two people who had read and write access to their entire database. But this experience is what made me realize a bigger job market trend, technology sucks! I mean that literally every company, not just Facebook, Amazon, and Google, are hiring tech savvy people by the bus load! Why? Because in a digital era, every business brick and mortar or not, must also be a digital business to succeed! Let me back this up for you.

By 2023, the Global Digital Transformations Market is expected to grow to $423 billion USD and is expected to continue this growth with a CAGR just shy of 20%. On top of this, demand for data analysts has grown 6-fold compared to just 5 years ago. So clearly, technology does indeed suck. However, it’s the Digital Transformation business that creates the most opportunity for people with the right skillset.

It’s no secret among Deloitte and Accenture insiders that tech consulting makes up the most significant portion of their profits, enabling them to post profits like Accenture’s $41B in 2018. However, a simple market analysis quickly reveals that the small to mid-cap companies are often overlooked by Deloitte and Accenture, because their fees are so significant. So here lies the opportunity for individuals with the skills to help these small to mid-cap companies, not as consultants, but as employees. Just like I did with Raymond James.

What Skills Do You Need?

So, what skills are necessary to success on the technical side of digital business transformation? I’m no guru, but I can tell you that Python, SQL, and Tableau are three of the first skills I would learn if I had to go through the recruiting cycle all over again. Why? Because these three tools build off of one another. SQL pulls the existing data, Python then manipulates it or gets analytics, and then Tableau visualizes the data. By way of learning these three programs, you become a triple threat! Let’s talk about using these tools with Play-Doh rather than data.

What is SQL? SQL stands for structured query language and is the programming language used to gather information from relational databases. For example, I may have a database containing records of all of my clients, but I want to see who came in the past week. SQL does that! This is equivalent to asking the store clerk for purple Play-Doh so I can make my purple dog later on. SQL is good for getting the data you want to work with out of the database with limited analytical abilities.

Python is the best programming language to learn as a beginner (according to me). Python is extremely user friendly with easy syntax, and clear error messages for tracing mistakes. But, most importantly, Python is also one of the most widely used development languages and one of its best applications is in Big Data manipulation! So, imagine Python as taking the Play-Doh out of the container, and beginning to soften it and separate it out into the pieces needed. Similarly, Python is good for manipulating the data that your SQL queries return to fit your specific needs, without necessarily impacting the database, such as programmatically removing 50,000 blank spaces in the middle name fields of your database.

Tableau is a data visualization tool, but also one of the coolest toys I’ve ever played with. Tableau makes it extremely easy to visualize large sets of data for quickly read analytics. In fact, many sales and marketing dashboards of Fortune 500 companies are designed with Tableau, and many more continue employing Deloitte and Accenture to build dashboard with Tableau for them. Tableau equates to your hands and creative ability in the Play-Doh crafting process. Without the ability to clearly sculpt your vision into a reality, no one else will be able to understand what you made. Similarly, Tableau takes the insights you gain from deep dives in the data and translates them into clear pretty pictures that anyone can understand.

In the End…

There is much more to digital business than the Google’s, Facebook’s, and Amazon’s out there and with the right tech savvy skill set the world is your oyster. Every business in today’s market has a digital presence in some sense of the word. However, the big push today is making sense of the terabytes of metadata they get from every impression and transaction. I believe that anyone with some level of experience in SQL, Python, and/or Tableau, understands what I mean when I say technology sucks. Technology skills are in high demand in the market today at all levels of experience. So……

Beware of the Tech Vacuum!

or join in the FUN$!$!

9 comments

  1. I really like how you broke down the different tools and programming languages to clarify what exactly each one is. I also like that your title is somewhat click bait ish, but it makes sense given what you mean by “sucks.” I agree that companies really look for people who are well versed with these tools and I think that CSOM curriculum will shift accordingly to teach students right from the start. Do you think these tools have a long shelf life though? I wonder if new ones will emerge that will require us to completely shift our skillset and adapt quickly.

    1. Great question Luiza! Truth is, I don’t think Python or SQL will ever expire. These tools are the fundamental building blocks for a lot of the software tools people work with on a daily basis without even realizing it. To you point on CSOM shifting the curriculum, the talks have already begun! From the rumors I’ve heard, they plan on mandating an intro to Python course in the next two years. Maybe coding is the new language of business?!? Sorry if you’re an accountant lol

  2. Loved how you broke the different steps down into a playdoh example! I’ve learned SQL at BC in my Info Systems concentration but quickly realized programming and coding was not for me. However, your description of Tableau peaked my interest and is definitely a skill i”m interested into adding to my skillset. I think these are definitely things that BC should be offering or maybe some pilot course on the different languages briefly as I know there are a ton out there i’ve never used or even heard of. I used Microsoft Visual Basic as my first language and I think that’s what deterred me from being interested in coding. If schools start teaching students the most user friendly languages I think most people will be able to develop their skills better.

  3. This is a phenomenal post! I’ve been involved in software development since I graduated (many moons ago) and I can say that you hit the nail on the head with almost every point. I went into this post with my pitchfork ready to defend technology and did a 180 as soon as I saw where you were going with the title, well done!

    Your post really reminded me of this article: https://a16z.com/2011/08/20/why-software-is-eating-the-world/ and I feel like this sentiment is just as (if not more) true as it was in 2011. I work at a shipping and logistics company, which most people don’t find to be the most technology-forward industry. However, I’ve heard executives at the company say time and time again how we’re more than a shipping company, we’re a technology company that ships goods. It’s an ideal that almost any company can get behind (“we’re not a dog food company, we’re a technology company that provides people with dog food”).

  4. “Python is the best programming language to learn as a beginner (according to me)”.

    I almost spit out my coffee from laughing at this.

    I think one of the implied morals here is that data is eating the world. All three of your tools could easily help any company become a data-driven one, which I think really hones in on your point about small and medium-sized enterprises: they need to start utilizing analytics. I think there’s a huge opportunity for either configuring off the shelf software to work within their system or creating customized software that’s so intuitive that even the 68-year-old running her own knitting store can understand the tech.

  5. This was a really creative post structure! I agree with Matt that the heart of the topic lies in the reality that we’re living in a fully data-driven (and data-consumed) business environment, a trend that I think will pick up even more as the emphasis shifts from collecting behavioral data to leveraging combined insights from behavioral and declared data. Being able to apply the three tools you mention to parse and explore relationships between third-party passive-collection data and first-party active-collection data can help to fill existing gaps in targeted marketing, content delivery, and techniques used to determine product-market fit.

  6. Yup, I agree that tech skills will keep one employable for the future.

  7. I really liked this post because not only was it interesting but it was also aimed at informing the reader. I really liked your Play-Doh reference !

    As someone who was a technology consultant at Deloitte before business school I know exactly what you mean by the lagging technology infrastructure that exists within traditional ‘industry’ companies (and especially within the public sector). What’s interesting to me about technology is that it evolves so quickly so some of the systems that we were working on were becoming somewhat obsolete as we were integrating them. With that in mind I would argue that while these three skills are really important for firms to hire for in the short term, a really effective employee will not only use these skills to bring the technology up to date but they will also be thinking about how they future proof the work that they’re doing (good architecture, best practices etc) so that once the tech evolves the systems can easily evolve with it.

  8. Like some of the other readers mentioned, your title is initially what struck my interest and made me want to dig a little deeper into your post. This was definitely a creative way to get the readers attention and hook them in right off the bat. I really enjoyed this post and how you broke down all the different aspects of the skills that are needed, even going as far as to simplify it through the means of Play-Doh. It’s interesting to see the need for the individuals with this particular skill set, but the lack of teaching dedicated to them. That being said, it was exciting to see your comment about CSOM possibly mandating a Python course in the near future. I think this will be of a great benefit to students and will help to even further prepare them to meet the demands that are needed by business who are working to adapt to shifts in technology.

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