Analytics Career Journey: Making Business, Lives Better

(Image: Markus Gann/Shutterstock)

(Image: Markus Gann/Shutterstock)

Entrepreneurs from all walks of life cite passion as an essential. But over the years as you generally reflect on your own passions, you'll find that the skills derived from passion evolve. Mine did, and took me from an engineering career into analytics. Emphasizing the transcendence of tech skills as a foundation for continuing the pursuit of one's passions throughout a lifetime is a terrific way for prepping people for a future economy and for personal growth.

I shared some of my experiences in a Chicago Sun Times interview. The article reflects how my passions for business and for helping people transcended an eight-year career in engineering into a near eight-year career in analytics, establishing one of the first black-owned analytics firms.

My professional experience includes a gumbo of skills. My original background was mechanical engineering, all aimed towards a long career in the automotive industry. But over time I wanted to leverage other talents -- an interest in business, offering services that a could benefit the community, and connecting with people from various walks of life. I wanted a larger platform and skillsets rather than a set of skills limited to one industry, even if it was one I loved.

Analytics Talent Shortage

When analytics was first introduced, I noticed how the talk among analytics practitioners focused on the technology itself and the prowess necessary to glean business insights from that technology.

But we've all noticed a shift in industry conversation towards the shortage of analysts and data scientists, as Ariella Brown well explained the dilemma in her post. And Jessica Davis gave some great tips to build analytics skills.

We need to show in everyday examples that applying analysts and technical skills can put aspirations into gear. To continue attracting talent, the industry must focus its message on the transformative process that can occur with the newly developed skills. That transformative message is what brought me to analytics.

Maintaining Your Skills

We must tell today's analysts that just as managers can be too cautious in overhauling their technology, tech professionals can be too cautious in overhauling their skills. They end up missing a serious boon to their professional and personal growth.

In recent years I've increasingly encountered developers who have not maintained their skills for several years. In that span of time, technology changes. Avoiding those changes, be it by choice or by interruption from life, has consequences. Your skills take a hit.

To stay ahead, professionals must make avoiding that hit a priority in their daily tasks. Professionals must seek opportunities that build on their knowledge incrementally rather than requiring them to totally stop and pick up again.

That mandate is easy to say, but now harder than ever before to do. Plenty of choices in technology exist thanks to open source. Certainly more change sits on the horizon.

Evolving Tech and Disruption

Take chatbots, for instance. Chatbots, along with collaboration platforms, have rapidly ascended into digital marketing wish lists. They also mean that in the near future, analytic scripts and tags must function in non-browser digital environments. The scenario encourages analysts to augment their skills to keep up and to minimize career breaks.

Professionals of all ranks can expect a huge disruption on the way. Consider the IoT age on one hand compared with the businesses traditionally outside the tech industry. Not every industry has adopted technology evenly, leaving many workers feeling somewhat empty handed of tech's economic promise.

That sentiment influenced President Donald Trump's campaign promise of more job creation. Voters were enticed by his message, despite critics noting that Trump inherited a strong labor market based on former President Barrack Obama's success in lowering unemployment rate.

Despite the challenges, people from all walks are experiencing transcendence. The movie Hidden Figures highlighted African American women whose calculations made the first US space launch possible. And historic transcendence is still happening today. When I attended OSCON Expo last year, I listened to keynote speaker Kyla McCullen, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, explain how she transcended her childhood interest from computerized toys into an academic career. She noted the following trend in society: people in her generation have been introduced to programming while not having access to a traditional computer. The choices she had in her background were similar to mine and how I grew interested in automobiles.

A Top Success Factor: Intellectual Curiosity

Intellectual curiosity enabled me to succeed. Fostering intellectual curiosity is indispensable for establishing an informed workforce.

Our industry must recognize that tech's infusion into different devices will make people inquisitive and thus drive creativity in how that inquisitive nature is nurtured. A blind agenda on jobs or feigned interest in diversity without meaningful investment will not be enough.

Transcendence delivers on the best promise of aspirations. It did for me. It is essential in building budding interest into education, building careers into an industry and economy, and ultimately building a life.

Pierre DeBois, Founder, Zimana

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business analytics consultancy that reviews data from Web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and Web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability. He has conducted analysis for various small businesses and has also provided his business and engineering acumen at various corporations such as Ford Motor Co. He writes analytics articles for and Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials and contributes business book reviews for Small Business Trends. Pierre looks forward to providing All Analytics readers tips and insights tailored to small businesses as well as new insights from Web analytics practitioners around the world.

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Re: Diversity
  • 4/7/2017 11:04:39 AM

@Louis Thanks. I think it does make sense to also offer specific training programs that don't necessarily have to be called a BA or BS degree.

Re: Diversity
  • 4/6/2017 4:30:54 PM

@Ariella   Good question. I don't recall them mentioning that particular fact,  I would assume it is still viewed as a bachelor's degree.   I will keep my eyes out for the article and pass it on.

Re: Diversity
  • 4/6/2017 4:04:19 PM

@Louis would they still call it a bachelor's degree, or would it be named something else?

Re: Tech
  • 4/5/2017 7:23:52 PM

" ...Forget skills on paper; it's an audition now!"


So True Terry,  Sometimes you get the part and sometimes you don't.

Re: Diversity
  • 4/5/2017 7:20:13 PM

I recently read that colleges are now open to shortening their curriculum to allow an degree to be earned in  three years as a opposed to four.  This move is thought to address two major issues of education - reducing expense and maintaining the numbers that presently go to Universities.

While I was raised to seek knowledge, I am still surprised to this day how many in the "real world" just don't care.  

Their success had nothing to with that.

Does History repeat itself ? Unfortunately, Sometimes it does ....
  • 4/5/2017 7:11:41 PM

Pierre   I really enjoyed your piece.  I especially want to thank you for reminding me of the movie Hidden Figures, a movie I wanted to see but had forgotten about in the hectic pace of daily life.   But I caught it recently and it was as inspirational as I had imagined.


I also learned the meaning of transcendence thanks to you, your piece should provide fuel to anyone seeking and capable of doing more.

Re: Evolve to suceed
  • 4/5/2017 7:00:13 PM

I couldn't agree more with the general consensus that one must continually change and evolve - the pace of change is as fast as ever, so get onboard or get left behind.


While we here at A2 understand this - this view is not held by millions of Americans.  Case in point is the relaxing of regulations of the Coal industry recently.  With societies moving to renewable energy at a break neck pace, we have pockets of the population that refuse to accept reality and learn new skills. 

Re: Diversity
  • 4/5/2017 5:54:58 PM

I too have passed through many career paths, most of them not entirely predictable. But, it does seem true that "over the years as you generally reflect on your own passions," and that can be a useful thing to note. I started out as a young man following my passion, but over the midde decades got a bit side-tracked, and finally ended up back on that journey. The idea of transcendence is an intriguing one to comtemplate in career choice and the life journey for sure.

Re: Diversity
  • 4/5/2017 2:02:22 PM

@James -

Agree with everything you said.

in most cases, higher education still adds tremendous value. (Certain majors would seem to be exceptions.) The question is: At what cost?

Spending 4, or 5 or even 6 years of your life; plus taking on debt that will be with you for decades is just not worth it for more and more people.

At the same time, we're still looking for the disrupter that will significantly chage the landscape of higher education.

Re: Diversity
  • 4/4/2017 2:21:53 PM

@Terry. Great point about the combination of high costs and poor career preparation that kids get in college today. Now, pair that with the fact -- highlighted by several people in this discussion -- that tech (like the business world itself) is changing so fast that "education" becomes a lifetime thing just to keep pace with change.

What you get from all of this is a field of higher education that is prime territory for disruption along the lines of what smart phones, Amazon, and, to a lesser degree, Uber have done to established industries. The for-profit online universities had a chance to disrupt the educational establishment, but I don't think they have done so yet. So the opportunity is still there for a competitor to deliver the right mix of career training, "life learning" and development of soft skills at a fair price. 

Today's schools (public, private and for-profit) are too entrenched to do this. Maybe one option could be a consortium of major employers that establishes their own "universities" to develop their own workforce of the future. That's my offbeat idea for the day.

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