Analytics Career Journey: Making Business, Lives Better

Technology skills can take you through multiple careers that make lives, businesses, and communities better. Here's the story of one such career journey.

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.