"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO at Hawthorne.
The rise of data science has had a major impact on just about every industry out there, but the effect on marketing and advertising has been particularly acute.
Data science has transformed marketing by providing insight into whom to target with what message and when. As the field has become more data driven, however, the talent pool has struggled to keep up. A sizeable skills gap has emerged. Today, only 1.9% of marketing leaders report that they have the right talent to leverage marketing analytics.
This gap is a problem every marketing team and agency faces. Now that ever-greater portions of marketing budgets are allocated to analytics, employers need people with data skills who can deliver the right ROI from campaigns. A strong data science team is key to being competitive in the marketplace.
As demand for data science skills outstrips supply, marketers have an important role to play in preparing the next generation for data-driven jobs. We can’t sit back and wait for the talent pool to expand.
I see three effective ways agencies can create a pipeline of hires with the combined skill sets needed in today’s advertising world.
Partner with universities
The first approach is to collaborate with universities on curricula. Academia tends to move slower than the market, which means students may not graduate with the actual, practical skills they need to succeed. Conversely, agencies looking for entry-level hires may recruit at universities, only to find a dearth of qualified candidates.
One way to ensure schools are teaching students the skills they need is to open up direct lines of communication. Partnering with educational institutions and providing insight into desirable skills allows agencies to say, “These are the skills we are looking for,” which could include statistics or computer science. The academic departments can then use that information to shape coursework accordingly.
Schools are invested in their graduates finding jobs and usually appreciate feedback about what employers are looking for. If a direct partnership with a university isn’t feasible, getting involved with alumni networks is another way to build those relationships. Look for opportunities to speak on alumni panels and reach out to math or engineering departments to let them know your interest.
Create internship programs
Another strategy is to establish an internship program, which provides a direct way for employers to convey their needs to the next generation and to guide them as they choose their majors and classes. A program that includes hands-on projects gives students real-world experience and drives home the importance of data science skills. When they go back to school, they may be inspired to round out their studies with other disciplines and courses. For example, they could pivot their elective curricula to include SQL and statistics.
Internships are also an opportunity for students with data science backgrounds, who hadn’t considered marketing as a career path before, to see if it’s a good fit. Someone studying computer science or engineering may like that marketing allows them to be creative and may decide to round out their technical coursework with classes in communications. A great way to recruit these students is through job fairs at engineering schools or by posting job listings on websites geared towards programmers.
Work with nonprofits
Beyond university campuses, there are some great organizations out there training the next generation of computer and data scientists. From coding boot camps, to General Assembly, to nonprofits such as Marketing EDGE, these groups can serve as a valuable talent pipeline. Marketing EDGE, for example, helps students who want to break into marketing and advertising learn what they need to be competitive candidates. Getting involved with these groups puts agencies in direct contact with fledgling data scientists.
All of these initiatives are geared toward overcoming the skills gap by building stronger connections between employers and tomorrow’s marketing hires. Marketers and advertisers can prepare the next generation to have the right data-savvy skills by being proactive about outreach and participating in the educational process. The work upfront will pay off down the road.