The tech talent time bomb in marketing

The tech talent time bomb in marketing

One of the other points that leaped out at me in the Econsultancy/Adobe report I discussed earlier this week — Are agencies hopelessly screwed or on the verge of a spectacular Renaissance? — was the increasing challenges of finding good technical talent.

Under the heading “the tech talent time bomb,” the report cites research from McKinsey that claims: “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

The Econsultancy/Adobe report suggested that the shortage has already hit many agencies and marketing departments:

“Interviewees for this report mentioned how technologically savvy people are hard to come by. This shortage is apparent in both hard technical skill areas such as tech development, specific areas such as data analytics, and softer areas including the requirement for good digital generalists who can combine broad knowledge of digital channels with the ability to see things from the point of view of the consumer.”

“Salary inflation, particularly for developers, is a reality and becoming a real issue for some areas of the industry.”

So what’s an agency or in-house marketing department to do? Three suggestions:

Readjust budgets and cost models to accurately reflect tech supply and demand. A small number of incredibly talented and highly paid innovators can be much more effective than larger teams of average paid average performers — especially at the intersection of technology and creative. Don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish.

Invest in building a culture that inspires and rewards technical talent. This runs the gamut of active tech participation in management and strategy, tech-friendly ergonomics, progressive HR policies, sweet computers and devices, support for open source initiatives. Give technical talent the opportunity to make a significant impact and to be recognized for their contributions. This isn’t just IT plumbing — this is the building of a grand estate from concept-to-completion.

Grow your own marketing technologists in a stellar nursery

Grow your own marketing technologist “stellar nursery.” Put in place good programs to hire interns and junior staff members and shape them into tech-savvy marketers (or marketing-savvy techs).

The smart kids already crave this kind of opportunity. Get them vendor training on marketing technology products. Have them learn how to program (yes, even if they’re not engineers!). Send them to technical and digital marketing conferences. And then push them to apply that learning in meaningful ways. As stars emerge from this process, move quickly to promote and reward them (before someone else snatches them from you).

Parents: you can do your part by planting the seeds of this exciting career in the heads of your children now. Firefighter? Astronaut? Movie star? Pfff, not nearly as thrilling — or, ahem, as lucrative — as being a marketing technologist. Well, maybe not more than the movie star… 😉

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2 thoughts on “The tech talent time bomb in marketing”

  1. Hi Scott,
    I think that it’s up to educators to shift focus from the data-mining drivel to fostering new knowledge about the contexts in which data are used. Most programs provide general discourse on how data is gathered, but the good ones––scratch that, the really good ones––stimulate attention towards what happens after the data are collected.
    Robots collect data. Consciousness, something not so easy to replicate or replace, is what drives decision-making, and in this is where we have the most to gain. Systems and perhaps the very nature of data itself will inevitably change, but “deep analytical foresight” is a talent that isn’t so commonplace.

  2. These analytical skills are exactly what the STEM (Science, Technolgoy, Engineering, Math) education movement is seeking to instill. Currently the U.S. education system is woefully behind in preparing our students for these careers. I think many would be surprised how strongly these skills are needed in marketing as well.

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