Wow, check out those mad (digital) skills!

Wow, check out those mad (digital) skills!

When I was at school my careers teacher made me complete a very long questionnaire and fed into a very large computer. Sometime later (probably about a week later) the dot matrix printer churned out my ideal job profile. That must have been something like 1985, almost 30 years ago.

I have no idea what it said.

I have a pretty good idea what it didn’t say. Teaching people to fly a cleverly sewn together shower curtain (aka paraglider) from a very high mountain in southern Turkey. Busing people over from Western Australia to the Victorian Alps for their first experience of snow skiing. Helping businesses get their products and services to the top of something called Google using an integrated and content-led approach. No, none of that.

Like a lot of people I know who work in ‘digital’ my career path and route into it was more than a little random. One thing for sure, when I started working on Internet related stuff in the late 90’s no one, including myself, really knew what they were doing. That set the scene. A community of like-minded inquisitive individuals who wanted to change things for the better with an approach to work that was more often collaborative than competitive.

What a fantastic industry we work in.

But also a demanding one when you consider the broad range of skills you need to be successful.  Here are some of the top skills I am looking for when I place people into digital jobs.

And some of my top tips having made it this far.

Getting things done

Compared to running a big brand advertising campaign in the late 80s or early 90s there are many more things to consider. Even more things to get done. In fact I often say that success in digital is the sum total of many small parts. Successful prioritization and applying rigor, pace and solid project management to everything on your list is essential. Every 20 minutes counts.

My top tip – if you are not managing emails like David Allen suggests then you should be.

Fag packet planning

Advertising and marketing used to be more ‘waterfall’ when it came to strategy, planning and delivery. Big idea, big budgets, big bang launch and big campaign. Digital by comparison is much more about micro-strategies, continuous insights and rapid iteration. It represents a very different way of working and being able to rapidly prototype a plan and then move quickly into testing and delivery is core to that way of working.

Read the Agile Marketing Manifesto

My top tip – mind mapping of the pencil, paper and eraser type is super useful!

Creative thinking

If I am honest original thinking does not always come easily to me …

But I’ll let you into a secret. Creative thinking is not always that original. In fact innovation is often more about connecting and repurposing ideas than creating them from scratch. Look beyond the familiar to different industries and business models. Research and development often then becomes copy, copy, copy and iterate.

My top tip – go ride your bike or pour yourself a glass of wine. Let your mind wander.

Good with numbers

I really do love spreadsheets. You can’t argue with the facts. Maybe controversial but I believe that financial directors (rather than marketing directors) make for better CEOs. Certainly where small growing businesses are concerned.

Big data, analytics, data driven insight are major players in our game now.

Sometimes I call it the Dave Brailsford school of marketing. Businesses can be grown and markets can be won through small incremental gains and an incessant drive to understand the detail and optimize every single element.

My top tip – go read Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik.

Focus and flow

My good friend and colleague Charlie Peverett always used to say that digital marketing was a bit like plate spinning. You start work as early as you can and spin some plates. You work as long as you can and keep spinning them. You finish up … and in the morning hope that not too many have fallen and smashed into smithereens.

I kind of agree.

Welcome to a world where nothing is finished, things are in constant Beta and you always have a list of things to do that is longer than you could possibly achieve.  To survive in this crazy world you will need to find times when you can focus but even more importantly you will have to find a way to ensure you and your teams’ work flows.

If you are really interested in this kind of stuff I suggest you read this  e-book on the subject by the Nokia@Work team.

My top tip – create useful to-do lists and reprioritise them about every 2-4 hours thus making sure you are always doing the most important (and impactful) things at any point in time. And don’t be a perfectionist – it’s a waste of time and effort.

Being able to write (and shoot)

The undeniably important role that content plays in digital marketing means that sooner or later you are going to have to create some of it. Be that a 140 character tweet, a blog post or a complete white paper it pays to be able to deal with the written word. It doesn’t need to be perfect (see top tip above) but you need to be confident to create content when you need to.

If you can shoot and edit reasonable pictures and video that’s even better

My top tip – read stuff, develop your own style and stick to it.

Presenting and speaking

Inspiring ideas and thinking have become cool.

Things like TED and the Do Lectures have helped that happen. It takes time to be able to deliver a keynote like they do at Apple so when an opportunity comes up to speak to others about what you are doing take it. There is nothing like standing up in front of your peers or your client to make sure you have figured out your story.  Each time you do it you will feel a little bit more confident and deliver it a little bit better. You might not enjoy it to begin with but one day you will. I promise.

My top tip – even the most seasoned conference speakers feel nervous just before they kick off.  That’s entirely normal and it’s a good thing.

Personally, I consider myself really lucky. Each and every day I learn something new. The more experienced I become the more I am aware of what I don’t know .

There is always something to strive for. Long may that continue.

Once again, it really is a fantastic industry we work in.

Photo credit : Mark Fugarino

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