You Ask, I Answer: Leveraging Engineering Talent for Marketing?

Heather asks, “If you had the ability to add an engineer to your team, with a penchant for data analysis and interest in SEO but no marketing/comms background or experience, what are some ways you would use them?”

That’s an interesting question because it depends on the kind of engineer the person is. Someone with, say, a chemical engineering background is going to be adept at setting up and running experiments, and a mindset based on skills like stoichiometry will let them develop complex, balanced formulas for marketing outcomes. Part of your challenge is determining what they’re conceptually good at, and mapping that to your needs. What software skills do they have?

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In today’s episode, Heather asks, If you had the ability to add an engineer to your team with a penchant for data analysis and interest in SEO, but no marketing comms background or experience? What are some of the ways you would use them? That’s an interesting question.

Because it depends, it depends on the kind of engineer a person is, you know, somebody who has this software engineering background is going to be very different than somebody who has bio status statistics or biotechnical, engineering, background, engineering in general.

The common traits are, obviously, people are very quantitative, they, they have good knowledge of the scientific method, they have typically good adherence to processes and a willingness to embrace process, and have things be repeatable, have things be reliable.

You know, for example, my brother is an aerospace engineer, and many of the technical skills.

The quantitative skills are shared across different engineering disciplines, you know, basic statistics, the ability to do complex equations, and the ability to make those equations work towards a specific outcome and to be repeatable and to be rigorous.

So somebody say with, like a chemical engineering background, they’re going to be more adept at things like fluid dynamics along with a mechanical engineer.

There’s the skills and strict geometry, for example, the ability to balance equations and things, those are not soft skills, but their core engineering capabilities that you can actually pick up and do domain transfer, to the discipline of marketing.

So let’s take stoichiometry the ability to do balance formulas, somebody who’s good at that is going to be somebody who is good at taking complex marketing formulas.

If you think about some of the more complex formulas we deal with in marketing, that require advanced calculus and linear algebra skills, multiple regressions, gradient boosting techniques, like really complex calculus equations for understanding how knowledge spreads across a graph.

Those are all things that are not necessarily native to engineering.

But an engineer could pick up and learn very, very quickly, very easily, it would not be a very difficult lift for them to go from, say, doing mass energy transfer to understanding network dynamics.

And the challenge that you face here is determining what that particular engineering person’s background is, and what they’re conceptually good at.

And then mapping that to your needs.

So if you have needs in SEO, or needs in basic marketing analytics stuff, how do you map that person skills to that somebody who’s really good, for example, biostatistics is going to have an easy time, an easy time with Google Analytics, right? In terms of complexity of environments, Google Analytics is way less complex than a lab bench.

And so you can take those that person’s skills, and then try to figure out how do you solve your challenges with their skills, the the tougher part actually is on your side, which is to be clear about what your needs are like, Hey, this is when you’re dealing with engineers, you have to be clear, you have to be very, very clear, this is what I want, this is the outcome I’m looking for.

Not Hey, I’d like to make SEO better.

That’s way too open ended.

That is not something that is scientifically rigorous, and is not something that an engineer is going to be able to go, Oh, I don’t want to do that.

They’re gonna look at you and go, and what would you like me to do? So your challenge would be something like, I need a way to do regression testing with Google Analytics data.

There will be some things that they will not have aptitudes for a lot of data engineering is not something that in my experience, you know, other scientific engineers have had a lot of success with accepting, of course, software engineering.

That is, for example, if you sat down chemical engineer in front of Google Analytics data, they could probably make something of it if you told them to write software to go connect to the Google Analytics API and retrieve the data.

And it’s not going to go so well.

There are exceptions to every rule, but in my experience in working with various people, that’s not something that they wouldn’t be able to do easily.

So you’ll still have some challenges on the data engineering side that really only data engineers and software engineers are best suited for.

Obviously, anybody can learn anything.

But out of the box that’s persons not going to have strong aptitudes, they’re the big question I would also have is what software skills do does this engineering person have? Someone in biostatistics, for example, is going to have a very strong background in either SPSS or R.

And those two languages are obviously very, very well suited for working with marketing data.

I use r all the time, literally every single day, to do even relatively basic stuff, like getting data out of Google Analytics, it’s just a fantastic piece of software for that.

So software engineers, probably gonna have some experience in Python.

And that’s definitely going to be something that will be coming exceptional, handy when pulling data out of various applications.

Again, with the caveat that most folks in scientific engineering don’t have a lot of background and extracting data out of API’s.

So just know that that’s a thing.

You do want to look for somebody, ideally, who has coding skills, because there are certainly a lot of purpose built applications and every scientific discipline that you know, pre packaged apps, that those will not translate well into marketing, those will not transfer, probably at all into marketing, but somebody who can write code is going to do well.

The other thing that is important is, you’re going to need to have good management of the person and understand that managing engineers, typically is different than managing other kinds of employees, they are, again, very outcome driven, you have to be extremely clear, they some have good project management skills, some do not.

That varies pretty wildly.

And giving them feedback on things, one of the challenges you’re going to run into is you may not necessarily know how they’re doing something, and you will have to work with them to have them explain how they do things.

So that you can offer feedback about how they might do it better.

One of the challenges I’ve had in my career is I’ve worked for people who don’t understand what I do, and so therefore cannot offer guidance about how to improve my processes or how to improve my code.

Certainly, they can offer feedback on how I can improve the outcomes I deliver.

But it is that left to me as a self directed learner to figure out how can I make this better on my own.

And if you have a person who needs a mentor who needs external assistance to be motivated to learn, you’re gonna have to learn that early and find somebody who can provide that guidance.

Because it’s really challenging for the person if they get frustrated, and there’s nobody that can turn to for help.

So there’s a few of the thoughts, I would have them again, focusing on if they’re, if they’re a good engineer, they should have a good technical background in data analysis.

That’s true of almost every kind of engineering.

And I would look at the data challenges you have and say, Okay, how can we map this person’s skills to this person to our challenges? And again, that requires really getting to know that person and what the skills are that they have.

Interviewing, seeing their work, trying to understand the kinds of problems they’ve solved, I think is really important to be able to to ask them to show me some of the tougher problems you’ve solved some of the more difficult experiments you’ve run and how you navigated those challenges that kind of informational question before or after hiring the person will be beneficial to you to understand them better.

Got a follow up questions, leave in the comments box below.

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Take care.

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