Almost Timely News, 20 February 2022: Vertical vs. Horizontal Skills, Entry Level Jobs, Data Visualization Basics

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Almost Timely News for 2022-02-20

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What’s On My Mind: Vertical and Horizontal Skills

I was having a chat with my oldest child today as they’re starting to think about higher education, postsecondary education. They asked what I thought they should study, and I suggested they think about which horizontal skills they enjoy the most.

For clarity, let’s define these terms. When we think of verticals, we think of industries. Accounting. Human Resources. Marketing. Manufacturing. If you look at a data source like the NAICS code index, everything on that list is a vertical, from agriculture to zookeeping.

When we study in university or in professional development and training, very often we’re learning vertical skills. How to be a better accountant. How to improve our carpentry skills. These vertical skills are important, parts of our trade skills. How proficient we are dictates to a fair degree how successful we are. Someone really bad at marketing probably won’t be in the marketing profession for long. Vertical knowledge applies only in that particular vertical industry.

Horizontal skills, on the other hand, are skills that cross industries. Writing. Audio composition. Video. Management. Psychology. These skills are nearly universal, and are a substantial boost to our careers. Someone who’s an excellent writer can do well in many, many verticals. In today’s always on, always watching world, someone who can make great video will do well in tons of different industries. Someone with a strong understanding of mathematics and statistics can apply that knowledge in many different ways and situations. Horizontal knowledge applies broadly with relatively little change to the core essence across many industries.

I counsel my kid to think about studying horizontal skills for two reasons. First, they’re obviously very transferable. Someone who’s good at managing other people or managing projects can work in pretty much any industry and be successful, from industrial concrete to artificial intelligence to adult entertainment. Everyone needs good managers to help make the workforce work better. Everyone needs good project management to ensure things get done on time and under budget.

But here’s the real secret: horizontal skills are somewhat harder to build automation for, and really difficult for artificial intelligence to copy effectively. Why? Because horizontal skills are influenced by the vertical they’re placed in, but the important knowledge isn’t stored in the vertical. For example, let’s take being a good writer. Machines are developing decent writing skills, as we talked about a couple of issues ago. That said, they still struggle with very specific writing tasks without a lot of training, and they can’t really write anything original. Everything that a machine writes is synthesized from prior writing it’s learned from.

Thus, if you want a machine to write great technical papers in, say, vacu-formed plastics, you will need to tune an existing model on that topic with lots of good content about that topic – and that may not exist. At least not enough in quantity to really train a machine well.

Let’s take audio engineering. A machine can learn some of the tactical basics of audio engineering, like how to remove noise or how to compress audio to a certain specification. Many commercial audio packages like Adobe Audition have these capabilities baked right in. But we are still far from the ability to take raw audio of any kind and have a machine spit out a polished product with no intervention because the rules change from vertical to vertical, application to application. What is great audio engineering for a spoken word podcast would horrifically mangle a musical piece. What sounds great for engineering on classical music is going to sound downright peculiar for jazz. And yet every company that’s trying out a podcast needs some help, and that requires the horizontal skill of audio engineering.

Horizontal skills have a ton of variation because they change from industry to industry, from application to application. We humans are really good at adapting to different generalizations, and our machine counterparts are still a long way off from being able to transfer skills so easily. So when I tell my child about what they might want to think about studying, I’m suggesting horizontal skills as a way to future-proof their career as best as possible for the years to come.

So here’s my question to you. What vertical skills do you have? What horizontal skills do you have? And how much of your professional development and training efforts do you invest in each? They’re both important, but horizontal skills are a little more future-proof, so make sure your investment in yourself reflects that.

Share With a Friend or Colleague

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

If I had to pick one thing for you to review this week, it would be the rant I have about entry level jobs. Please, if you’re hiring, give it a read.

Skill Up With Free Classes

These are just a few of the free classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.

Get Back to Work!

Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

Ad: How to Prove the ROI of your Marketing Agency

I put together a brand new talk on how agencies could use data-driven marketing as a way to showcase their value and real results they obtain. Fundamentally, agencies need to take five steps to make this journey:

  1. Become data-driven. Making decisions with data allows you to act faster and make better decisions when done right.
  2. Be crystal clear about KPIs. What’s a KPI? It’s the number you get your bonus for (or fired for).
  3. Build an agency cookbook. Cookbooks set apart good agencies from great ones.
  4. Use data to become proactive. Impress clients by being more proactive and pushing them.
  5. Squeeze all the juice from your tools. You probably don’t need to buy more tools.

An agency which takes these steps becomes more and more valuable to its clients. For folks on the client side, these are the things you should expect of your agencies, things you should ask for when agencies are pitching you. Agencies not doing these things will not serve you as well as they could. There’s obviously a lot more detail, so go ahead and watch the talk now.

Watch the talk now by filling out this form »

What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: Supermetrics for Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is an incredibly powerful tool for bringing your data into one place for analysis. Out of the box, it serves up Google ecosystem data that marketers need – Google Analytics, Google Search Console, YouTube, Google Ads.

But what about… Facebook data? LinkedIn data? SEO data? Data from your CRM or marketing automation software? That’s where Google Data Studio has some gaps.

Fill those gaps with the Supermetrics Integration for Google Data Studio with over 70 different supported integrations like most social networks, CallRail, Adobe Analytics, Bing Ads, Pinterest, Stripe, Semrush, Salesforce, and so many others. Get ALL your marketing data in one place for easy reporting.

Click here for a free trial of Supermetrics for Google Data Studio »

Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

Advertisement: MarketMuse for SEO

How do you create content at scale? You could hire dozens of copywriters and SEO specialists – or you could engage an army of machines to jumpstart the process. That’s what MarketMuse is – an army of AI content creators at your fingertips. Research keywords based on topics instead of narrow phrases, have machines write your first drafts, and boost your SEO results immediately.

Try it free for 7 days and see what having your own SEO robot army can do for you »

How to Stay in Touch

Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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2 responses to “Almost Timely News, 20 February 2022: Vertical vs. Horizontal Skills, Entry Level Jobs, Data Visualization Basics”

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