Beginning of a Journey 1/2

Hello everyone,
Late 2020 brought some interesting articles in the area of analytics. There has been 2/3 articles that caught my attention and that, for me, were very interesting.

These articles are from Lukas Oldenburg (@lukasoldenburg on twitter) and Aaron Hardy (@Aarius). Both are interesting fellows to follow when you are interested into Analytics but their articles weren’t much about analytics than what is hidden in the analytics world.

Both explained their journey as of today. Lukas owns an Analytics agency and explains the journey to be self-employed. Aaron, being one of the active builder / maintainer of the Adobe Launch and Adobe Web SDK explains his journey to be a Software Engineer.

Both stories are important because they offer a view to new comers, in the analytics field, explaining that from a business or technical side of the field, there is not a defined path.

Inspired by these articles, I decided to join the party and explain a bit of my non-linear history on how I became Analytics Consultant / Data Architect for Adobe.

Educational Background

The same way than Aaron explained, I had a dad that was in IT. I discovered computers “very early” for that time (about 8 year old) and I remember my dad paying the first computer 1 500 € for a 75 Mhz machine. Yeah, you read it right 75 Mhz. It was a monster :D.

Very soon, I learned how to do my own website on my own with HTML by reverse engineering the Yahoo webpage source code that I saved and spend countless try & fail to create the pages. My first website was about Spirou (I like comics and I am a big fan of Uncle Scrooge – Don Rosa & Carl Barks’ versions).
At school, I was average and trying my best to not be on the spotlight.

I had scientific majors in high school (Math, Natural Science, Physics, Chimistry) but then my grade started to decrease. One of the first realization was that I couldn’t learn something without real application outlook.
When you learn to calculate radiation decay, complex numbers or limits of Integrals, it is hard. For me it was/is even harder when I do not see a point of doing so…
This concept was also apply to foreign languages where my level of english was mediocre at best. I had a F in my final exam for English.

I joined university and chose Economics where I could see the direct application of what I learned. I could better understand the world, and how it works through the economics relationship between “agents”. My grade were really good then, even matematical concepts made sense when applied to economics theory. Everything is easier when you can have direct application for it.

Give purpose to your learning is a tip that I can give to every teacher.

My bachelor was in econometry and during this time, I did an Erasmus in Poland, in Krakow to be precise, where I started at the bottom of the ladder regarding english capability (french cliché) and finished very good, fluently speaking thanks to everyone that kept encouraging me. If I better understood the importance of english, I would have gained so much time and now my grammar is always shaky, but it proved me that there are no lost cause in term of learning.

Erasmus is definitely a thing I would recommend to any student, and for non-EU people (including UK now unfortunately), I would recommend to spend a year abroad, outside your own culture and see what the world has to offer.
It is worth every penny that you can spend. You will learn that you have more in common with Spanish/English/ German /Indian people than your own compatriots. I traveled most of europe back then and because I was young and careless, it was fun and cheap, sleeping in train or in train station with homeless people, talking to strangers kind enough to engage discussions. Confronting point of views and the cultural differences was and still is one of my favorite thing. I do not go to clubs easily but I can easily spend very evening in a pub discovering the world through a different pair of eyes.

After my Bachelor, I went to a Master of Marketing for new Technologies. My primary purpose in 2008 was to work in green fields… but that also included Digital Marketing. I learned mostly about Paid Advertising, CPC, CPM, and a bit of SEO.
I graduated in 2010 and started my professional career as Digital Marketers but very soon my career will change to a more technical nature.

Early Career(s)

Even nowadays I am smiling when I am introduced as Technical expert, even though I spent most of my late years doing technical implementation, I came from Economics and Marketing studies. This may be the reason why I have an interesting profile. I do not think like an engineer, I think of business use cases before doing an application. To be fair, I am mostly doing an application or writing code to solve a business problem. I rarely code to solve a technical problem (less true though, now that I am providing open-source applications).

Internships

One thing that I could always recommend to students, is that they should enjoy their early career in small companies and or agencies as this is where you learn the most. The pay is often bad but the experience is great.
If you can do that during your internship time (often mandatory in Europe for your diploma), then all the better.
I spent 3 internships : One in Taipei (yeah, in Taiwan) doing a bit of Marketing and Accounting), and 2 in France, in Paris.

I will skip the Taipei one as it was more a life experience than a professional experience, and it lasted only 2 months.
In Paris, I worked for an agency offering green policies advices (for renewable energy). I was there as Marketing intern and I will always remember the sense of helplessness when I started. I was just before my final Master year, so “lots of education” and the day before I started, I realized very vividly that I have no real work capability… I couldn’t sleep the whole night as I had this intense feeling of being a fraud. I did not know anything…
Luckily, the persons there were really nice and other interns took me under their wings. Also, I had something for me, that I soon realized, not everyone has. I have critical thinking and I learn fast (or at least, I am willingly putting hours to learn).
I was doing support here and there until one day, the website, based on Joomla, had to be maintained. No one knew how to do it and the only thing availble to know how was a book (like 1000 pages book).
Feeling that this could be the moment to prove that I can be useful, I volunteer to read the book and take care of the maintenance of the website.
My technical profile has been set for the rest of my life.

My second internship in Paris was for a very big e-commerce website, selling train ticket in France (train is a big thing in Europe, especially in France). There I learned how structured a big e-commerce website can be (it was 2010 so still early for the dgital space). I first touch based with Omniture (later Adobe Analytics) there and Neolane (later Adobe Campaign).
I didn’t have much concrete new things learned there, the focus was more on organizational, how political it can get in a big company and how organized you should be in order to follow up through the corporate layers.

I couldn’t finish this internship because I found a job before the end of it. My internship mentor pushed me to follow it because it was setting me for the United State of America ! I was leaving France to work in the U.S. and not anywhere in the US, in San Francisco and New York… but this is a time for another blog post.

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