How Technology has Changed Many Industries
Much of my career has been in marketing, sales, real estate and regulated financial services roles and I have personally seen whole industry sectors change dramatically due to the impact of technology.
What Happened in Finance Services
Virtually all investment funds now, for example, use a mixture of automation, data sources and analysis and computerized strategies. Long gone are the years of open outcry trading floors or a 100% human discretionary trader. The decline of traditional human stockbrokers vs online (now commission-free) brokers is another trend I have witnessed within financial services. More recently, due to Covid, regulated financial advice has effectively become a video-delivered service.
What Happened in Other Industries
Technology has also impacted on the other professions I am also part of. Real estate agency, arguably, is now more about data analytics and digital marketing than traditional surveying or sales. Marketing itself has also almost fully embraced digital at the expense of more traditional methods. Sales has become more online and data-driven. Accounting is, in effect, data analysis in many ways.
In my analysis, an accountant, surveyor, lawyer, sales or financial professional (this list is not exhaustive) who does not adapt to new realities will gradually see his/her skills decline and will lose relevancy in a modern and changing environment. Further developments in areas such as AI and machine learning do not bode well for those business models which do not change.
Why I Learned to Code
On a personal level, I could see the trends but also saw the opportunity. The sheer power at your fingertips with regard to data analysis or data visualization is enormous and still largely untapped by most organizations. It also made me feel good to know that I was in good company…Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all learned to code. In my case, I started with the ‘Swiss army knife’ of languages, Python, and SQL for databases but I also assumed a life-long learning process with new programming languages and solutions expected to appear in the future.
An Accountant, A Lawyer a Salesperson – Like it Or Not You Are All Data Analysts Already !
The moment of realization when I decided to develop my skills by learning to code came when I looked at the functionality of the CRM system I was using. Demystified, it was, effectively, a GUI (graphical user interface) and a database (in this case SQL) at the ‘back-end’. I found I could manipulate the data much better if I got in deeper into the database using SQL. In fact, I had been a ‘data analyst’ already, albeit not a very good one via the ‘front-end’ or GUI !
In my opinion, virtually all professionals now have a similar ‘hybrid’ nature to their roles, and usually without realizing it.
Here are some examples:
- An accountant using software packages with client databases behind the scenes and data visualization on the ‘front-end’.
- A lawyer referring to legal databases (probably a ‘front-end’ and SQL ‘back-end’). An increasing use of machine learning and AI in search queries.
- A modern financial markets trader using advanced machine learning algorithms or high frequency trading.
- A marketer using Google Analytics or PPC analysis platforms.
- A security professional using software with advanced data analytics or automated facial or number recognition technology.
The Opportunity – Future Trends
Of course, certain investors see opportunities in disruption within an industry. Conventional business models can change rapidly due to the impact of technology and morph into new ones, outpacing legacy models. Why shouldn’t a VC fund invest in new areas where profits and future growth are anticipated to be higher?
- Financial services becomes ‘Fintech’
- Property becomes ‘Proptech’
- Law become ‘Legaltech’
- Sales becomes ‘Salestech’ or ‘Martech’
Unfortunately in most cases, the above are simply re-branding exercises with little substance behind them designed in order to appeal to new sources of capital. However, in my case, I have found that an authentic change and new skill-sets can embrace new opportunities and discover untapped market potential. I became more ‘tech’ and less ‘conventional’ in my outlook.
Quick Summary- Don’t Get Left Behind
I wrote this article via the prism of my own experience to bring this issue to life. However, the points I have made, I believe, are relevant to almost all professionals in the modern age. In my opinion, the trend I have identified will only continue in that many professions will effectively become hybrid roles even if they don’t realize it. You can think of it as having a ‘tech’ suffix added to their job descriptions.
Embracing this trend via new skills will also offer individuals new opportunities and allow companies to ‘create their own solutions’ instead of buying them in. Also, in a Darwinian world, encompassing change is the key to survival.
A Relevant Quote
Finally, in summary, for a little bit of motivation, I will leave readers with a final quote from Charles Darwin. In his view, it was never about being ‘the fittest’ but about being able to adapt.