My first house introduced me to the joy and frustration at the heart of this week’s post. I spent just about every dime I had on buying the place. That meant I didn’t have enough left over to hire repair specialists every time something broke, so fixing most of the inevitable household system failures fell to me.
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I stink at this. When you own a home, though, that doesn’t matter much. Sometimes, it’s either “take eight hours and four roundtrips to Home Depot to fix what a handyman could knock out in 30 minutes,” or you don’t shower.
Over the weekend, I decided to build an app for Windows Phone, which you can download here. It’s designed to give users a quick overview of this blog’s contents, including sorting by most popular topics. I am quite certain it is the world’s simplest, least sophisticated app, maybe ever.
I used Microsoft’s App Studio to create the app, and for the most part it worked as advertised. It allows people with no coding experience to take an existing resource, such as an RSS feed, and turn it into an app.
I hit a bump in the road, though, when I realized I needed to create an icon for the app’s Windows Phone Store listing. Microsoft offers tile templates, all in a file format called PSD, which Adobe Photoshop uses.
A leaky faucet can send a new homeowner to the hardware store, motivate him to stalk the aisles in search of a store employee, force said owner to try to explain the problem using terminology like “thingie” and “contraption,” only to leave with 20 pounds of new tools, a plumber’s belt to store it all, and a textbook that may be useful to some other guy but probably won’t help you fix your problem.
My quest to build a simple icon for the simplest of apps you could ever imagine felt a lot like this.
While there are no shortage of Photoshop-like apps for editing PSDs, Photoshop is the gold standard. I therefore downloaded a free trial. If, like me, you are a beginner, actually using the trial requires nearly the same investment of time as it takes to build an app using App Studio.
Thankfully, Samaritans all over the world have produced free and useful “how-to” guides for people like me. Within 90 minutes, I had found a tutorial that helped me design a simple icon.
What’s the moral of the story?
Over the last 10 years, marketing has become more balkanized. We now have specialists who possess important and relatively new skills, such as CRM, social and, yes, mobile marketing. People with these skills are discovering more and more senior level positions within their discipline, helping them map their career growth.
It’s easier than ever to stick to your knitting. This high degree of specialization comes with some risk, though. Technology shows us just how quickly leaders can become laggards. Just as companies and sectors come and go, so, too, do the skills that they require.
While a career in any of the newer marketing disciplines may feel safe today, plan for tomorrow by exposing yourself to concepts that force you to learn. Just as with home improvement, this exercise, if done correctly, will force you to talk to people who know more than you do about things you don’t know but should. It will motivate you to get creative about finding answers when none are obvious.
Ultimately, it may help you prepare for the day when the skill that launched your career is not the skill that will take your career to the next level.