#TechJobs – The Journey of a Tracking Specialist: from art galleries to JavaScript

Home Blends & Trends 20 September 2018

Everyone asks the same question when meeting someone new: “What do you do?”. When I answer, I’m usually met with a blank expression and a question hanging in the air. There’s no surprise there… Who really knows what a Tracking Specialist’s job involves?

First of all, it is a life full of surprises. If you asked me about “data”, “ tracking” or TMS just two years ago, I would have been the one with a blank expression! Back then, I worked in the art world, which is far from being known as an industry at the cutting edge of technology. With a bit of courage and a lot of passion for the digital world, I left art behind in 2016. That was it, I was going to be a coder. I set out on a new professional path at the end of 2017, and just eight months later I got my first permanent contract working in the web industry: I became a “Tracking Specialist”!

My story is not unusual; the other members of my team include an ex-footballer, an ex-architect, an ex-restaurateur, and even an ex-accountant. We’ve all lived a hundred other lives, and we all share the same motivation: explore, dissect, and manipulate the infinite sites that you and I visit every day.

It’s no coincidence that in the internet industry, people have atypical backgrounds. The development of new technology creates a huge demand on the job market. Beyond needing development specialists ( JavaScript and PHP remain the most in-demand), new positions and specialties emerge as unprecedented challenges with the internet and data are encountered.

This great demand is primarily translated by a growing interest in the web, and we can already see the work being done to raise awareness among young people. However, the impact is far more remarkable in traditional academic studies. There has been a veritable explosion of dedicated programs cropping up in universities, institutes, and education centres. Along with continuing education initiatives, today we can also find a rising number of educational programs specifically dedicated to career changes – which is what I did. The list of coding programs (or “bootcamps”) around the world is long, and growing. To name but a few: Le Wagon (which began in France) has locations in some 16+ cities. Opportunities beyond France include Ironhack, with programs in 7 countries, App Academy in New York and San Francisco, and the Flatiron School, which has partnered with the city of New York to encourage education and employment among non-college graduates in the tech community. In France, these are generally in partnership with the unemployment office, and benefit from government aid.

Tracking specialist: pioneer of a new era

As for me, I attended IFOCOP and followed a course to become a web developer/integrator. I learned to speak HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and PHP fluently, and then began an internship at fifty-five. My change in career made me a more interesting candidate, as I already had working experience outside the industry and I was ready to learn all about my new world.

“Ready to learn” was the most important part, as “Tracking Specialist” didn’t exist ten years ago. Very few people had heard of “tracking”, or related tools, and even fewer knew how to use these tools. I had to understand different web analysis solutions (Google Analytics, Omniture, AT Internet), know my TMS inside and out (Google Tag Manager, TagCommander, Tealium…), and be an expert on the technical precisions that each tool requires.

The role of Tracking Specialist can also put my technical knowledge to the test. Because most systems of data collection use JavaScript, I had to know how to debug, correct, and write a clean and efficient code. Collecting quality data requires constant adaptation depending on the request at hand. And let’s not forget, we also have to stay abreast of latest technological evolutions! Keeping an ear to the ground, so to speak, is a big part of our job.

Lastly, a Tracking Specialist must also make suggestions in the multiple projects that he or she will work on. As a technical expert, the Tracking Specialist will often be in direct contact with the client to help ensure a smooth tracking implementation, and for all key steps in the project. This is also when we learn the most about data challenges and evolution.

To summarise, the Tracking Specialist is a technical expert in online data collection. It is a job well-suited to the curious, and those who are not put off by the internet’s mystery. It is a tough job and can be intense, but there is constant room for growth and many small victories each day. Above all, it is a new profession, in an industry whose potential is only just being realised. I’m so proud to be one of the pioneers in this new world.

So if some day our paths should cross… You’ve already got the answer to the question everyone asks!

 

This article was translated from French by Niamh Cloughley.

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