The Age of Adtech “Quants” – Part One
October 4, 2018
As the ” mystification” of technology continues as we also grow ever more reliant on it, the real ” Digital Gap” is no longer who has access to technology and who doesn’t but who UNDERSTANDS it and who doesn’t. And believe me, that gap is getting greater and greater every day.
I’ve been in technology almost 30 years now, the last 15 in advertising alone and there’s always been a ” gap” between those who don’t know (managers) and those that do (programmers), but back in the old days managers had the decided advantage. Programmers were the willing slaves to business, a ” cost center” to keep the computers running. The ” tech guy” you called when you needed software installed on your PC.
But now it is the 21st century and technology has made a full swing from ” cost center” to ” profit center” and as large businesses continue to shrink and small businesses continue to grow because of the one buzzword everyone around the world knows and understands…technology. Our finance, media, advertising and now even retail, are all technology driven. Computers talking to other computers. Programs talking to other programs with only the programmer in between that knows what actually is going on between all those electrons, even though the effects, as proven by the financial industry fiascos, everyone on the planet in some way or another.
In so saying, the status of ” programmer” has skyrocketed from lowly nerd with a pocket protector to near god-like status. Big business needs and embraces technology in all of its forms. Using advertising as an example:
” Reasons Hackers Build Adtech: See opportunities for better automation and more efficiency; to scale existing, inefficient business models; to disrupt agencies or existing products with fat margins and low quality or weak competitive advantages (ginzametrics.com)“
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Using programmatic advertising as an example you can wade knee-deep in all this jargon for years to come and still have now idea how any of this actually works. In other words, what to do programmers ACTUALLY do?! Without going into too much detail, they simply tell computers what to do, in multiple languages in multiple ways. All programs take data (data can be just about anything), do something with it, and spit something out, either to a person or another computer. In short, that’s pretty much it. But the magic is in HOW they do it..after all computers are just dumb machines really. In the end it is the human imagination that determines what goes in and what comes out. The ” HOW” , in computer terms, is called algorithms. Algorithms are the secret sauce. The Magic!
Algorithms are usually based on theoretical mathematical concepts that have been ” proven” . That is, we can prove mathematically that if you put in X you will always get Y, EVERY time and that’s what makes them so valuable. Most of these algorithms (and their proofs) have been floating around academia for decades and more are being ” created” every day. Some are obscure, many unfathomable to the ” common” man, and sometimes beyond the reach of even the ” common” programmer. Hence, the need for ” Quants” . Originally, associated with Wall Street, Quants, if not everywhere now, soon will be. Or, at least, they’ll be in great demand.