McKinsey & Company, a leading global consulting firm, is tasked by some of the world’s largest and profitable companies to help them succeed financially in a digital economy. McKinsey assesses these companies by measuring their Digital Quotient™—a metric based on a company’s strategy, culture, organization and capabilities—and provides tactics to help those companies raise their Digital Quotients.

But what about raising an individual’s Digital Quotient? What are some practical steps business professionals can take to enhance their digital skills and remain competitive in a marketplace becoming more and more dependent on Big Data and analytics?

We asked Warrington alumni, who are thriving in this field, to give some helpful advice on this topic.

How has Big Data and Analytics impacted your company and your role in the company?

Al Callier (BSBA '89) Vice President, Strategic Innovation & Emerging Technology, Universal Orlando

“It is increasingly influencing our thinking on key initiatives, including guest experience, commerce, marketing and other areas. Over time, we have seen a lot of industry excitement about the promise of big data, but often seemingly more difficult and expensive to execute and achieve scale than expected. Now, we’re reaching an interesting inflection point. The cost of tools and equipment is lower, while the horsepower and capability greater, and the data sets more vast and accessible. More is becoming possible now than ever before, with more businesses discovering insights that drive real results.”

Vinod Jayakumar (MBA ’13), Technology Consultant, Public Sector at Deloitte, New York

“There has been a lot of growth in this area, and it’s become very important, especially in consulting. Everything is about data. Clients want the numbers, and my job is to give them the numbers.”

Eric Fleming (BSBA‘ 01), Director of Technology, Traitify, Jacksonville

“For our company, we’re trying to assess user personality so we amass a large amount of personal data. We have to make sure the results we’re giving back to customers are accurate. Big Data also helps us learn how people are using our applications, and how we can optimize the best experience for them.”

How did you personally raise your “Digital Quotient”? What strategies/experiences did you utilize?

Jayakumar: “My background is in engineering; electronics and software. I’ve spent my career—basically my whole life—in programming and technology. UF offered lot of great courses in statistics, and provided good resources, like licenses for statistical software. I bought those licenses and practiced on my own using publicly available data.”

Fleming: “For me, it was being curious. If you have a curiosity and a desire to learn, then it’s a matter of committing yourself to learn something new and not get too frustrated. It didn’t happen overnight for me. It’s a slow and steady process getting to this point.”

Callier: “I was on the Global Brand Management team at The Coca-Cola Company when the first wave of Internet mania hit around 1998. I thought this is where the future is going, and I need to understand this to be involved. So I challenged myself to make an industry shift and joined an established but early-stage internet company, GoTo.com, which pioneered the pay-for-placement model for search engines. My role was Marketing driven, however, being in the environment compelled me to learn about search engine technology, online marketing technology, and the backend operations. This happened quite naturally because I was completely immersed in it, and the sheer intensity of working in the ‘start-up’ environment. ”

What are some strategies Warrington alumni can use to improve their digital quotients?

Fleming: “Knowing what your goals are and what you are trying to get out of Big Data is important. You can gather all the data you want, but it’s not valuable if you don’t identify goals.”

Callier: “There is very likely some aspect of digital technology innovation affecting your field, no matter what field you work in. Make an effort to get involved in projects where technology is driving change, and get your feet wet. If your company or department is forming new projects or putting together a task force, ask to be on it. Soon, you’ll be known as someone who embraces technology, and that will help you take further leaps in your career. Be willing to be uncomfortable until you acquire the experience and knowledge to be comfortable. It’s surprising how quickly you can adapt to an entirely new arena by just being present, using the experience you already have and applying yourself.”

Jayakumar: “It really depends on your background, but learn as much as you can about the basics in technology and data analysis. Lynda.com (UF has a tie-up with Lynda.com and was a great resource that I leveraged) and Coursera are good resources. Also, read what is happening in these fields. Subscribe to newsletters from McKinsey, Accenture, Deloitte or PwC.”

Fleming: “Computing power is such that you can analyze large data using familiar tools like Microsoft Excel. I’d recommend starting small, use the tools you’re used to and grow your skill set from there.”

Callier: “From a personal standpoint, get more involved with consumer technology, particularly mobile devices and applications, and home automation. Things you experience every day, being revolutionized by digital innovation. Be curious and explore. When a market-leading new product comes out, don’t be the last to get it. As an example,buy an Apple Watch—not because it will tell you the time, or you need another watch—but because you will be among the first to really understand how it works, and how the technology eco-system applies to this new form.”

For those who are not tech savvy, how important is it to have an open and positive attitude toward change?

Jayakumar: “In this world everything is digital, everything is about data. Have an open mind about technology. I’m not saying everyone should start coding, but know how data applies to your industry, and how it applies to your day-to-day life. There are thousands of resources on the Internet with tools that can make your life easier. If a tool can make your life easier and improve the quality of your work, your company might be open to investing in that tool and also provide the required training.”

Callier: “Understanding, buy-in, and positive attitude are all part of that wonderful thing we call Company Culture. You have to actively foster developing and maintaining a positive culture across the organization, with intention and effort. Much has been written on this and a great deal of wisdom available--keywords being: Intention and Effort. It’s also helpful to recognize and overtly deal with the change process itself. In business this is referred to as change management, which boils down to specific efforts and tactics to help team members constructively deal with and adapt to change. ”

Fleming: “Not being afraid to be wrong is a great skill to have. You have to take risks. We have psychologists working here who are not tech savvy, but they have expertise in their area. It’s our job to bridge the gap and extract that knowledge out of them, and translate it to a digital world. ”