"I may never know enough to be the tech lead in a startup, but I know that having an understanding of programming gives you a massive advantage in recruiting," he says. "The last thing your CTO wants to do is spend three hours explaining something to a tech novice that should really only take three minutes."
Data manipulation: The artist with the spreadsheet tattooMatt Giandonato didn't start his career as a numbers geek. Trained as an artist, the digital print manager for Tukaiz, a marketing services production company, finds himself spending less time refining designs in Illustrator these days and more time crunching data in Excel.
Giandonato's dance with data began in 2004 when Tukaiz sent out personalized calendars to its customers with each recipient's name blended seamlessly into every photo. The clients liked it so much they asked Tukaiz to create personalized products to send to all of their customers. Now so-called variable printing accounts for a third of Tukaiz's business, which means Giandonato spends much of each day poring over spreadsheets filled with client data and manipulating it to create calendars, postcards, notebooks, brochures, and more.
"Over the last 10 years, we've gone from virtually no digital work to being almost completely digital," he says. "I deal with data files every day. Opening a file in Excel is one thing, but learning how to combine files, sort them in certain ways, and break out data to work with different workflows was a challenge at first. But when demand for these products kept growing, we realized that this is the wave of the future."
Along the way Giandonato also got involved with developing Tukaiz's PixyMe app for Apple's iTunes Store. With PixyMe, users can type a short message and have it appear inside a photo written in snow or displayed as balloons, for example, then choose to have the image delivered electronically or printed as a postcard and mailed to any U.S. destination. Giandonato's job was to ensure that whatever people entered into PixyMe could actually be printed by Tukaiz.
"You never know what people are going to type," he says. "Certain characters have a particular function within an application that can make the postcard come out blank. It's amazing what one little character can do to a print job. You have to figure out what they did wrong and how to fix it, which means you need to know a lot about data."