A Fear of Math

Moving from good to great in marketing 


I’ve never had a great relation-ship with math (pun intended). From Grade 9 onwards, the increasing complexity of the subject and my inability to find practical applications for it led to a downhill spiral. It was my lowest mark every year, and I couldn’t wait to be done with it. 

In fact, in Grade 12, admissions officers from Western University came to visit our school and the first question I asked was whether I needed Advanced Functions to be admitted. The second they said no, I raced to the guidance counsellor’s office and dropped it, no hesitation. 

Granted, it did limit my options. The Ivey School of Business was the only business program in Canada that allowed me to apply with only one of the three available high school maths, this being data management. Aside from Ivey, all my other choices were arts programs. I loved business, but hated math, so it seemed like a decent trade-off.


My experience with business at that point only reinforced my assumptions. Competitions like DECA mimicked university business programs, where most cases related to marketing were high-level. For example, a presentation on a case with the Golden Globes sounded more like “Here are new ideas for marketing campaigns” than “Here’s a new channel for advertising, and how we’re going to promote and track it”. 

To be fair, that would be a little much to ask from high school students so I understand the logic behind keeping the problems/solutions high-level... Although I wasn't as lenient when I judged the Regional competition 😂.

Playing Hooky 

It was only a matter of time before math crept back into my life. During my sales internship at Shopify Plus last summer, my manager wanted to know how to predict lead and deal creation so sales hackers knew how they were performing. 

The other interns didn’t seem phased, and proceeded to create an Excel model to answer the question. The results were immediately implemented, and brought value that I couldn’t emulate. While I found other ways to contribute to the team, a qualitative observation simply doesn’t carry the same weight unless it’s backed by data. 

Down the Rabbit Hole

When I returned to school, I took on a few marketing roles that only confirmed my assumption that math was a necessity. On a basic level, it could be comparing open and click rates on email campaigns, and on a more advanced level it could be monitoring Cost Per Lead (CPC) on a paid campaign to make the most of one's budget. 

To be fair, marketing doesn’t require the intense math that may be required by an engineer or actuary. However, you can’t be scared of numbers. Avoiding numbers simply limits your value as a marketer. 


For a relatable and timely example, I’ll use Lebron James and basketball. You can do well being an amazing shooter or a playmaker, but unless you have the full package, you can’t be an all-star. Similarly with marketing, you can’t truly emerge as a great marketer unless you have a strong grasp of the various skillsets, which includes data/analytics. 

Into the Deep End 

Realizing I lacked data skills led me to apply for my current position as an intern on the business operations team within Shopify Plus. During my first week I started to learn SQL to pull data and ramp up my Excel skills. My work within the revenue operations pillar confronts the exact area I felt I fell short in, i.e. justifying marketing spend and analyzing the results of our efforts. 

Although daunting at first, now being a month in I’m feeling a lot more comfortable dealing with data. Furthermore, I found that being on the frontlines of data analysis has helped me to better think about problems. I’m faster at identifying the root causes to a question about campaign performance, and look for an answer in data before making assumptions. 

Next Steps

I‘m no pro at marketing, but I found that focussing on skill sets makes it a lot easier to improve my marketing ability as a whole. I’m still very green when it comes to SEO and paid advertising, but knowing that helps me realize what I need to learn and where the gaps in my marketing skills are. 

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