I currently work as a product executive for a software company. If you’ve read some of my blog posts, you might understand that that’s a description I never thought I’d have. Our clients are major retailers, primarily in the grocery and pharmacy business. As a result, over the past year, I’ve met quite a few people who fit in a very select demographic – retail pricing analyst/manager – basically the guys who figure out how much to charge you for that banana you bought at the grocery store. It’s a complicated business, grocery retail – so much so that there are entire conventions dedicated to it. I’m at one such convention now.
The floor feels like a marketplace and we’re the sellers with the stalls. It’s like a cross between my high school science fair and a street vegetable market in India. People are dignified and poised, but just under the skins of those crisp suits are eager salespeople. The retailers I’ve met have typically been in the business for a long time. They are mostly men, with some women, trying to coax their businesses into the modern world, shifting from paper and Excel spreadsheets to advanced analytics. They like sports metaphors and speak in regional accents. They’re hardworking, experienced, and savvy about their competition.
Sometimes, when I step back, I realize it’s an odd dynamic – I’m selling retailers a system that helps them decide prices for the groceries I will later buy from them. It’s a world that is all about numerical analysis and making profits. It reflects part of my nature, in that I’m interested in technology and small business, but it’s so very different from my creative, passionate-about-dance-and-writing side. The two don’t converge often, but on some occasions (like creating the materials for our booth or even writing this blog post) I get to use my creative skills at work.