Automate the Boring (sales) Stuff with Python
This is a great book for anyone that is interested in making the transition from learning Python code to actually creating programs that do useful things.
The book includes a basic overview of Python. It provides practical examples, starting with how to read and write data to files, then quickly moves into webscraping, creating spreadsheets, image manipulation, and other useful techniques.
It is both well thought out and well written. I’ve listened to a podcast interview of the author, Al Sweigart. He is an educator as much as a programmer. Some of his other work focuses on using games to teach young people about Python. In this case, the focus is on practical utility for adults.
This approach lines up well with my own views. We are just starting to realize the advantages of what I call computer assisted intelligence. For many years, people have viewed human and computer intelligence as an either/or proposition. Man versus machine. Automation or people.
It turns out that the answer to “Who plays the best chess” was neither the Grandmaster nor Watson. The winner was a smart kid with a cheap chess computer. People learn what an application does well, but also when they need to take over control.
People’s contributions become more valuable when they take advantage of computer assistance. For people in sales, this value goes directly to top line revenue growth. A computer assisted sales person should be able to book more business. One of the biggest challenges can be that each sales person has a different set of challenges, customers, and skills.
The root cause of failed sales automation initiatives is the imposition business processes that do not improve the ability to deliver more sales. There are many reasons for this. The most common is that management has prioritized system requirements for forecasting and reporting functions, not for sales. The sales environment is another main reason.
The sales environment is dynamic and competitive. Customers and competitors both present new challenges. The best salespeople adopt their strategy and process to the environment, not to internal systems.
Automate the Boring Stuff provides a great solution for this challenge. It puts the power of automation squarely in the hands of the sales person. It provides a great foundation in how to read and write data from spread sheets, how to scrape webpages for information, and most importantly, how to automate these processes for increased efficiency.
The book is subtitled “Practical programming for total beginners”. At the time that I read it, I wasn’t a total beginner, but would hardly call myself an accomplished programmer either. I skipped the first section on programming basics and went right to the section on reading and writing files to a disk. I then jumped to reading and writing excel sheets. In a fairly short time, I found two things. First, that I could actually read and write excel programatically in Python. The second was that I wanted to go back and read up on some of the foundational stuff that I had skipped over.
It is well indexed, gives wonderfully practical advice, and strikes a great balance between informing directly and encouraging you to “kick the tires” and learn for yourself. I’m working on a contact management tool for myself that pulls contacts, looks for duplicates, completes information from other sources and allows me to pick and choose what I upload into other systems and formats it accordingly into an excel spreadsheet format.
I would recommend this book for any adult that is interested in learning Python and would prefer to focus on things that will deliver practical results. Al provides the full text of his book online, so you can check it out and see its value for yourself.