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How to become a purple person

Red and blue merging to create purple, with a lightbulb, brain, and tools drawings

You may have heard the phrase ‘purple person’ before. Alternatively, you may think, “what on Earth are they talking about? A purple person?” But we’re here to tell you why you should become a purple person, and how to do that. Bear with us, it will all make sense.

Where does ‘purple person’ come from?

The idea of becoming a purple person was brought along in 2010 by an internationally recognised thought leader in the business intelligence and analytics field, Wayne Eckerson.* He described purple people as a personality type, where the two primary colours, red and blue, are mixed to make purple.

He explained how there are ‘red’ personality types and ‘blue’ people, who are divided. But a purple person is someone who holds both characteristics and will thrive much more in the workplace in comparison to just red or blue.

Red and blue people

Before we go deeper into what a purple person is, let’s look at other types of people. You may be a red or a blue person now. And no, we’re not talking about rival football teams.

A blue person can be considered someone who is representative of great business acumen. For example, in a professional environment, a blue person may have good knowledge of the business and will have the skills to apply that knowledge in their everyday work life.

If we consider a career field such as the data and technology industry, as a learner or professional, you may be great at understanding what needs to be done, but when it comes to doing it yourself, you might struggle with the technical elements of your role.

A red person works differently from a blue. As a red person, you may excel in the technical and practical elements of your job or a learning environment. For example, you may know what needs to be done, and how to do it. But you may not know why things need to be done.

Jim Wilson, a lead data engineer, explained the two personality types in the workplace in simple terms:

“The business people, the actuaries, know what data they need and can define requirements, but typically don’t have the skill set to design a data architecture that gives them the data they need. Technology people typically don’t understand the business requirements, but they can design the data architectures. It’s like the people in IT speak blue, the people in business speak red, but we need people who speak purple to create an appropriate solution.”**

Therefore, to become a purple person, you need to be a mixture of blue and red: someone with practical and technical skills paired with the knowledge needed to excel.

How to become a purple person

So now you have a better understanding of what a purple person is, and why you should want to become this personality type in the workplace. But how do you become a purple person?

Work experience. If you have good business acumen but struggle with your technical or practical skills, the best way to develop this is through work experience. Assess your options for the career that you want to go into, and gain as much experience as possible. Our advice would be to try and say “yes” to every opportunity.

Network. Networking with industry professionals will help you gain insight into how they work, and help you put your knowledge to practical use. You can do this through work experience, or further education when communicating with a mentor or tutor.

Further your education. If you have a little more experience in your chosen field, but you believe that you could expand on your knowledge more, furthering your education is a great place to start. Consider looking at additional qualifications that will get you to where you want to be, or an apprenticeship programme can provide the knowledge that you need.

Be inquisitive Whether you’re more of a blue or red person, it’s important to always ask questions when you’re working or learning something new. This will strengthen your understanding and knowledge in the workplace.

Where to start

If you consider yourself to be a red or blue person, this doesn’t mean you can’t still mix these qualities. Purple people are extremely valued and sought after in the data and technology industry, so it is worth strengthening any existing skills while building new ones to excel in your career. However, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

If you just focus on your knowledge and qualifications, such as opting to go to university, you may find that you struggle with the technical aspects of a job role. Similarly to gaining only work experience, you may not acquire the business knowledge needed to progress in your career.

An apprenticeship programme is a great option to become a purple person. In contrast to common misconceptions, you can start an apprenticeship at any age. This gives you the practical experience that you need, along with the opportunities to network and work alongside other like-minded professionals. Yet, you can still gain relevant qualifications and knowledge during your training.

If you’re looking to become a purple person, browse our Data and Technology apprenticeships, and read our blog about how to speak to your employer about apprenticeship opportunities.

* Wayne Eckerson, "Purple People": The Key to BI Success, TDWI blog.

** Deloitte, Purple People At The Heart of Cognitive Tech, The Wall Street Journal.

Become a purple person with Data and Technology apprenticeships

Find out more

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How to become a purple person

Red and blue merging to create purple, with a lightbulb, brain, and tools drawings

You may have heard the phrase ‘purple person’ before. Alternatively, you may think, “what on Earth are they talking about? A purple person?” But we’re here to tell you why you should become a purple person, and how to do that. Bear with us, it will all make sense.

Where does ‘purple person’ come from?

The idea of becoming a purple person was brought along in 2010 by an internationally recognised thought leader in the business intelligence and analytics field, Wayne Eckerson.* He described purple people as a personality type, where the two primary colours, red and blue, are mixed to make purple.

He explained how there are ‘red’ personality types and ‘blue’ people, who are divided. But a purple person is someone who holds both characteristics and will thrive much more in the workplace in comparison to just red or blue.

Red and blue people

Before we go deeper into what a purple person is, let’s look at other types of people. You may be a red or a blue person now. And no, we’re not talking about rival football teams.

A blue person can be considered someone who is representative of great business acumen. For example, in a professional environment, a blue person may have good knowledge of the business and will have the skills to apply that knowledge in their everyday work life.

If we consider a career field such as the data and technology industry, as a learner or professional, you may be great at understanding what needs to be done, but when it comes to doing it yourself, you might struggle with the technical elements of your role.

A red person works differently from a blue. As a red person, you may excel in the technical and practical elements of your job or a learning environment. For example, you may know what needs to be done, and how to do it. But you may not know why things need to be done.

Jim Wilson, a lead data engineer, explained the two personality types in the workplace in simple terms:

“The business people, the actuaries, know what data they need and can define requirements, but typically don’t have the skill set to design a data architecture that gives them the data they need. Technology people typically don’t understand the business requirements, but they can design the data architectures. It’s like the people in IT speak blue, the people in business speak red, but we need people who speak purple to create an appropriate solution.”**

Therefore, to become a purple person, you need to be a mixture of blue and red: someone with practical and technical skills paired with the knowledge needed to excel.

How to become a purple person

So now you have a better understanding of what a purple person is, and why you should want to become this personality type in the workplace. But how do you become a purple person?

Work experience. If you have good business acumen but struggle with your technical or practical skills, the best way to develop this is through work experience. Assess your options for the career that you want to go into, and gain as much experience as possible. Our advice would be to try and say “yes” to every opportunity.

Network. Networking with industry professionals will help you gain insight into how they work, and help you put your knowledge to practical use. You can do this through work experience, or further education when communicating with a mentor or tutor.

Further your education. If you have a little more experience in your chosen field, but you believe that you could expand on your knowledge more, furthering your education is a great place to start. Consider looking at additional qualifications that will get you to where you want to be, or an apprenticeship programme can provide the knowledge that you need.

Be inquisitive Whether you’re more of a blue or red person, it’s important to always ask questions when you’re working or learning something new. This will strengthen your understanding and knowledge in the workplace.

Where to start

If you consider yourself to be a red or blue person, this doesn’t mean you can’t still mix these qualities. Purple people are extremely valued and sought after in the data and technology industry, so it is worth strengthening any existing skills while building new ones to excel in your career. However, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

If you just focus on your knowledge and qualifications, such as opting to go to university, you may find that you struggle with the technical aspects of a job role. Similarly to gaining only work experience, you may not acquire the business knowledge needed to progress in your career.

An apprenticeship programme is a great option to become a purple person. In contrast to common misconceptions, you can start an apprenticeship at any age. This gives you the practical experience that you need, along with the opportunities to network and work alongside other like-minded professionals. Yet, you can still gain relevant qualifications and knowledge during your training.

If you’re looking to become a purple person, browse our Data and Technology apprenticeships, and read our blog about how to speak to your employer about apprenticeship opportunities.

* Wayne Eckerson, "Purple People": The Key to BI Success, TDWI blog.

** Deloitte, Purple People At The Heart of Cognitive Tech, The Wall Street Journal.

Become a purple person with Data and Technology apprenticeships

Find out more

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C.I.KNOW: Developing new talent leads to award nominations

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What is presenteeism and why is this a problem?

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