How data can help you win in the winner-take-all economy

In almost all sectors of the economy, people seeking good-paying, professional success face the same set of challenges: the rise of a handful of dominant "superstar" companies; a digital reinvention of business models; and a rapidly changing understanding of loyalty in employer-employee relationships. It is true in industry and retail, in banking and in healthcare and education – and certainly in technology.

What means doing a job is changing faster than most people's ability to navigate these changes. This has made the workplace seem frightening, especially to midcareer people who suddenly find out that parents' advice ̵[ads1]1; appearing early, working hard, learning the craft – is no longer enough. But equally important, these changes have given them an advantage that is strategic enough to shift their approach.

If you want to make a career without creating great art, or changing the world through activism, or otherwise destroying the conventional business track, I wish you the best. But this article is not for you: I am here to address those seeking wealth in modern capitalism. And across industries, I've found, more and more of the most convincing opportunities are with companies that dominate their fields – globally, profitable, well-managed, technologically adept.

I do not argue that this is quite a good thing. Clearly, consolidation gives great employers too much power to hold down wages, and political complaints they can use to tilt the field against competitors and anchor benefits. Worse, as the latest technological downturn shows, the concentrated power of the Silicon Valley titans is disturbing in ways we just begin to understand.

What I is claiming is that even though legislative action or antitrust enforcement to clear these companies, their rise is driven by powerful technological forces that do not go anywhere. As a result, these superstar companies – and the smaller companies that want to maintain them – where pragmatic capitalists can best develop their skills and be well compensated for them over a long and lasting career.

This applies to people who have just graduated and enter the workforce, and to those who weigh their next step after decades in corporate ditches. Even for those who never come up with a job at a mega-company, many of the features needed to succeed in them are important in other settings, including small businesses, government, and the ideal world.

Microsoft, as I write this is the world's most valuable public company, with a market value of just over $ 1 trillion, is a good example. From its origins that sell operating systems and basic software, it now sells products including game consoles, cloud storage and LinkedIn subscriptions. As they have grown, the obvious disadvantages of bureaucracy have been offset by some not so obvious benefits of the scale.

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