Customer Insight Leader podcast
By Paul Laughlin
Customer Insight Leader podcastNov 24, 2020
S2 E3: Brian O'Neill (skill = Empathy in Design)
For episode 3, I am joined by Brian O'Neill who is the self-styled "UX for Data Products guy". He's the founder of Designing for Analytics, an independent consultancy helping data leaders turn their data into valuable data products. Through his UX consulting, speaking and design training, he’s helped launch several enterprise software companies (Apptopia, Dispatch.me, Akorri) and has worked with businesses including DellEMC, Tripadvisor & Fidelity.
Brian hosts the Experiencing Data podcast & advises for MIT’s Sandbox Innovation Fund. Plus, he leads a double life as a professional percussionist where he's played with The Who and Donna Summer. So, a unique personality to talk with as we explore the "real skills" that data leaders need.
During our conversation we explore the need for softer skills in data leaders, beyond their technical expertise. This includes the challenge of hiring for such skills not just technical screening. Brian focusses on getting to know the person you are serving with your work. Not just as a set of requirements or role, but as an individual. What is in it for them personally? How can your design effort help them achieve that too? Empathy in Design thinking if you will.
S2 E2: Dr Andrew Rogoyski (skill = Translator)
In episode 2 we explore the softer skill of being an effective translator between technical teams and the broader organisation they serve. My guest for this conversation is Dr Andrew Rogoyski whose experience spans 30 years in industry, government and academia. Originally a physicist at the Rutherford Appleton Lab, Andrew joined Logica at the height of the early AI boom, a decade later moving to space consultancy Esys and next became MD of QinetiQ’s Space Division. He’s subsequently worked as a strategist, including a secondment to the Cabinet Office, a Vice President of cyber security (where AI methods were used for threat detection), and an Innovation Director, developing a number of products and services that utilised leading-edge AI techniques.
Andrew returned to academia as Director of Innovation at Surrey University’s new Institute of People-Centred Artificial Intelligence. There leads a group that leverages the University’s 35 years in AI by creating AI solutions that focus on delivering benefits to people and society.
In this episode, we explore both the need for such a Translator role & how you can develop or maintain the skill and attitude needed for it to flourish. I hope some of the insights shared help business leaders and those leading data, analytics or AI teams. My thanks to Andrew for sharing his wisdom with us.
S2 E1: John Conway (skill = Listener)
To help me kick off Season Two, I am joined by John Conway. John has worked in marketing analytics since the early 2000s. His roles have supported RSA Insurance, MoneySupermarket & Cardlytics, before his agency experience and then setting up his own businesses.
He went on to work on Loyalty and Big Data before latterly becoming an independent consultant. His current projects include personal assignments, advisory positions, running a data studio company, as well as being the MD and co-founder of iota-ML, a machine learning platform for marketers.
In this episode, we drill down on the softer skill that John prioritises. Exploring why developing that skill has been crucial to his success, not just his technical skills & knowledge. I hope there is something to help everyone in this episode, from those new to analytics & seasoned data leaders.
Preview of Season Two
Introducing a new season of the Customer Insight Leader podcast. In this short episode, I answer: Why a new season? What will change and what will stay the same? What can you expect to hear in the coming months? Plus, it's an opportunity to reflect on Season One & share with you the top 5 most popular episodes.
Episode 69 - Jesse Anderson (Big Data Institute)
In episode 69, I'm joined by Jesse Anderson from Lisbon. Jesse is the founder of the Managing Director of the Big Data Institute and we chat about how Data Engineering especially has developed over the years. Plus, Jesse has some challenging things to say to the training industry.
Jesse explains why leaders need to be clear on the depth of data engineering skills they require & the vital role of specialism in this field. He also shares the results from his latest annual survey of data teams which you can find here: https://www.jesse-anderson.com/2023/03/data-teams-survey-2023-results/
A self-taught data leader, Jesse's practical perspective & technical depth is well worth hearing in a data science world that can be in danger of valuing qualifications above delivered value.
Episode 68 - Aubrey HB (Nationwide Building Society)
On episode 68 I chat with Aubrey HB. She is the Director of Advanced Analytics for the Nationwide Building Society in the UK. Since completing her PhD in Pure Maths, Aubrey’s career has evolved into establishing and growing centralised advanced analytics capabilities that serve entire organisations. Her experience spans roles in Telecoms, Publishing, Entertainment, Healthcare and now Financial Services.
In this conversation, as well as exploring Aubrey's career story, we consider different lessons from her experience. Do we need more of a focus on mathematical & scientific rigour in data science? Do data scientists & their leaders need to get closer to the organisations that they serve? Is it the leader's responsibility to curate materials to help develop their teams and to select work that will help them grow their technical skills?
Aubrey has plenty of engaging advice to share with us. It's also fascinating to hear her take on working in the UK compared to the USA where she built her data career. Prepare to appreciate some of the benefits that we have here (or consider moving here yourself).
Episode 67 - Darshan Mehta (iResearch.com)
In episode 67, I'm joined by Darshan Mehta who is the Founder of iResearch.com – an insights platform to quickly and affordably extract insights from consumers worldwide. With both an MBA & a Masters in Marketing, Darshan has also taught at universities around the world.
One of the reasons I welcomed Darshan’s offer to be my guest on this show is because of his research & insight focus. Most of the guests I have had on this podcast come from the data, analytics or data science community. So, to live up to the title of this podcast, here I also include the voice of the research & insights community. Darshan has plenty of that hands-on research experience to share with us.
During our conversation, we explore the meaning of insight, why Darshan is interested in case studies and the continued relevance of market research. He also gives us an glimpse into how technology is changing the world of qualitative research. I hope you find this a fascinating complement to our more data & analytics focussed interviews. Enjoy hearing Darshan make the case for why understanding motivation & perception still matters today.
Episode 66 - Bettina Schirrmeister (MoneySuperMarket)
For episode 66, I am joined by Bettina (or Betty) Schirrmeister. She leads an exceptional group of data scientists at MoneySuperMarket. She and her team work on intelligent product recommendations, personalisation, and optimised pricing investments there.
One thing that makes Betty a new and different voice on our podcast is her science background. Having received a PhD in Evolutionary Genetics from the University of Zurich and worked as a senior researcher at the University of Bristol for several years only then did Betty make the transition into data science & industry.
In our conversation, we explore what scientists can bring to the world of data science. Transferrable skills & attitudes that help them lead or strengthen data teams. It should also be a chat that encourages any scientists who think they have left it too late. You can still make the move across to data science, just listen to Betty's enthusiasm and recommended resources.
Episode 65 - Dr Sophie Carr (Bays Consulting)
For episode 65, my guest is Sophie Carr who is the founder of Bays Consulting, which she apparently founded to share her enthusiasm that analysis is both fun and provides clarity. Following gaining a PhD from Cranfield University, Sophie has now led Bays Consulting for over 13 years and continues to have the admirably straightforward job title of Mathematician.
Her consulting work is motivated by a belief that at the heart of business issues is a need to reduce uncertainty & gain clarity. As well as applying a broad range of her maths, engineering & leadership skills to such work, Sophie has a specialism in Bayesian Networks.
During our conversation we explore both her career history & the benefit of becoming a Chartered Statistician or Mathematician. Sophie also reveals a great deal about her leadership style, the company culture and a more inclusive approach to hiring technical talent. Beyond that we explore how she has developed as a leader and the lessons she has learn as her business as grown. Finally she has practical advice for those earlier in their careers that is well worth hearing & reading. I hope you enjoy listening to Sophie as much as I enjoyed this conversation.
Episode 64 - Priyank Patwa (Maanch)
Priyank is an experienced Data and Innovation leader, working at the intersection of Finance, Sustainability and Data. Priyank is currently a Senior Strategic Advisor and Interim Chief Data Officer at Maanch. Previously, he was an ESG Product Director at Morningstar and Head of Innovation & ESG Transformation at M&G where he has led the conception and creation of large-scale data-led capabilities and solutions.
During our conversation, we explore Priyank's career journey and the lessons he has learnt along the way. We learn about the continuing opportunity to apply Data Science to how organisations are managed, as well as how to build trust with your senior leadership. Priyank shares some great examples of motivating & deploying diverse global teams and we focus on his work in the field of ESG data. Learn how Data Science can help investors & firms see past all the spin to truly rate business performance on ESG criteria.
I hope you are inspired to make a difference with your skills too.
Episode 63 - Daniel Hulme (Satalia)
For episode 63, we return to the topic of AI ethics via my conversation with Daniel Hulme, the CEO of Satalia. That business describes itself as a different type of Artificial Intelligence company and in fact a different type of company altogether. Its stated aim is to solve industries' hardest problems by building AI solutions that utilise state-of-the-art ideas and thinking from academia. Plus, they say they’re building a new operating system for how a company can be run, grounded in deep psychological and philosophical theory.
In addition to his role at Satalia, Daniel is the Chief AI Officer for the global advertising agency WPP. Plus, he comes to these roles following nearly 12 years at University College London, including being their Entrepreneur in Residence. So, there is plenty of innovative thinking in this conversation, as well as philosophical musing about the purpose of not just AI but work in general.
During our fascinating chat, we explore Daniel's career journey and lack of internal dialogue. We revisit the benefits of hiring neurodiverse data scientists and the characteristics to seek in such talent. Plus we debate the purpose of businesses and what motivates us about work. I hope you find it inspires your own musings and perhaps insights into what you want to achieve with your gifts and working life. Plus, it's the first time I've had a parrot as a guest too!
Episode 62 - Gabriel Straub (Ocado)
For episode 62, my guest is Gabriel Straub. He is the Chief Data Officer at Ocado Technology. There he’s led their data & data science efforts for over two years, following successful data science leadership roles at the BBC & Tesco amongst others. Gabriel is also a guest lecturer at the London Business School and an Honorary Senior research associate at UCL, so he is also still active on the academic side.
Gabriel describes himself as a passionate data science strategist, who believes that clever analytics & big data can make life less complicated for customers & colleagues. During our conversation we explore both his career to date & why Grocery Retail is a great sector for Data Science leaders to consider.
We also explore Gabriel's choice of studying an MBA (rather than a Masters or PhD in a Data subject) and how he came to clarity about his key skills. Gabriel shares loads of useful life experience and advice for developing as a data leader & the skills data scientists will need during their career. So, there should be nuggets for everyone to find helpful.
Episode 61 - Sanjeevan Bala (ITV Group)
In episode 61 my guest is Sanjeevan Bala, who is ITV’s Group Chief Data & AI Officer. He is responsible for transforming the broadcaster to fully leverage the value of Data and AI & to create value for all areas of their business. Prior to this he was Channel 4’s Head of Data Science where he built a multi award winning team which combined human creativity with machine intelligence to drive growth and innovation.
Sanjeevan is consistently ranked most influential in Data and AI globally and under his leadership his teams have won numerous awards for Innovation. He has also expanded his executive career as a Non Executive Director (NED) at Bakkavor and Scholars’ Educational Trust. During our chat we explore both how his background in consultancy & startups helped developed the skills he needed for these roles & how leaders can amplify their impact by taking on NED roles later in their careers.
He is also very open with us about his experience of racism & exclusion earlier in his life. We discuss how he coped with this & emerged as a whole person during his career. Sanjeevan also shares his advice for those earlier in their career & what organisations need to do to encourage more genuinely inclusive organisations that nurture talent. Plus, you'll learn why he now embraces "not knowing".
Episode 60 - Laura Rodgers (NatWest Group)
For episode 60 I am joined by Laura Rodgers who is Head of Performance Insights for NatWest Group, one of the major banks here in the UK. She has worked within Royal Bank of Scotland (which became part of NatWest Group) for over 16 years, holding management roles responsible for data & wide range of Business Intelligence and reporting services. She also describes herself as passionate about championing diversity and inclusion within the data and technology communities.
During our conversation, Laura shares her background and how a grounding in IT & Data Engineering set her up for success in later roles. We also explore how the work of a BI or Reporting team can be so much more interesting & motivating than you might realise. Along the way, Laura shares her tips for introverts, those lacking confidence & those at the start of their data careers.
We also extend the conversations that we have had about diversity in previous podcast episodes. In this conversation, Laura shares what she has experienced that helped support and get the best out of Neuro Diverse members of her team. We learn about the importance of empathy, curiosity & treating every person as an individual. Not an easy job when you lead 170 people. Well worth other BI leaders hearing & considering for their teams.
Episode 59 - Maryam Ramezani-Bartsch (Sky)
In episode 59 I have the pleasure of being joined by Dr Maryam Ramezani-Bartsch from Munich.
Maryam is currently the VP of Data at Sky and will soon be joining GoStudent (Europe’s most valuable EdTech company and one of the world’s leading online tutoring providers). Before that, Maryam has lead data & analytics teams within businesses as prestigious as WPP & Adidas.
In this episode we hear her career story all the way from a childhood in Iran, through a PhD working in US & German research labs, to creating & growing successful data & analytics teams for leading businesses. Along the way you will hear Maryam's commitment to following her passion & lifelong learning. There are also tips for those early in their career as well as facing the challenge of data leadership roles. Lots to learn from a fascinating life story (so far).
Episode 58 - Olivia Gambelin (Ethical Associates)
As you will hear in this episode she has a background across organisations including CAKE Corporation, Save the Children, Springer and being an Advisory Board member on several influencial AI & Ethics groups. We explore more of her journey from an MSc in Philosophy to such critical roles in today’s use of data & AI. Along the way we consider the benefits of a broad interest in technology, wide ranging conversations with your network and how we need much more than GDPR compliance.
An emerging theme from our conversation (one that has stayed with me) is the benefit of being a polymath. At least the benefit of gathering people together to share knowledge across disciplines. Olivia paints a compelling picture of Data & AI Ethics as being a field where you can think & work broadly. A great opportunity for those with many interests or wanting to connect more with their values as well as apply their technical knowledge. I hope you find Olivia's openness and many stories as fascinating as I did.
Episode 57 - Charlie Ballard (Meta)
For episode 57, I'm in conversation with Charlie Ballard who is the Marketing Science Enablement Lead at Meta. He has been a lifelong technology and data evangelist and shares with us on the basis of his experience working in and with firms including General Motors, American Express, BT, Tripadvisor & now Meta.
Our conversation is wide ranging and includes plenty of tips from Charlie's experience. He is one of my guests whose background was originally within market research and who has developed into data & analytics & marketing leadership roles. As well as exploring Charlie's career story we discuss a number of topics that will be relevant to all such leaders.
Charlie shares advice on speaking both business & technical languages, silent starts to meetings, going bigger on your projects & considering new data sources. Well worth a listen and prioritising which ideas could work for you in your role. I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did.
Episode 56 - Aparna Bharadwaj (Boston Consulting Group)
In episode 56, I'm in conversation with Aparna Bharadwaj, an MD & Partner at BCG who is also their Global Leader of the Centre for Customer Insight. During her interview, you will have the opportunity to hear why she is passionate about customer insight & the difference it can make in businesses.
Prior to her very successful career in BCG, Aparna learnt her marketing trade at Coca Cola & has an MBA from Harvard Uni. So, she has a great commercial grounding for her perspective on customer insight & what businesses really need. Together we explore the power of focussing on empathy, simplification & impact. Aparna brings to life how this helps researchers & analysts deliver insights that actually drive sustainable changes.
We also follow up on Aparna's highly praised talk for International Women's Day by exploring the benefits of diversity & more global awareness for both customer insight leaders and analysts. Aparna is my second guest from Singapore (following Avis Easteal in episode 43). During our conversation, she really brings to life how greater cultural awareness & empathy for people can improve the quality of the insights produced. Enjoy!
Episode 55 - Rob McLaughlin (Loop Horizon)
For episode 55, I am joined by Rob McLaughlin the founder of the Loop Horizon agency. Rob is an experienced digital marketing professional and a proven leader in the field of data & analytics, with a track record of bringing customer data into the complex marketing and technology landscape.
Prior to founding Loop Horizon, Rob has led data & decisioning teams at Sky, Digitas, Barclays & Canon. So, he has plenty of real world experience to share with us in both leading data teams and applying data to deliver improved marketing or customer experience. Some of which we are going to try and mine during this conversation.
We start by exploring Rob's career story & the lessons he has learnt about where he was best to specialise. We discuss the benefits of working within the business & being close to the action with regards to your ability to 'activate' data. During our chat we also touch on the power of creating your own data & when you might consider the move to consulting or even setting up you own agency.
Plenty of nuggets of wisdom and some controversial opinions along the way - I hope you enjoy it & can't wait to hear your thoughts. Thanks again to Rob for his time.
Episode 54 - Peter Jones (Legal & General)
For episode 54 my guest is Peter Jones, who is Head of Data for Internal Audit at the UK insurer Legal & General. During our conversation, we explore many lessons that Peter has learnt during his career. These include how he became a data leader without even a Maths 'A' level, as well as the lessons learnt from integrating identity systems, switching sectors & delivering a data warehouse.
But what is most unique about this episode is our discussion about the growing use of data & analytics within Internal Audit functions. You may not of considered that department as a career opportunity for data or analytics. So, listen to Peter describe why it's "hot" as an opportunity with fresh challenges for those who possess the data & critical thinking skills needed. Well worth considering as a new opportunity area for analysts.
Episode 53 - Dan Kellett (Capital One)
Unlike my well travelled guests, Dan has spent the vast majority of his career with one employer, Capital One. He shares why & the benefits that he's seen from such a choice. He also shares the value of focussing on practical commercial work rather than academic qualifications (so a contrarian view to that of my guests with PhDs).
More importantly, Dan shares practical tips from his experience of bringing together diverse technical teams and developing commercial awareness as well as technical skills. We debate the added value of Data Science beyond the Statistical approaches in Analytics that pre-date that label. Dan is a humble and eloquent leader with much real-world proven experience to share. He also has a passion for developing his team, so I recommend that other data leaders tune in to hear his perspective.
Episode 52 - Adam Sroka (Origami Energy)
For episode 52 I chat with Adam Sroka. He is Head of Machine Learning Engineering at Origami Energy, an energy trading software start-up. During our conversation we explore the benefit of starting your data career in the culture of a start-up. Adam shares what motivates him as a gamer & self-confessed nerd, including the importance of the social impact that Origami is making.
Along the way we explore the branches of Data Science and the diversity of communities, meet-ups & mentors that can help you develop the skills you need. Adam brings to life the benefits of raising your profile to 'show your work' (recommending the book you can see via that link).
Finally we also explore the benefit of having a commercial solution to meeting social needs. Worth hearing his balanced assessment of the importance of domain knowledge as well as technical skills, plus the benefit of adding commercial expertise to your team. Those transitioning to a management role from a technical doer will also benefit from a number of tips that Adam shares during our chat.
I hope you enjoy yet another different voice as together we hear from the wide diversity of successful data leaders in the world today.
Episode 51 - Stuart Hayes (OSN)
In episode 51, I chat with Stuart Hayes who is Head of Data & Analytics for OSN in Dubai (the Sky TV equivalent for that region). He has helped many businesses over his decades of work as a consultant and a data leader, from the FT to Sky Betting and many more.
During our conversation we reflect on Stuart's career and wanderlust. He shares how so much travel has helped him develop as a data leader. he also shares his take on Data Science, the benefits of starting your career at a start-up & why you still need a SCV. Like me, Stuart has also led a Market Research team as well as data & analytics teams, so we explore that transition too.
Plenty of practical tips and advice from a gent with the benefit of decades of hands-on data leadership roles, so well worth a listen to see what ideas Stuart may spark in your own thinking. Don't miss the Spice Girls analogy for a real groan/laugh out loud moment.
Episode 50 - Neil Richards (JLL)
For the milestone of episode 50, we return to the world of Data Visualisation. This time my guest is Neil Richards. Neil is a current 3 time Tableau Zen Master & Public Ambassador who works as a Business Intelligence Lead at JLL in the UK.
He is probably best known as being very active in the UK’s data visualisation community. He’s a former Knowledge Director of the Data Visualization Society and current Editorial Director at Viz for Social Good. Neil also blogs at questionsindataviz.com where he regularly discusses & demonstrates his personal (and often unorthodox) data visualisation projects.
In our conversation we explore his data career & last 6-7 years learning data visualisation. We have opportunity to explore the benefits of data viz being a passion outside your working hours. Plus, how Neil has benefited from communities, inspiration and feedback. Plenty of tips to help those who are also working on improving their data visualisation skills this year.
Episode 49 - Ben Dias (EasyJet)
Episode 49 is back in the studio as I talk with Ben Dias who is Director of Data Science and Analytics at easyJet. Ben has previously worked at Royal Mail, Tesco and Unilever, so in total he has over 15 years’ industry experience. Having started his career as a hands-on Data Scientist, Ben’s more recently focussed on building and leading teams, applying the Lean Start-Up approach to Data Science and Analytics within large organizations.
During our conversation we explore Ben's career as well as his current focus on delivery of easyJet's data strategy. Ben is also experienced in setting up and managing research collaborations between universities (esp. UCL) and business partners. So, we explore how his academic focus has informed his approach & how pioneering through learning by doing (before there were Data Science degrees) aided his development. This also includes what Data Science leaders can learn from a stint in Data Engineering.
We conclude a thoroughly enjoyable chat by considering Ben's lessons for Data Science teams from "The Lean StartUp" book, as well as his tips for those earlier in their careers. There are plenty of opportunities in this episode to learn from Ben's warm & open style, as well his many years of hands-on experience.
Episode 48 - Roberto Maranca (Schneider Electric)
This is our third & last episode that was recorded live at Big Data London. Apologies for the poorer audio quality, but it is well worth persisting as my guest for episode 48 is the irrepressible Robert Maranca, Data Excellence VP for Schneider Electric.
During our conversation we explore Roberto's career as a data leader, including roles across GE, Lloyds Bank & Schneider Electric. He shares lessons he has learnt through good times & bad. These include the challenges of GDPR, data strategy, data literacy, metadata & looking after your own mental health as a data leader. Plus, the importance of developing business empathy as a skill.
There is much to be learnt here from Roberto's real world experience, for both new analysts & experienced leaders. I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I enjoyed my time on stage with him. Back to the studio from our next episode.
Episode 47 - Souvik Saha (Citi)
Episode 47 is our second podcast recorded live in front of an audience at Big Data London 2021. My guest for this episode is Souvik Saha. He heads up the Consumer Data & Analytics teams of Citibank in the UK. He's also a member of their UK consumer leadership and data leadership teams.
Starting as a data analyst 15 years ago, Souvik has been on an exciting journey living in 5 countries and managing various data verticals over the years. Even before commencing his journey as a data professional, he was passionate about data & says he considers himself extremely lucky to be working in his area of passion. He stepped away for 3 years from core data verticals and headed Sales Performance Management to experience the world outside data. There he managed to combine analytics and execution to drive a 30% increase in sales productivity. He’s now focused on building a team which can use the latest data techniques to drive business value along with effective data governance.
In this conversation we explore both Souvik's career story and what he has learnt along the way. We explore how he benefited from moving into a business leadership role & working in other countries including Russia. Souvik also shares how he has got offshoring of analytics working effectively. Then we finish with his tips for others for their analytics & leadership development.
Episode 46 - Tom Spencer (Aviva)
A first for episode 46, our first-ever Customer Insight Leader podcast Live! This interview with Tom Spencer was recorded live in front of a studio audience at the Big Data London 2021 event at Olympia, London.
Tom is the Head of Customer Data Science at Aviva. In our conversation, we hear his career story, including fourteen years’ front-line experience at Dunnhumby (yes another podcast guest who has been through that training). Tom’s career highlights include establishing Dunnhumby Korea as analytics lead, heading up the Asia region’s analyst teams, and leading the South Korea business as Country Head.
We also explore the critical topic of culture & how to create a great place to work. Given Tom’s team at Aviva have won the ‘Best Place to Work in Data‘ at the DataIQ Awards in 2019 & 2020 he is well qualified to advise us on a winning formula. There is so much to enjoy in our conversation & I hope you find our first foray into taking the podcast on the road delivers some really useful insights.
Episode 45 - Peter Sueref (Empirisys/Centrica)
In episode 45, my latest guest is Peter Sueref. Peter has worked with data his whole career since graduating in Computer Science at Cardiff University. As the Data Science Director at Centrica he worked on some of the biggest problems in energy today. While at Centrica he also launched their first Blockchain project, set up the first group-wide Data Science Team, built their Digital Accelerator Hub and set up the first Knowledge Transfer Partnership around data innovation. This year, he left Centrica to set up a Data Science startup, Empirisys, where he is the CTO and co-founder.
In our conversation we explore Pete's career story, how he leapfrogged from Data to Data Science and the power of honesty & transparency as a data leader. We even hear how Pete put this into practice with Bring Your Own Data days at Centrica. I hope you hear some tips to inspire your data leadership development.
Episode 44 - Gillian Docherty (The Data Lab Scotland)
For episode 44, I am in conversation with Gillian Docherty OBE. She is CEO of the The Data Lab Scotland and in this conversation we explore both the work of The Data Lab and other lessons Gillian has learnt during her career. Her background includes over 20 years working within IBM, but our conversation begins with a family row on the eve of her Maths O-levels.
From there we track the course of Gillian's career journey towards data leadership and explore what her experience might teach other leaders and aspiring leaders. We consider the importance of both an IT background and sales skills for data leaders. We also consider why the Data Lab Scotland model has been so successful and what that could mean for other parts of the UK or other countries.
Finally, Gillian leaves us with some advice for analysts or data scientists on the skills they should develop, as well as what she has changed her mind on in recent years. Listen out for the Decision Diamond she has developed at the Data Lab, those 5 questions might help you prioritise too.
Episode 43 - Avis Easteal (Luxasia)
For episode 43, we hear from an experienced data & business leader in Asia. Avis Easteal is currently Head of Consumer at Luxasia (an omni-partner of many globally recognised luxury lifestyle & personal care brands). She joins me from Singapore. Avis explains her work as connecting people, data, marketing and customer experience, to translate business to IT and vice-versa in order to digitally transform companies.
During our conversation we explore her career history and what she has learnt along the way. We dig into the need to ask questions to get to the real business need and the challenge of moving from agency-side to client-side leadership roles. Avis also reflects on whether the role changes she has made along the way were brave or not. We usefully explore why data leaders can make very capable business leaders & the benefits of considering a move into CX, sales or marketing roles.
We also explore Avis' passion for digital marketing and the difference that analytics-led personalisation can make. Then to close, Avis shares her answers to two of my perennial questions (advice for less experienced analysts & what she has changed her mind on). There is plenty to learn in this episode from a woman who has proven her ability to improve businesses through data-led thinking.
Episode 42 - Randy Krum (CoolInfographics.com)
For episode 42 we again venture to the USA and talk with Randy Krum the creator of the famous CoolInfographics website. Randy is a data visualisation designer with his own design agency (InfoNewt), teaches a University course and is a published author. His book is “Cool Infographics: Effective Communication with Data Visualisation and Design” and he's also active in organising Data Viz Meet-up groups. So, we had plenty to chat about.
In this conversation we explore Randy's career story, including the role for blogs to visually share others' content & showcase your work. We also discuss the continued role for infographics, as well as solely effective data visualisations. Randy shares what has helped him through his career & we consider when firms might choose to bring in an external design agency. Well worth a listen, especially for those interested in the role of visual communication beyond just charts.
Episode 41 - Sarah Barr Miller (British Airways)
In episode 41, I have a great conversation with Sarah Barr Miller who is Head of Data & Automation for British Airways. We chat over her career history & what she too learnt from working at dunnhumby. During that we explore the continued relevance of single customer views & the benefits of a clear demarcation between data & analytics teams.
Sarah shares what she learnt from working internationally & the challenges she overcame as a woman in a male-dominated data world. Lots to consider and a great opportunity to reflect on the skills both leaders and more junior analysts need to succeed today. What could you learn?
Episode 40 - James Blagg (Principality Building Society)
For episode 40, I chat with James Blagg who is the Head of Data for Principality Building Society. Based in South Wales, like your host, James shares with me his journey into a data leadership role and some lessons he's learnt along the way.
Our conversation explores the importance of breaking down silos to help connect business & technical teams. We reflect on what James has learnt from his roles in risk & change leadership. He also shares how he has persuaded risk adverse leadership teams to invest in their data capabilities. Plus, James openly shares his own leadership challenges. Another opportunity to hear the reality, behind the spin, of data leadership in today's businesses.
Episode 39 - Graham MacDonald (The Urban Institute)
For episode 39 we cross the pond again to talk with Graham MacDonald, who is the Chief Data Officer for the Urban Institute (a US non profit dedicated to elevating the debate on social & economic policy). During our conversation we explore how Graham has successfully influenced his organisation to develop both a data visualisation and a data science capability.
I quiz Graham on how he achieved those decisions and other lessons from his career story. We explore hiring decisions, the importance of developing domain knowledge and caring about your organisation's purpose. Graham also brings a fresh perspective to both how he is developing as a leader and tips for those earlier in their career. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed Graham's warm friendly company. Data with a purpose brought to life.
Episode 38 - Alison Williams (dunnhumby)
In episode 38 I'm in conversation with Alison Williams, Global Head of Data at dunnhumby. This is a wonderfully intimate and yet widely relevant chat about many of the issues faced by leaders in the data industry, especially women. We explore Alison's career story and why she has chosen to build most of her career at one employer. We discuss hiring decisions & the benefits of looking wider than data graduates. Alison also shares what she learnt from her time in Data Engineering and the benefits of gaining broad experience as a foundation. We also explore the use of account manager/translator roles.
Alison shares her passions for both charitable work and achieving diversity, plus options to consider. We even learn how she achieved promotion when returning from maternity leave, with valuable lessons to consider. Finally we discuss the benefits & lessons to be learnt when working internationally and Alison's tips for those earlier in their careers. Many thanks to Alison for sharing so generously, her real life experience and practical wisdom is well worth hearing.
Episode 37 - Aaron Peck (MetrixLab)
For episode 37, I am in conversation with Aaron Peck who is the North American President & MD of the global Market Research consultancy MetrixLab. While the majority of people I've interviewed on this podcast are leaders in data, analytics or data science, this time we ring the changes. I am delighted to focus for a change on the world of Market Research and Customer Insight, including the sales side of that world.
During our chat, Aaron and I explore his career journey and the continued need for Market Research in today's data obsessed world. We consider how an in-house research team can best work with their agency partners. Plus, Aaron has recently been promoted to President so we also explore his experience of that key leadership transition.
As normal, we finish by hearing how Aaron is still developing as a leader, plus his tips for those who are starting out. We close with what Aaron has recently changed his mind about. I hope you find our chat insightful.
Episode 36 - Simon Kaffel (Sovereign Housing Association)
In episode 36 we hear from Simon Kaffel. He is Director of Data & Analytics for Sovereign Housing Association. Simon's previously held data leadership roles at Arcadia, Sky, NatWest, O2 & Zurich Global Life Assurance. He's also won numerous awards along the way and learnt a thing or two about what enables or prevents successful data transformations.
During our conversation we explore Simon's career journey, including digging into the reason for his numerous successes at Sky. We consider his experience of what leaders need to do to succeed with data transformation. We also get honest about when & why it doesn't always work. This includes the need to get real about the roles really needed in data today. Lots to chew on for those tasked with leading data transformation in their own organisation. We close off with advice for analysts and other leaders. Thanks Simon.
Episode 35 - Richard Pugh (Mango Solutions)
For episode 35, my guest is Richard Pugh who is Chief Data Scientist & co-founder of the data science agency Mango Solutions. Richard has decades of experience in helping businesses make better decisions through data & is also a passionate member of the R & Data Science communities in the UK.
In our conversation we explore Rich's career story & the reality of what Data Science offers over and above traditional Statistics & advanced Analytics. We also chat about what it takes for organisations to be ready to adopt Data Science, how Mango's 'Radar' helps them hire & the continued benefits of R as a language even as others grow in popularity. Finally he shares both his own development focus & tips for those starting off in the Data Science careers. A must listen for those wanting to learn from a man who has proven the value he can add to business through applying Data Science.
Episode 34 - Howard Barber (Golden Charter)
In episode 34, Howard Barber (Director of Data, Analytics & Insight for Golden Charter) takes up the challenge laid down by Firas Khnaisser in episode 25 (to appear on our show). Howard shares his experience of working across client & agency-side analytics roles. We also hear more about his commitment to people development & the skills he is developing in his team.
Like James Dunlop in episode 32, Howard shares why he has found Financial Services a great sector for applying data & analytics to marketing. We close our conversation by hearing Howard's personal development focus, tips for those earlier in their career & what he has changed his mind on. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we did.
Episode 33 - Chris Bergh (Data Kitchen)
For episode 33 we get into the kitchen, in this case the Data Kitchen, with Head Chef & Founder Chris Bergh. During our conversation we explore Chris' career & passion for DataOps (so this episode is a great companion to episode 1). We talk about the leadership skills needed to lead DataOps functions & lessons to be gleaned from Manufacturing.
Chris has published a couple of very accessible books on DataOps, so we chat about those & compare them to 'Practical DataOps' which I reviewed with Harvinder in episode 1. We also explore how DataOps teams can measure their success & the skills that analysts should develop in order to succeed in a career with DataOps. I hope you find that a tasty sounding recipe (just like Rob provided in episode 29) & tuck in for a listen. Enjoy & let me know what helps you.
Episode 32 - James Dunlop (NatWest Bank)
In episode 32, I'm joined by James Dunlop. James is the Head of Decisioning and Digital for the Wealth division in NatWest Group. Before joining Natwest, James has worked for financial services brands including AXA and Lloyds in various data and analytics roles. Plus, like two of my previous guests (Andy Sutton & Harry Wilkes) James previously worked as part of my leadership team at Lloyds Banking Group.
As well as exploring James' career history & why working in Financial Services is far from dull, we explore his focus on decisioning . James shares why this branch of data work appeals & the biggest challenges he sees today for decisioning (or database marketing) leaders. Along the way there are also tips for leadership development & for those newer in their careers.
So, sit back and enjoy this data leader wisdom from the West Country (with some very well behaved guinea pigs in the background). It might just persuade you to either work for a Bank or focus your career on decisoning.
Episode 31 - Steve White (Marie Curie UK)
For episode 31, I'm in conversation with Steve White who is the Fundraising, Data Strategy & Insight Manager for the leading UK cancer charity Marie Curie. During our time together we explore Steve's career from British Airways to agency side roles (including founding an agency) and then deciding to move into the charity sector.
We also explore why making a difference matters more to Steve than job titles & how to have a successful leadership career as a hands-on introverted leader who drives change through influencing. I hope it helps many others seeking such an approach.
Episode 30 - Harry Powell (Jaguar Land Rover)
At this milestone of episode 30, I have the pleasure of talking with Harry Powell, Director of Data & Analytics for Jaguar Land Rover. As well as hearing Harry's career journey, we explore a wide range of topics from graph databases to better thinking & team productivity to generating profit. Harry's wealth of hands-on experience shines through as we explore both technical challenges & the greater need for what Harry calls "imaginative thinking".
Lots of useful advice for data leaders & analysts. Lessons learnt about the need to prioritise skills in problem scoping (simplification & achieving clarity) as well why a more commercial focus may help your team. Harry ends with the benefits of putting yourself under pressure & takes the opportunity to be controversial a few times before then. A great opportunity to pick Harry's considerable brain, which I hope you find helpful. Apologies for the poor sound quality at times, but the practical wisdom Harry shares makes it worth persisting. Enjoy!
Episode 29 - Rob Barham (Gousto)
For our 29th episode, our thoughts turn to food, as I interview Rob Barham who is Data Director at the recipe & ingredients online retailer Gousto. Rob's role covers Data Science, Analytics & Data Engineering, so we discuss topics relevant to leading all 3.
After hearing Rob's career history, we learn more about what has worked for him at Gusto. We explore data products & analytics support for rapidly scaling factories, as well as optimising recipes for production & CX. We talk about the importance of domain knowledge, influencing, communication & career paths for your team members. We even touch on the benefits of growing the external profile of your data team.
Rob shares a lot of his leadership experience & I hope this episode gives other data leaders the opportunity to reflect on what could work for their teams. Happy Listening & try not to get too hungry!
Episode 28 - Graeme McDermott (Tempcover)
In episode 28, I interview Graeme McDermott who is CDO for the insurer Tempcover. Graeme's another experienced data & analytics leader to join us for this series of practitioner conversations. With over 15 years experience of leading data & analytics teams, he shares his tips for other leaders & those earlier on in their careers. Along the way we discuss agile working, AI, questioning & the importance of cheating as a leader! Listen to understand why that's not as bad as it sounds.
Episode 27 - Rob Kellaway (Legal & General)
For episode 27, I am joined by Rob Kellaway who is Head of Data Ops at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM). Rob has held a variety of IT & Data leadership roles within Financial Services. In this conversation we explore some of the lessons learnt during his varied career. We focus on data roles inside and outside IT. We also explore the rise of Data Ops as a function & the long view of the reality behind the hype surrounding Big Data & Data Science. Rob shares plenty of pragmatic advice from his experience as a hands on leader as well as tips for less experienced analysts. Enjoy.
Episode 26 - Ben Salmon (We are Crank)
For episode 26, I talk with Ben Salmon co-founder of the marketing agency We are Crank. We chat about his career across marketing & analytics. We focus on an article that Ben has published with the provocative title "Why analytics in Marketing never gets you anywhere". Together exploring the skills, resourcing & culture that can help marketing analytics be more effective. Ben also critiques those businesses who have ignored the need for digital transformation and so are now struggling in lockdowns. Lots to learn from Ben's outspoken advice & lessons learnt from experience - especially for those working in marketing analytics. I hope you enjoy, are informed & entertained.
Episode 25 - Firas Khnaisser (Standard Life Aberdeen)
In episode 25 we travel to Scotland for my conversation with Firas Khnaisser. He is Head of Decisioning for Standard Life Aberdeen & Chair of DMA Scotland. In this interview, we explore his career history (starting in a Dubai DM agency) and how he was challenged to not be afraid of data. From there we confront the limiting belief that you can't effectively lead data teams without a data background. We also explore the reality of 'Decisioning' work & the difference that the DMA still makes as a force for change today. Finally, we explore the benefit of being different & being yourself, with an encouragement to listen to Firas' other passion, his music. My thanks to Firas for being so open.
Episode 24 - Kevin Crowley (Hodge Bank)
For episode 24, our attention turns to the practical realities of managing data & delivering Business Intelligence (BI). My guest this time is Kevin Crowley, Head of Business Intelligence at Hodge Bank. Kevin's a very experienced data leader, so we chat about his career history (including how starting in customer service helped). We also explore what BI means at Hodge Bank, how Kevin created his Data Strategy & how to engage business leaders about the need for active data ownership. A great practical & honest conversation about the reality of managing a BI team in business today.