It’s 21 years since I arrived in Blighty. My career started at BT as an analyst before evolving through several reporting and analytics roles. I then landed my first director roles at Warner Bros and Sony Pictures.
After ten years in the entertainment industry, I was contacted about an opportunity at Royal Mail, which was my chance to move from pure analysis and reporting to look at the wider data function, in particular, strategy.
At Royal Mail, under the tutelage of Rob Kent, I helped to lead the team through several transformations, and I built a team of over 100 amazing data professionals. Following Rob’s departure in the autumn of 2018, I took over as CDO and made my own mark on the team. We went on to win several awards along the way for not only our achievements, but also our team culture.
After five years at Royal Mail, I was ready for a new challenge and am now CDO at GlaxoSmithKline within the consumer health division. In the next two years, the division will spin away from the parent company and create a new FTSE100 company. Being part of something new, with all the greenfield opportunities available, has been like a shot of adrenaline. I am only four months in, but the future is very exciting.
Being able to create such a high performing team at Royal Mail was very satisfying. Not only was I able to create a culture that I felt was progressive and fun, but we achieved a huge amount as well. Watching them grow in strength and win awards, as well as doing amazing things has been by far the highlight of my career so far.
I could say Branson, Obama, Musk or Bezos but even though they are all pretty cool, for me, it’s probably my four-year-old daughter, Paige. She has so much energy and is excited by everything. I feed off her energy, but also look to her for inspiration on how to exploit data and technology for the greater good. The way kids use technology is so raw and uninhibited by brand or reputation. It’s just intuition.
Not at all. At the start of 2019, I was new into the CDO role at Royal Mail and just getting to grips with things. After a few months, I realised that my own vision was at odds with the company’s new strategic direction and leadership so felt that I should move on. Soon after, I was approached by GlaxoSmithKline to start the data journey from scratch and a better match could not have been found. So, it’s all different for 2020 - new company, new team, new culture, and new data to explore.
To be honest, not hugely different from 2019. The cloud will continue to dominate large-scale transformations and open-source will continue to pressure the big boys. I think the regulators haven’t acted as quickly as they could have on data breaches and this will increase in 2020, but, alongside that, I believe that consumers will start to trust us more with their data again and the knee-jerk reactions from GDPR will start to wane.
I would also have added “the environment” to the question. And I see this as a key change agent to the others. I would also add “wellbeing” to the mix. Overall though, it is the emergence of the cloud and open source technologies that will enable innovation to flourish. The number of start-ups out there who are not just building apps but really harnessing IoT and the cloud to make our lives better is incredible. Companies need to embrace the start-up culture and innovate like their lives depend on it. Because they do.
The biggest by far is resistance to change and adoption. Large corporations have the cash to enable change, but you can’t buy acceptance. Culture is the key to enable change and this must come from leadership. It’s all well and good for the board to say yes, but it’s the leadership on the ground who must buy into it because they must live with the consequences.