Path to power
My career spans a range of industries, including travel, hospitality, leisure and transport. I’ve worked in a cross-section of roles, covering revenue management, commercial strategy and data and analytics.
My career started with ten years in the airline industry, across full-service and low-cost sectors with very diverse, but equally challenging business strategies to deliver. In 2006, I was approached to join Center Parcs UK, where I spent five years in marketing and operations functions, rolling out demand-based pricing across accommodation and on-village spend.
After spending five years at National Express as head of commercial strategy, I rejoined Center Parcs in 2015 responsible for establishing and embedding a new data and analytics function within sales and marketing, but to put data at the heart of the whole business.
Center Parcs is the number one UK short-break holiday provider. Its five UK villages host approximately 2.2 million guests every year. Having two young and energetic children who love exploring and spending quality time together makes me an impassioned Center Parcs employee. From personal experience, I understand what it takes to make the customer’s experience best-in-class and aim to combine my passion for data and the Center Parcs brand to deliver that experience for our guests.
What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?
In 2015, Center Parcs kicked off a multi-million pound investment in a digital roadmap programme to realise an ambition to deliver a best-in-class digital data platform, front-end communications and analytics tools to match the business’s best-in-class on-village service and proposition. Being part of this ambitious transformational project has given me a number of highlights.
One of my proudest achievements to date was to lead the development a new bespoke customer segmentation - a six-month project analysing our guests and the broader consumer market, critically bringing together attitudes, behaviours and demographics. This has, for the first time, allowed Center Parcs to truly understand our guests and the value of our unique offer to them. This segmentation provides us with the insight to tailor our communications, proposition and service across the business, based on the customers’ needs and wants.
What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
The next year for many businesses, including Center Parcs, will be about continuing to show the value of data and analytics. A lot of time and investment goes into architecture, infrastructure and data preparation to generate rich insight.
It’s sometimes hard to show the real value of data. The truth is data is a very important piece of a jigsaw. The value of data can come in various forms - enhancing the guest experience, commercial revenue benefit or rectifying business issues. While it’s not always easy to demonstrate value, at the heart of all digital road maps, single customer views and omni-channel personalisation are data and analytics. I know my team can add value to the guest, to our teams across the business, to our service standards and to our revenues and profits, but it is so important that we focus and deliver on commercial value and clear, achievable and measurable objectives.
So - why did you choose data?
The theme across all of my roles is that I’ve always had a passion for being at the heart of decision-making - for me, right now, that place is undoubtedly data and analytics.
I’m not from a traditional data background. My value comes from leadership, passion, relationships and translating the customer and business needs. The worst-case scenario for me is that we don’t translate all the analytical insights generated by the team into actions that improve the experience.
I aim to provide a data framework and roadmap that is deliverable internally and will both transform the guest experience and realise commercial benefits for the business. I am completely focused on working with my colleagues across the business and not sitting in an ivory tower. It’s important myself and my team go out and discuss what the business needs and ensure we deliver for them as well as add value at the strategic level. My vision is to connecting our guests, our people, our data and our ideas.
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
Connecting with the customers - data and analytics gives us the platform not only to understand our customers, but also to provide them with personalised, relevant and engaging interactions at every stage of the customer journey. I also enjoy the myth-busting - many decisions in many businesses are made on myths, routine, experience and gut-feel. Data allows us to make informed decisions and stop guessing and we will be using more and more at Center Parcs.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
To take away the perception of data and analytics being a type of mysterious black box environment. My team will add value based on strong business understanding and data insight. In simple terms, we’re using various forms of data to understand our customers and translating those into actionable insights.
We need to remember there is a wide spectrum of analytics. I think there is a misconception and fear that everyone is doing predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. While some definitely are, you don’t’ need to be at the end of the curve to be providing insights and value to your business. Do what is right for your business, your culture, your team, your people and your technology.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?
If you want to make a difference, then go for it. I see data and analytics attracting some of the greatest minds, who are using their skills and intelligence to solve long-standing company challenges and issues.
At Center Parcs, we’ve created a great young team with a blend of experience and skills across data science, maths and commercial. Most importantly, they are all keen to learn, to add value and to develop their skills and knowledge with us. I’m genuinely excited about the future career options and prospects available to them in data and analytics.