Path to power
I started out working in tech at US Robotics, which helped connect the world to the internet back in the day and was eventually purchased by 3Com. From there, I ended up in ecommerce at Cisco in the middle of the tech bubble boom. That’s where I really got into data in a program that we called ecustomer, which was all about mastering customer data across the enterprise. The foundation was later used to unlock selling and analytical/BI potential into accounts which led into 2.5 years of driving data-driven marketing and selling.
After 12 years in many roles across Cisco, I subsequently moved over to a marketing operations role within the small- and medium-sized enterprise business unit at Symantec. Later, as part of a transformation, I ended up leading a team providing analytics primarily into marketing, but also helped drive data-driven selling work with sales.
Three years into the Symantec journey, the company decided to spin off Veritas where I moved to, and I led the data, analytics and data science team where we implemented from scratch the entire data stack for a $2 billion-plus independent company within nine Months.
I eventually made the decision to try something entirely different and, in January 2016, moved to the UK and joined Tesco to set up the data function within the company. In the fall of 2017, I was given the opportunity to lead data and analytics for all subject areas within the company.
What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?
There have been so many highlights that are key and instrumental to how my views have been shaped and formed over the years working in data. I think that it is the level of interesting work, solving difficult problems, learning and applying experiences to move initiatives forward that in total have been the most memorable.
Rather than cite any one project, program or set of work, I would rather recognise the fact that, without coaching, mentoring and a focus on delivering, I would not have ended up where I am today. This is all due to the individuals that I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 20 years.
What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
Constantly changing and just as exciting is what I expect in 2018 for the analytics and BI industry. Over the past decade, companies have been moving from traditional databases to Hadoop. Well, Hadoop today, something else tomorrow.
Breakthroughs in computer power will push the limits of what is being done currently in terms of complexity and volumes. More and more real-time decisioning and science will be applied to customer interactions in the moment and should drive the significant shift away from overnight batch jobs towards crunch data in the now for better algorithmic precision, for targeting, selling and delighting customers.
So - why did you choose data?
When I started the shift into data from marketing, some companies could still feel like the days of Mad Men, where creative gut-feel and slick slogans/tag lines ruled the day. Being able to change strategies with insights driven by data, to disprove or dispel what was actually happening, opened my eyes to what the power of leading with data can really do for a business. After being able to make significant impacts with data, I knew that I had found the area where I wanted to focus my energy and career. I caught the bug and have never looked back.
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
The never-ending chance to work with brilliant and talented individuals. More and more companies and organisations are adopting data-first methodologies. The ability to win hearts and minds driven by the power of facts, accompanied with figures to back it up, only leads to winning in the market or in the moment. I also think that the technology will only help in dealing with the volumes, velocity and variety of information that, if done correctly, can help understand customer tonality and behaviours.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
I think one of the main things that I would encourage, rather than change, is more openness and exchange between industries. One approach in, let’s say, pharma could actually be leveraged and applied in retail or oil and gas. In the end, as it relates to the data, the maths and approaches are applicable into other sectors. However, this is a sensitive subject, for sure, as every company regards its abilities and capabilities as core confidential IP. Some more openness and sharing (beyond talking heads and PowerPoint at conferences) could go a long way in helping drive innovation that could actually make the world a better place.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?
Be prepared to enter into an ever-shifting and evolving landscape. Today’s tools and approaches will be eclipsed by advances and new technologies. Always be in learning mode. Never be afraid to journey into the unknown.
Many vendors out there might have a piece of a solution - you have to be willing to invest time and energy to fill the gaps with innovation and creative solutions, as there is no one silver bullet, plan or blueprint to follow. The possibilities are endless considering the amount of data that is being generated on a daily basis by the ever ultra-connected, always-on individual.
Small wins still rule the day. Start small and grow with those that believe.