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Darren Robertson, lead digital analyst, Save The Children UK

Darren Robertson

Path to power

My path has been an odd one to get to where I am now - it certainly was not a traditional route. It all started with digital marketing back in 2000, when I was running a small marketing business in Spain. I returned to the UK in 2011 and joined Action for Children to define digital data for the digital team. For me, this was an exciting time, taking an organisation from the start of its data journey through to deploying one of the first hybrid cloud servers in the UK.

 

Soon after this, I left to work on some specific projects around sensor technology, analytics and AI within the health sector, working on theoretical applications of sensor technology for people in care and working with an organisation on smart wearable technologies. My current role is hugely rewarding, in the sense of creating change through the use of advanced analytics, while also leading the data function within my own global education business.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Well, making the 100 list last year was a huge achievement that I am ever so proud of, but beyond this I would say I have two other achievements; the work I have done to create a data driven one-to-one digital marketing platform for my education company and my ongoing work at Save the Children, where I have worked to make analysis more agile and to deliver better data governance.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

I don’t have one role model, I think in this industry you end up with a few, but Kirill Eremenko has really helped me to get to where I am today and also Gemma Sherrington, for her leadership in the not for profit sector, she is truly inspirational.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

2019 was a strange year, the move to web analytics as strictly opt-in threw a few curve balls that we had to deal with, otherwise, yes, 2019 turned out as expected, with ML and AI becoming more prevalent across medium sized businesses.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

I see a focus on web analytics and getting the right opt-in messaging now that web analytics is strictly opt-in, and hyper-automation becoming more prevalent for larger businesses. The democratisation of technology and data is going to continue to grow as businesses move to better reporting and easier to use technology stacks. A focus on good data governance will continue and, as we move to stricter opt-ins and introduce consent management tools, I think we will see a greater emphasis on these back-office functions of data.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

I see great opportunities in “edutech”, the introduction of AI and machine learning in this space will truly change the way in which we teach and learn, putting greater focus on individuals’ learning needs. For the charity sector, I see a move to more complex modelling being the opportunity, getting automation in place and focusing on deep analysis through easier to use tools will be crucial.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge you face in ensuring data is at the heart of your digital transformation strategy?

I think the problems we face are similar across the industry, data quality and governance is at the heart of issues facing businesses, while we have moved to a more accessible and agile infrastructure, the governance and data quality side just has not caught up yet.

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