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4. Louis DiCesari, global head of data, analytics and AI, Levi Strauss

Louis DiCesari

Path to power

I was the annoying child constantly asking “why?” and in many ways still am. I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour, what makes people tick, and why people do the things they do.

 

I started my career working for a marketing analytics consulting firm, which gave me broad exposure across industries and problems: everything from forecasting purchases of truck engine parts to optimising the pricing portfolio for some of the largest consumer brands.

 

After seven years, I went in-house at a financial services firm. Frustrated at the state of data, I helped spearhead the first cross-business big data initiative and became an intrapreneur when it resulted in the creation of a new 30-person data analytics team.

 

Once I saw the transformational power of big data, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to do it again at an even bigger and more global scale at Vodafone. Over four years, I set up and grew the big data team from a handful to hundreds across over 20 countries.

 

I recently started as global head of data, analytics, and AI at Levi Strauss. After more than ten years in service industries, I’m excited by the new challenges of physical product, complex supply chains, sizing and fit, and predicting highly subjective trends.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Building, growing, and sustaining teams: putting together the right people, data strategy, technology blueprint, and identifying the type of high-impact projects where we could start small but scale quickly.

 

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

My Italian grandmother. She was a model of perseverance, practicality, and doing the right thing – three qualities I live by. She ingrained in me the importance of grit, in addition to education.

 

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

2019 turned out better than expected, with new colleagues, interesting new projects, and a business rallied around the importance of data, analytics, and AI. Now it’s on me and my team to deliver in 2020.

 

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

More AI, more automation, more NLP-powered innovations, and more augmented reality applications. With all of this comes the need for even greater strategic communication skills and stronger empathy with the customer experience – two areas I’m passionate about developing in my team.

 

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

In my view, we as a data community can do more to drive sustainability. Now that I’m dealing with physical product, I’m much more attuned to this. We’re already taking steps, eg, by using AI to reduce water and chemicals in manufacturing through lasers, but there is so much more all firms can do to reduce our carbon footprint through innovation and optimisation.

 

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

Finding and keeping the best talent is always number one. A close second is change management and agility. Data and digital teams often legitimately need to break some rules. Process exceptions are a temporary fix, but in my experience don’t work long-term. I’m lucky to work with progressive IT, privacy, security, and HR partners who help us collectively find the right path to create change while effectively managing risk.

 

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