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Davide Cervellin, chief marketing and data officer, Telepass

Davide Cervellin

Path to power

I have held numerous roles across several industries, which is one of the perks of being a data practitioner. I had the chance to work in London, leading analytics for eBay EMEA and analytics at PayPal, with scope on EMEA, APAC and global CRM; then in Amsterdam leading analytics, data science and data engineering at Booking.com and, more recently, I moved back to Italy in my current role. It’s hard to imagine other functions in which professionals can range from ecommerce, to payments, to travel in just seven years.

 

Moreover, I am actively involved in the start-up scene, with advisory roles at Avora (one of the UK fastest growing start-ups according to Deloitte), RoomPriceGenie (a Swiss price optimisation engine for vacation property owners), and Metrilo (a Bulgarian start-up focusing on direct to consumer marketing automation).

 

On top of that I also support major Italian universities such as Politecnico of Milan, Ca Foscari of Venice and IULM of Milan, helping them to shape curricula that prepare students for real world challenges.

 

Lastly, since August 2018, I have become a published author with my book, Office of Cards.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I believe my current role is something to be proud of and I also think it is the beginning of a trend that we will see more and more in the data space. In fact, one of my biggest frustrations as a data practitioner was that I was often sitting on significant insights but was not able to act on them as I was not the key decision maker and I always had to influence someone else for things to happen.

 

Now, I have a role that allows me to manage “the end to end of data”, using insights to drive action and measuring the impact of what we do, always pushing towards optimisation. I believe we will see more and more data people crossing the chasm with business functions as they are ideally placed to give an even bigger contribution to the business.

 

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

I follow several thinkers and leaders and one who shaped my approach most recently is Jocko Willink. He’s a retired SEAL officer and has a podcast which focuses on constant improvement, leadership and self-awareness. His style might not resonate with everyone, but he has deeply changed the way I approach my days, both inside and outside of the office.

 

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

The major difference was the change in job and country. I did not expect to leave the Netherlands so soon, but companies evolve and organise in a very flexible way so it is of paramount importance to be ahead of the curve and be on top of career decisions so that you can move in the direction you want to. I am very glad that I could move back to Italy and that I would take on a challenge that transcends the pure data remit.

 

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

I believe 2020 will be the year in which we’ll see a lot more data practitioners take on roles outside of the pure data realm. This is key for companies to not only have data-based decision making but to be fast at it and be able to react quickly to market trends, effectively reducing the number of steps from insight generation to action.

 

I also think we’ll see more and more data engineers out there; this function is becoming prominent as companies are starting to realise the importance of data quality and how that can enable analysts and data scientists to thrive and have a major impact.

 

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

I believe data is a language and it can be used to describe customers to companies. With data we can understand who our customers are and what they need, and we can use this information to better serve them.

 

I truly think data has been the main asset that has helped big tech companies get where they are; now it is time for smaller companies to harness this power and claim back the relationship with their customers. I believe we will see more companies that, like Nike, will pull their inventory away from Amazon to build their own direct relationships with customers and not become a commodity handled by a third party. And I hope this revolution will be embraced also by family-run shops, so that they can survive and thrive, offering levels of personalisation and care no giant will ever be able to match.

 

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

Data quality, without a doubt, is at the core of everything. Without it you have a world where decision makers either don’t trust reports or don’t use them to make decisions, and where analysts and data scientists spend hours preparing data rather than making analyses and generating insights.

 

You can’t have real-time algorithms without good and reliable data. It is why the first person I have recruited in my last two jobs has been a data engineer, to make sure there’s someone in charge of this critical aspect of the value chain.

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