After nine years in digital roles at Hearst UK, I enrolled at Cranfield School of Management to do a full-time MBA. It was here that I worked on a project with Dunnhumby and my passion for storytelling was born. I joined Dunnhumby as a senior solutions director in 2008 to work on a price and promotions econometric modelling project for Nestlé, before moving to the media evaluation team to work with Unilever and P&G, where I ran a category team before going on maternity leave.
By 2011, I was living in Nottingham and joined Boots as head of supplier insights, building and commercialising data from its Advantage Card and consulting for clients such as Estée Lauder, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson.
At the end of 2014, I moved back to London, joining WPP marketing technology consultancy Acceleration. I was promoted to MD in 2015 and delivered data and tech consultancy for clients including SABMiller, Barclays, Compare the Market and Mazda.
I have recently been made global head of data for WPP, as part of the CTO team, working with all of our agencies to unlock their data capability.
Getting non-analysts motivated and even excited about the possibilities of data and finding innovative ways to engage and inspire them. This has involved working with cross-functional teams to identify the questions they really need answering, which at times can be a challenge but always brings great rewards. One of my proudest moments was designing and running a dashboard design sprint for a client and seeing the IT and marketing teams work together – it was a paper and Post-it note exercise that literally got everyone on the same page for once.
I learnt so much from Clive Humby and the culture that he and Edwina Dunn created at Dunnhumby. My time there is always my starting point for good data practice, the passion that every single person there had for data and insights was inspiring and wherever I work I aim to recreate that energy.
I started the year as a contractor and was determined to only accept interesting and challenging data gigs. I spent 2019 networking, reading, studying and consulting with as many clients and agencies as possible to learn exactly where companies were at with their data capability. It was a fantastic year and while I expected to finish the year as a contractor, I’m delighted to have taken on the role of global head of data for WPP.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aside, I think it’s going to be an interesting year for data maturity. I have two expectations. Firstly, an increase in board level discussions about ethics and accuracy compared to transparency in machine learning capability. There are so many papers being written on AI ethics, and they all come at it slightly differently, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.
Secondly, and something I’d really like to see move on, is sophisticated storytelling which either inspires curiosity or change. I love introducing data and insight theatrics and think we should be looking more at the video game industry for ideas on more engaging ways to story tell this year.
Like websites from the early 2000s, data and technology are great business levellers; an individual working on their own or any number of employees at a FTSE 100 company can rapidly extract value from data - identifying and democratising extraordinary insights.
These capabilities are not only growing and future proofing businesses but increasingly companies are incorporating this as part of their CSR strategy, driven by a rising commitment to improve society as well as their bottom line. This win-win situation, enabled by data and technology, is exciting to be part of.
I think it is data itself that is the biggest challenge; anything is possible with the technology available and pretty much any data can be sourced. But data quality, provenance and consent are still big challenges that many companies face when using technology to link their disparate data sources and optimise the value from their first party data. IT and marketing departments need to continue working more closely together to break through this, as one IT director said to me: “When the data is crap, it’s our fault and when it’s great haven’t marketing done a brilliant job?”