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Eloy Sasot, Group chief data officer, Sodexo

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Path to power

 

My curiosity brought me to live diverse experiences in seven industries (B2C, B2B, government) and multi-cultural environments in Europe, Asia and America. The first steps were at the European Space Agency, publishing scientific papers on space weather and then becoming a spacecraft orbit coder. I then complemented my Master of Mathematical Engineering with an MBA, allowing me to move into the business world, evolving into change transformation in wind energy and as global pricer in financial services for American Express. Following that I moved into a "data science for business" leadership role in the media conglomerate News Corp, creating a data-driven function from scratch, ultimately to lead it globally. Lastly, I am now accelerating data transformation as group CDO for Sodexo, a global corporation (80 countries, 460.000 people, €20 billion revenue - with the noble purpose of Improving quality of life.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

I am very proud of what we achieved together with my team during my previous experience at HarperCollins/News Corp. This involved taking a complex organisation on a data journey, building teams across continents and inventing new solution frameworks. These were a premiere in the industry vertical itself and this success story was recognised at corporate chairman level. Nevertheless, the highlight is currently in the making at Sodexo. We are setting up the global data journey delivering use cases across business lines and stakeholders (client, consumer, employee), evolving data platforms, up-skilling the organisation and setting up a strong partnership eco-system.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Get the purpose (the “why”) right! Data is undoubtedly (one of the) greatest sources of power of the 21st Century and with great power comes great responsibility. Hence, we “data people” should put our energy to good purposes. For instance, at Sodexo we are striving to Improve quality of life.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

Rather, yes. Data skill mixes (beyond data scientists) and organisational models are evolving, more CDOs are moving from “defence” to “offence”, convergence to platform eco-systems is advancing at a good pace, governments are awakening to the implications of the AI revolution, and the competitive advantage of analytics leaders is increasing as they are doubling down on investment versus companies that failed with their first efforts. However, development of AI and deep learning is taking its time - applications of real AI in business are in general still narrow.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

Rather, yes. Data skill mixes (beyond data scientists) and organisational models are evolving, more CDOs are moving from “defence” to “offence”, convergence to platform eco-systems is advancing at a good pace, governments are awakening to the implications of the AI revolution, and the competitive advantage of analytics leaders is increasing as they are doubling down on investment versus companies that failed with their first efforts. However, development of AI and deep learning is taking its time - applications of real AI in business are in general still narrow.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

Firstly, by finding talent that identifies with our values which are truly engrained in the organization: service spirit, team spirit and spirit of progress. Secondly, by creating strong and diverse teams that build on themselves. And thirdly, by using the full mix of ways to bring in skills: internal training, recruitment, freelancing, partnership, investment, etc.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

In that, paradoxically, it will allow us to become more human. Data is polarising the world - on one side AI, is taking over the rational and, on the other, humans will thrive by leveraging their inherent emotional skills.

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