From a tough social happy upbringing and fighting for an extended education, my first job wasn’t to script. My ambition to be an artist aside, it was digging holes and collecting refuse for Gateshead Council.
Realising it wasn’t a long-term career and motivated by warmer winter environments, I moved to warehouse work. Hard work, luck, and friends would set up a decade plus in retail leadership - including becoming a trainee manager at Halfords, moving to Sainsbury’s as store manager and finally becoming general manager at PC World – which changed my life forever.
I got the data and tech bug through a mentor and joined Verisign when the Internet and web were just getting going. Over the years, I have worked with many brands on their data strategy and marketing, including Tesco, Mercedes, P&G, Microsoft, British Airways, the Department of Work & Pensions, Visa and Cancer Research UK.
In recent years, I have set up my own companies, invested in start-ups, and mentored many others. I am also a board advisor for the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence.
Without hesitation being an advisor to the world’s first Global Open Finance Data Centre of Excellence; the pinnacle of a 25-year career in data and technology.
Part of a £3 billion data driven innovation initiative, the centre’s vision is to use financial data for wellbeing, innovation, education, climate impact and other pillars, to change society forever.
It is easier to ask which people doubted me. It is harder to single out a role model, as I have had many and continue to have four. My best friend Gary is there if I have to pick one man in the context of life. Business inspiration? Many.
I never expected the growth of a globally polarised society or the speed and impact of climate change. However, as a strategist you factor and predict. What happened in that context happened.
I predict that data driven, and analytical organisations will redefine their purpose and values in favour of a citizen down approach to doing ethical business. They will reorganise their target operating models around culture and bring new ways of working for their clients.
I see three key focus points. Firstly, people talent drives growth – companies must strive to achieve equality, diversity, and inclusivity, tapping into the potential in disability, the under educated and the disadvantaged. Ultimately, companies must make their organisations look like society.
Secondly, organisations should harness existing data assets, as well as tap into new data sources through collaboration. They should also tap into sandbox environments to discover new tech and analytics techniques.
Thirdly, organisations should embrace technology as an enabler, tap into test and learn, borrow, rent and build only where necessary.
I believe there will be challenges of existing tech and data legacy in some organisations. Modern digital business transformation will continue to be a challenge. It is hard to address the data challenge this brings as legacy restricts data value and use.
Trust in tech and data will continue but the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to be a challenge. While these techniques are beneficial for cutting down on repetitive admin tasks, they are also threatening to displace people with robots.