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Rob Shaw, Chief executive officer, Jaywing

Path to power

 

I started out as a software developer almost 30 years ago and have worked in technical disciplines ever since. I became IT director at Ventura, where my career really took off - I was on the board aged 30. During that time, Ventura grew internationally and I managed services for the likes of Tesco, O2 and British Gas. I moved into digital marketing when I became CTO at Latitude Group and MD of Latitude White, its new SME brand. We managed complex digital and search marketing campaigns and developed our own software products. I was part of the management team that sold to private equity in 2007. When the founders of Epiphany wanted to take their business to the next level, they asked me to join as CEO in 2009. During that time, the business grew from 25 to 160 people before it was sold to Jaywing in 2014. I continued as CEO at Epiphany until I became CEO at Jaywing in 2015. I’m also a non-executive director of Run for All, which was established by the late Jane Tomlinson as her fundraising legacy, following her death from cancer in 2007, and I’m a Trustee of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

 

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

 

I enjoy growing companies and building technology that can solve complex data problems and demonstrate its true value. Last year, we launched Jaywing Intelligence, bringing even more data-powered technology to our clients to help with a diverse range of things, from AI-driven PPC to understanding complex social networks and influence. We’ve also had great success in our first-to-market AI-driven predictive modelling tool Archetype, which cracked the “black box” problem of using AI in credit scoring. Later this year, I’m looking forward to seeing our work with Imperial College London’s Data Science Institute coming to fruition.

 

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

 

Always be willing to learn something new and never stop learning from others. I think my advice is pretty transferrable, but so pertinent to our industry which is one of considerable future importance. We need people with the right skills and knowledge and that changes enormously in a single generation.The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit has meant that some clients were more cautious in 2018, which is a shame as this last year has been when people stopped just talking about AI and advanced data science and actually started taking steps to use it. Clients embracing these to underpin their decision-making have done better. That gap will only widen. This is why we need to help clients that may be falling behind through innovation, not just in products, but in how they can engage to see the benefits achievable though data science and AI.

 

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

 

Where 2018 saw fledgling steps into AI, with smart companies adopting it already reaping the benefits, 2019 will see further growth in the wider understanding and role of AI technology. Organisations that are not making the most of the technology that is now available to them will quickly become quite distinct from those that are. AI is not a silver bullet or replacement for everything, and nor should it be. But deploying AI to do leg work and apply wholesale learnings to operational tasks will free-up people to be more creative and apply themselves to more value-generating endeavours.

 

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

 

We have our own data science hub and work on a number of initiatives with various academic institutions. This helps develop skills and, of course, encourage people to think of us as a potential employer. These include helping to design and deliver course content for the MSc in Consumer Analytics and Marketing Strategy at the University of Leeds; our post-graduate “micro-agency”, also at Leeds; our partnership sponsoring PhD research at Imperial College London’s Data Science Institute, which is seriously cutting-edge stuff; our links to the University of Oxford’s Mathematics department and various links with the universities in Sheffield where we’re headquartered.

 

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

 

Our continued innovation in the collation and management of data from multiple sources through tracking tools like Almanac, then using AI analysis and decision tools to understand and make smarter decisions. Plus, as people use data and AI more in everyday life, that will help barriers to come down.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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