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Simon Walker, managing partner, Kubrick

Simon Walker

Path to power

Throughout my career I have been drawn to creating businesses which solve pressing industry issues. This started back in 2000, when I joined forces with my business partner Tim Smeaton. We launched a search business which specialised in finding talent who possessed both technology skills and business literacy – a combination that was in dire need and in incredibly short supply. We had a fantastic journey; we learnt an enormous amount and grew that business from a small niche operator to a listed company operating in 70+ countries with over 500 staff.

 

Fast forward to today and data skills are in short supply for organisations who are building their own capabilities. We knew we could go some way to solving this problem, by disrupting the traditional consultancy model and bridging the gap between higher education and the needs of business. We did this by creating a workforce who have the correct mindset and practical data skills to support organisations who are scaling their data functions. It was this opportunity to create a young, diverse, and talented workforce that attracted me to this industry, so we created Kubrick.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Without doubt, providing incredible opportunities for 400 talented data people and becoming the UK’s largest employer of data engineers. We have developed a very supportive and loyal client base who now rely on us as a key part of their data strategy. We have doubled Kubrick’s size and revenue year on year. In 2019, over 12,500 people applied to work for Kubrick, we have selected the best and brightest, at the same time staying true to our values promoting diversity and opportunity. Nearly 40% of our data workface is female and we are instrumental in changing the face of the UK data industry.

 

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

While I don’t have one specific role model I would cite, the characteristics of business and technology leaders I admire are a willingness to take a risk on doing something new, and an ability to identify and pursue opportunities by maintaining an interest and passion in the transformative power of technology.

 

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

Broadly yes. Going into 2019, we were unsure on how macro-economic and political conditions would affect the growth of the data industry. I have been surprised by the resilience of data functions across our clients and across the industry. The willingness to continue to invest in data underscores its strategic importance, regardless of industry.

 

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

I believe there will be a greater emphasis on embedding the practical benefits of data and analytics across enterprises – making the outputs and insights more widely available and usable to the non-data professionals within organisations.

 

Equally, a maturing of data teams where there will be an increasing need for investment within data management, specifically data governance and an emphasis on data product management to ensure organisations are receiving relevant value from their initiatives.

 

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

As organisations become increasingly comfortable integrating automation and AI-related technologies into their business processes, their workforces will have the opportunity to focus on more high value interesting work. I’m fundamentally an optimist by nature and I see data and technology as a means of empowerment and opportunity, rather than a threat to the economy and society.

 

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

Without doubt the biggest challenge is in developing and growing data literacy across their organisations. This is both a learning and development, as well as a talent, challenge, which is at the core of why we established Kubrick over three years ago.

 

Having a data literate workforce is vital for an organisation to appreciate the art of the possible and what the limitations are. Significant opportunities await businesses that possesses a data driven culture. As in the 20th century, literacy was critical and quickly became a necessity. To survive the looming fourth industrial revolution, data literacy is a must.

 

 

 

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