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Customer Insight Leader podcast

Author: Paul Laughlin

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Helping you through the morass of language & hype surrounding Data Science, Analytics & Customer Insight. Each episode is an interview with a leader who is really delivering value from data.
(Our music is "Being Happy" from Purple Planet Music)
39 Episodes
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For episode 39 we cross the pond again to talk with Graham MacDonald, who is the Chief Data Officer for the Urban Institute (a US non profit dedicated to elevating the debate on social & economic policy). During our conversation we explore how Graham has successfully influenced his organisation to develop both a data visualisation and a data science capability. I quiz Graham on how he achieved those decisions and other lessons from his career story. We explore hiring decisions, the importance of developing domain knowledge and caring about your organisation's purpose. Graham also brings a fresh perspective to both how he is developing as a leader and tips for those earlier in their career. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed Graham's warm friendly company. Data with a purpose brought to life.
In episode 38 I'm in conversation with Alison Williams, Global Head of Data at dunnhumby. This is a wonderfully intimate and yet widely relevant chat about many of the issues faced by leaders in the data industry, especially women. We explore Alison's career story and why she has chosen to build most of her career at one employer. We discuss hiring decisions & the benefits of looking wider than data graduates. Alison also shares what she learnt from her time in Data Engineering and the benefits of gaining broad experience as a foundation. We also explore the use of account manager/translator roles. Alison shares her passions for both charitable work and achieving diversity, plus options to consider. We even learn how she achieved promotion when returning from maternity leave, with valuable lessons to consider. Finally we discuss the benefits & lessons to be learnt when working internationally and Alison's tips for those earlier in their careers. Many thanks to Alison for sharing so generously, her real life experience and practical wisdom is well worth hearing.
For episode 37, I am in conversation with Aaron Peck who is the North American President & MD of the global Market Research consultancy MetrixLab. While the majority of people I've interviewed on this podcast are leaders in data, analytics or data science, this time we ring the changes. I am delighted to focus for a change on the world of Market Research and Customer Insight, including the sales side of that world. During our chat, Aaron and I explore his career journey and the continued need for Market Research in today's data obsessed world. We consider how an in-house research team can best work with their agency partners. Plus, Aaron has recently been promoted to President so we also explore his experience of that key leadership transition. As normal, we finish by hearing how Aaron is still developing as a leader, plus his tips for those who are starting out. We close with what Aaron has recently changed his mind about. I hope you find our chat insightful.
In episode 36 we hear from Simon Kaffel. He is Director of Data & Analytics for Sovereign Housing Association. Simon's previously held data leadership roles at Arcadia, Sky, NatWest, O2 & Zurich Global Life Assurance. He's also won numerous awards along the way and learnt a thing or two about what enables or prevents successful data transformations. During our conversation we explore Simon's career journey, including digging into the reason for his numerous successes at Sky. We consider his experience of what leaders need to do to succeed with data transformation. We also get honest about when & why it doesn't always work. This includes the need to get real about the roles really needed in data today. Lots to chew on for those tasked with leading data transformation in their own organisation. We close off with advice for analysts and other leaders. Thanks Simon.
For episode 35, my guest is Richard Pugh who is Chief Data Scientist & co-founder of the data science agency Mango Solutions. Richard has decades of experience in helping businesses make better decisions through data & is also a passionate member of the R & Data Science communities in the UK. In our conversation we explore Rich's career story & the reality of what Data Science offers over and above traditional Statistics & advanced Analytics. We also chat about what it takes for organisations to be ready to adopt Data Science, how Mango's 'Radar' helps them hire & the continued benefits of R as a language even as others grow in popularity. Finally he shares both his own development focus & tips for those starting off in the Data Science careers. A must listen for those wanting to learn from a man who has proven the value he can add to business through applying Data Science.
In episode 34, Howard Barber (Director of Data, Analytics & Insight for Golden Charter) takes up the challenge laid down by Firas Khnaisser in episode 25 (to appear on our show). Howard shares his experience of working across client & agency-side analytics roles. We also hear more about his commitment to people development & the skills he is developing in his team.  Like James Dunlop in episode 32, Howard shares why he has found Financial Services a great sector for applying data & analytics to marketing. We close our conversation by hearing Howard's personal development focus, tips for those earlier in their career & what he has changed his mind on. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we did.
For episode 33 we get into the kitchen, in this case the Data Kitchen, with Head Chef & Founder Chris Bergh. During our conversation we explore Chris' career & passion for DataOps (so this episode is a great companion to episode 1). We talk about the leadership skills needed to lead DataOps functions & lessons to be gleaned from Manufacturing. Chris has published a couple of very accessible books on DataOps, so we chat about those & compare them to 'Practical DataOps' which I reviewed with Harvinder in episode 1. We also explore how DataOps teams can measure their success & the skills that analysts should develop in order to succeed in a career with DataOps. I hope you find that a tasty sounding recipe (just like Rob provided in episode 29) & tuck in for a listen. Enjoy & let me know what helps you.
In episode 32, I'm joined by James Dunlop. James is the Head of Decisioning and Digital for the Wealth division in NatWest Group. Before joining Natwest, James has worked for financial services brands including AXA and Lloyds in various data and analytics roles. Plus, like two of my previous guests (Andy Sutton & Harry Wilkes) James previously worked as part of my leadership team at Lloyds Banking Group. As well as exploring James' career history & why working in Financial Services is far from dull, we explore his focus on decisioning . James shares why this branch of data work appeals & the biggest challenges he sees today for decisioning (or database marketing) leaders. Along the way there are also tips for leadership development & for those newer in their careers. So, sit back and enjoy this data leader wisdom from the West Country (with some very well behaved guinea pigs in the background). It might just persuade you to either work for a Bank or focus your career on decisoning.
For episode 31, I'm in conversation with Steve White who is the Fundraising, Data Strategy & Insight Manager for the leading UK cancer charity Marie Curie. During our time together we explore Steve's career from British Airways to agency side roles (including founding an agency) and then deciding to move into the charity sector.  We also explore why making a difference matters more to Steve than job titles & how to have a successful leadership career as a hands-on introverted leader who drives change through influencing. I hope it helps many others seeking such an approach.
At this milestone of episode 30, I have the pleasure of talking with Harry Powell, Director of Data & Analytics for Jaguar Land Rover. As well as hearing Harry's career journey, we explore a wide range of topics from graph databases to better thinking & team productivity to generating profit. Harry's wealth of hands-on experience shines through as we explore both technical challenges & the greater need for what Harry calls "imaginative thinking".  Lots of useful advice for data leaders & analysts. Lessons learnt about the need to prioritise skills in problem scoping (simplification & achieving clarity) as well why a more commercial focus may help your team. Harry ends with the benefits of putting yourself under pressure & takes the opportunity to be controversial a few times before then. A great opportunity to pick Harry's considerable brain, which I hope you find helpful. Apologies for the poor sound quality at times, but the practical wisdom Harry shares makes it worth persisting. Enjoy!
For our 29th episode, our thoughts turn to food, as I interview Rob Barham who is Data Director at the recipe & ingredients online retailer Gousto. Rob's role covers Data Science, Analytics & Data Engineering, so we discuss topics relevant to leading all 3.  After hearing Rob's career history, we learn more about what has worked for him at Gusto. We explore data products & analytics support for rapidly scaling factories, as well as optimising recipes for production & CX. We talk about the importance of domain knowledge, influencing, communication & career paths for your team members. We even touch on the benefits of growing the external profile of your data team. Rob shares a lot of his leadership experience & I hope this episode gives other data leaders the opportunity to reflect on what could work for their teams. Happy Listening & try not to get too hungry!
In episode 28, I interview Graeme McDermott who is CDO for the insurer Tempcover. Graeme's another experienced data & analytics leader to join us for this series of practitioner conversations. With over 15 years experience of leading data & analytics teams, he shares his tips for other leaders & those earlier on in their careers. Along the way we discuss agile working, AI, questioning & the importance of cheating as a leader! Listen to understand why that's not as bad as it sounds.
For episode 27, I am joined by Rob Kellaway who is Head of Data Ops at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM). Rob has held a variety of IT & Data leadership roles within Financial Services. In this conversation we explore some of the lessons learnt during his varied career. We focus on data roles inside and outside IT. We also explore the rise of Data Ops as a function & the long view of the reality behind the hype surrounding Big Data & Data Science. Rob shares plenty of pragmatic advice from his experience as a hands on leader as well as tips for less experienced analysts. Enjoy.
For episode 26, I talk with Ben Salmon co-founder of the marketing agency We are Crank. We chat about his career across marketing & analytics. We focus on an article that Ben has published with the provocative title "Why analytics in Marketing never gets you anywhere".  Together exploring the skills, resourcing & culture that can help marketing analytics be more effective. Ben also critiques those businesses who have ignored the need for digital transformation and so are now struggling in lockdowns. Lots to learn from Ben's outspoken advice & lessons learnt from experience - especially for those working in marketing analytics. I hope you enjoy, are informed & entertained.
In episode 25 we travel to Scotland for my conversation with Firas Khnaisser. He is Head of Decisioning for Standard Life Aberdeen & Chair of DMA Scotland. In this interview, we explore his career history (starting in a Dubai DM agency) and how he was challenged to not be afraid of data. From there we confront the limiting belief that you can't effectively lead data teams without a data background. We also explore the reality of 'Decisioning' work & the difference that the DMA still makes as a force for change today. Finally, we explore the benefit of being different & being yourself, with an encouragement to listen to Firas' other passion, his music. My thanks to Firas for being so open.
For episode 24, our attention turns to the practical realities of managing data & delivering Business Intelligence (BI). My guest this time is Kevin Crowley, Head of Business Intelligence at Hodge Bank. Kevin's a very experienced data leader, so we chat about his career history (including how starting in customer service helped). We also explore what BI means at Hodge Bank, how Kevin created his Data Strategy & how to engage business leaders about the need for active data ownership.  A great practical & honest conversation about the reality of managing a BI team in business today.
In episode 23, I talk with Elizabeth Hollinger, Director of Insight for Aggreko. A great conversation as Elizabeth is one of the most eloquent leaders I've had the pleasure of interviewing. As with other guests, we explore her career history (across Insurance, Management Consultancy & now working in Manufacturing). We also focus on how Elizabeth developed their Data Vision. She shares lots of proven tips to secure engagement & achieve progress on challenges like data governance, innovation & collaborative working. You can also learn how she is still developing as a leader. Well worth a listen, especially if you have responsibility for data leadership or transforming your organisation to embrace insight-led decision making. 
In episode 22, I have a wonderfully scientific conversation with Suresh Pillai who is working in Berlin. He shares about his background in theoretical physics, data science leadership roles (including in eBay) and why complex systems & simulations can help. A great opportunity to delve into a neglected approach compared to machine learning & other scientific methods, but still grounded in what will help today's businesses. I hope Suresh's tips for data scientists and data science leaders help you. Enjoy learning on so many topics in this polymath's delight.
In episode 21 we go international and hear from Andy Sutton in Australia. Andy heads up Data and Personalisation for Endeavour drinks, the largest drinks retailer in Australia & part of the Woolworths group.  He is part poacher and part gamekeeper - thinking of more inventive ways to use customer data to personalise their experience with us, whilst also leading on data governance and privacy.  He made the conversion to retail and Australia 4 years ago, having started his career working with the (his words not mine) almost legendary Paul Laughlin at Lloyds Banking Group in deepest darkest Newport, South Wales. In this episode we talk about what prompted Andy's moves to Australia and the Retail sector, plus what he has learnt from both as well as Marketing roles. We also discuss non-Data-Scientists leading Data Science teams, the benefits of Research & Analytics teams coming together, plus other controversial topics. With such an open & honest leader, I'm sure you'll enjoy this conversion and find something to which you can relate.
For the milestone of our twentieth episode, I chat with Scott Logie, MD of REaD Group Insight. Scott has worked in the data industry for over 30 years on both the client and agency side.  He has also been Chair of the DMA and now runs the Customer Engagement Committee.  So, in this conversation we had the opportunity to take 'the long view' on use of data, regulation, leadership and skills development. What has changed & what's remained true. Lots of insights shared by Scott as we explored many common experiences and what they have to teach both analysts & data leaders today.
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