Jason Foster

Earlier this month, Data IQ revealed the list of the top 100 people in data and analytics for 2023. The list recognises individuals who display leadership around the importance and value of data, show genuine impact in their organisations and the wider industry, and share the mission of advancing the profession of data and analytics.

We were delighted to see so many customers, CDO Hub members, Hub & Spoken guests, friends and of course our CEO, Jason Foster, included!

In his interview with Data IQ, Jason opened up about his career in data, what has contributed to his success, and trends and opportunities for the industry going forward.

 

Describe your career to date

My career has been a bunch of small, iterative steps that when I look back look like a well crafted career path, but in reality I just took opportunities as they came. Starting in industry as a Business Analyst and Project Manager, getting thrown into things I knew nothing about in Operations Research, Reporting and CRM. Through to a Strategy Advisor in consulting and getting to work with brilliant companies around the world in helping them to define metrics, build a performance management culture, developing data warehouses and setting strategy. On to leading on data, marketing and loyalty solutions at Mark & Spencer then for the last six years or so scaling Cynozure, becoming an author and an investor.

 

What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in this role?

I approach people and business with a mindset of authenticity, being collaborative, adaptable and outcome focused. I always aim to build strong and trusting relationships, develop talent, macro, rather than micro-manage and think about all stakeholders.

 

What level of data maturity do you see across the data industry and what tends to hold this back? 

Data maturity in the data industry is stronger than ever. It continues to improve, iterate, innovate, and develop to meet the demands of modern business. There are increasing numbers of new entrants, fresh from academia and there are increasing numbers of data leaders in charge of driving the industry forward. Data maturity across organisations also continues to improve, with more organisations from across all sectors investing in data. There is lots of opportunity here still, and as the maturity of data professionals improves as does the maturity of business as a whole.

 

What trends are you seeing in terms of the data and analytics resources that are in demand?

The Chief Data Officer and other senior data leader roles continues to be in demand across all industries in all countries. Those that are able to set and deliver a business focused data strategy. Data architecture also continues to be in demand as people look to better stitch their data together that enables analytics and decision making. We also see hot demand for data product management.

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on you and on the industry as a whole?

With the continued cost of living crisis stretching individuals and organisations budgets, there is a challenge around getting laser focussed on what value should and can be delivered with money available. Technology disruption, like ChatGPT, will also create some ripples and challenge how many traditional roles are carried out, or even if they’re needed at all.

 

How do you see data literacy developing across a) your network and b) the data industry generally?

With the amount of focus on this I can only see the level of data literacy across organisations improving. In some sense there is a long way to go but in other ways it’s never been easier to learn new skills with access to content, curriculum and education. Its important everyone recognises that developing literacy is more than ‘just’ training courses and is actually at the heart of changing culture which requires communication, leadership commitment, an organisational structure that enables innovation and practical steps of getting on and delivering change.

 

What solutions do you see for the challenge of attracting, nurturing and retaining talent?

My experience is that people want to work on meaningful things, be given clear objectives and then autonomy to deliver. This coupled with high support for personal, physical and mental wellbeing and allowing people to be themselves is the best way to attract and retain talent.

 

*Interview published in Data IQ 2 March 2023.

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