Data Stories: Leaders at Work is a weekly podcast brought to you by Audiense. Hosted by Rahul Jerome, founder of insight-intelligence.com, the series captures personal anecdotes and career highlights from some of the most talented and brightest minds in the research and insights industry.
On this episode of Data Stories: Leaders at Work, I sit down with Ian Gibbs, founder of Data Stories Consulting – an independent data consultancy focused on advertising, publishing, digital, and media.
Ian first discusses his background and the journey to his current position. He mentions that business, economics, and statistics always came naturally to him, so he studied business economics in university. Ian admits that though he enjoyed the statistical, numbers side to economics, he gravitated more towards the marketing, theory side. After university, he was unsure how to utilise this degree; however, a tech market analyst position fell in his lap. Ian explains that this was the first stepping stone in his career.
Ian shares his experience as he transitioned from the agency side to the client-side and the aspects he enjoyed on the client-side at The Guardian. At the time of his hire and most of his tenure at The Guardian, Ian explains that there were profound structural changes occurring within the company due to the rise in technological advances. For example, the shift from printed articles to articles featured online was pivotal. Most of his work involved the strategic application of research to reshape the business. Overall, he was appreciative of being part of the company while they underwent these drastic changes.
Currently, Ian divides his time between joint industry currency for mail and running Data Stories Consulting. His main focus is to work with other businesses across the advertising ecosystem to help with various measuring challenges. The main project at the moment is DMA intelligent marketing data bank. Ian explains that the decision to have his own consulting business was a gentle push for him – his partner encouraged him to pursue this endeavor, coupled with an opportunity to leave his prior company. Though this decision was risky, Ian admits that the success he has already had with his company was well worth the risk – for Ian, the transition from The Guardian to an independent agency was a key moment in his career.
An essential piece Ian wished he had known before he started his career was simply the fact that his current position even existed. He says that better planning then may have helped him even further – he would be more developed in his expertise and have established even more connections that have aided in his current success.
Ian shares a few pieces of advice for prospective freelance researchers. First, he mentions that possessing a certain skill level is vital – there is a skill shortage in his particular field, and he is hopeful that future people within the sector will be adept in the field. Next, he highlights the importance of having a few potential clients lined up before opening a business – starting from square one and proving yourself will be more difficult than having clients who already trust you and are willing to use your service. Lastly, Ian emphasizes the idea of networking and how crucial using those connections will aid in the success of a business. Using these connections well will help build yourself and will provide an opportunity for your brand to develop effectively. Ian also cautions the listener that broadcasting yourself in a broad sense is not efficient. He suggests that it is imperative to be specific and skilled in your field to be more marketable – putting in the extra effort will go a long way.
Ian provides a couple of books and a few people that have inspired him. First, he shares two books that piqued his interest: ‘Weapons of Math Destruction’ and ‘The Average is Always Wrong’. Ian also discusses the work of various people within the field that has inspired him. He mentions that he would be remiss to not highlight his boss, Andre, at The Guardian who helped him develop and progress in the company.
When asked about certain skills that are essential for the industry, Ian lists a few that he believes are important:
Ian also provides advice to his younger self. He mentions that if you are not enjoying the aspects of your job, do not be afraid to move – it is easier to change jobs at the beginning of a career. He also stresses the importance of being flexible so that more opportunities may open for you.
Lastly, Ian’s personal vision for the next three to five years is to progress his current collaboration – intelligent marketing data bank in conjunction with the DMA. He hopes this will be a credible source of effectiveness data; however, Ian realises that the success of this collaboration will take time. Additionally, he feels the need to take more responsibility in the ethics in the work involving media and advertising measurements – quality and effectiveness need to be stressed.
The full version of the podcast with Ian Gibbs can be listened here: