International Women’s Day: An interview with Mel Walker from Bring Digital
All week we’ve been showcasing the achievements of some our amazing female clients, as part of our celebrations for International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March. Next up Forward Role’s Sophie chats to Digital Strategy Director Mel Walker, about the challenges she’s faced so far in her analytics career and her favourite part of the job.
Hi Mel lovely to talk to you, really appreciate you getting involved! Let’s start with where you work and what your job entails?
Sure thing, I work for Bring Digital – a digital agency and performance marketing specialist, offering SEO, PPC and affiliates. My job has actually changed from this week! We have built a new central strategy function which has just launched, so I will now have one SEO team and one PPC team feeding in to me. This means that my role will now be split into three parts; owning processes and client strategy, managing all client performance and commercial support. The aim of these changes are to make my role much more proactive – which will be great for both the myself and the business!
What is the best part about your role?
Definitely the diversity! I love the problem solving and working on real business problems. I also really enjoy having the opportunity to work with such a variety of clients but also work with a brilliant, specialist team where we can all support on delivery. Because I am in a central position I get to experience seeing everything come together and I get to learn loads in the process.
How did you find yourself working within the analytics industry?
I did a degree in advertising and originally had my heart set on working for an advertising agency. When I started looking for jobs I saw loads of online roles, which I thought looked great, so applied for a mix of Account Executive roles in ad and digital agencies and joined RedEye, an email marketing agency. They had their own analytics technology which empowered and personalised all of the email marketing and from there I began to take a real interest in analytics, taking it upon myself to find out what further insight we could offer to clients. My role soon became completely focused on analytics and I was supporting some of our bigger clients and the UX side of our business to strength their UX proposition and start A/B testing. At this time I was also mentored by a Customer Profiling Specialist, so focused my work around segmentation and personalisation which allowed me to learn how to turn data into something really meaningful for clients.
I then went to Missguided as a Senior Web Analyst / Customer Insight Manager - which was my first opportunity to look at broader business elements. I owned all of the analytics and testing and over time created a team which fed into all parts of the business. I learnt a lot about all the cogs that are involved in the world of analytics. I also had a big profile in the business to introduce data, which was fairly new to them; when I started they didn’t know how many customers they even had.
I left Missguided in 2016 and moved to Shop Direct (now called The Very Group) in a CRM and personalisation focused role with a vision to understand the customer segments of the business. I managed all testing against marketing activity, bringing key segments together to think about where revenue was made and how to tailor communications for specific groups. At Shop Direct we adopted an agile way of working which was very different for a marketing team but it really worked for us.
I moved to Bring Digital to provide an analytics proposition, supporting their gap in conversion understanding. This role very quickly expanded into a wider strategy piece, supporting the bigger commercial questions and multi-channel problems for key clients, I loved it but it was very reactive. Whereas my vision for the future is a much more proactive worksteam where the team is responsible for making sure that everything is in place and working as efficiently as possible and providing regular commercial project reports.
What are the main challenges you’ve faced in your career to date?
Every role I’ve ever had has been a brand new role; I’ve never replaced someone with the same job. What that has meant is that because analytics was a buzz word for such a long time, companies often wanted it but didn’t really know what they wanted. On the one hand it has been fantastic that I have been able to shape and mould my own roles, but in certain businesses it can be hard to get the traction and make data a component part of how they operate. I’ve had to take on a role of changing people’s mindset and challenge their way of thinking, to become data led. It is really challenging, but it is what I get really excited about!
Why do you think there aren’t as many women working in analytical roles, compared with other areas of marketing?
I think analytics has historically been seen as a bit geeky and male dominated. When I think about the people that I’ve met during the roles I’ve been in, they have been mostly men. I think because the industry was a little bit unknown for so long, a lot of people valued the technical capability of analytics and men seemed to gravitate towards that area and those technical, data roles. But over time I’ve seen more people value the different parts of analytics such as storytelling with data, which is less technical, and there’s now more importance around what you do with the data, making it a more commercial field. People still don’t fully understand the different types of roles that come under that heading analytics but it’s getting better.
Throughout my career I’ve also been really fortunate to always have female bosses who have been fantastic leaders to look up to and who as they have moved up in their journey, have brought me along with them!
What advice would you give to a women thinking about starting in the analytics industry?
There are some stats around this, but lots of women don’t apply for jobs that include some things that they can’t do. Employers always put a ridiculously long, ideal wish list on their adverts because in our industry they don’t know exactly what they want, so my advice is don’t be afraid or put off by this! Lead with what you can offer and with your passion for data rather than trying to ticking off all the boxes, because that won’t happen. Just go for it!
I reached a point in my career around the Missguided time, where I had to make a decision whether to go down a technical or management route. It was a really hard decision to make as I didn’t want to lose the technical skills I had built. The decision actually happened naturally and I ended up going down the “story telling” route, making it my role to ensure something positive always happens with the data. I see so many people providing data but nothing gets done with it. My roles have become empowering when changes are made as a result of the data I’ve gathered - when action is driven off the back of the results. The key to this is making sure that people aren’t overwhelmed with stats and always try to come in to something digestible.
Sophie Page specialises in analytics and insight jobs at Forward Role. Keep up to date with Sophie by following her on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn.
Click here to read through our other International Women’s Day interviews.