By Tom Hart, Head of Data, Insight, and Analytics, Penguin Random House
Hello, Tom – so you’re Head of Data, Insight & Analytics – what does that mean?
My role is to look at how we make use of data and develop “insight” which supports how we work as a business and informs the decisions we’re making, in everything we do. That means looking at what information we have available, how analysing it might help us improve the things we do, and what tools, skills and people will enable us to do this.
I have a small team, and we work with other analyst teams across Penguin Random House to build dashboards which enable people to interact with and explore data, to run research and analysis projects to identify recommendations or test hypothesis, and to make sure people understand what data we have access to and how to use this. All of which helps us understand the publishing market, our competitors, our retailers, our authors and our readers better.
Where were you before Penguin Random House?
I previously worked as a consultant at Deloitte, in their Analytics practice. As a consultant I got to work on lots of different projects, working for all sorts of clients and helping with a diverse range of challenges. It’s a great way to develop lots of invaluable skills and an amazing experience, but it’s hard work too!
What’s it like to do Data, Insight and Analytics at Penguin Random House?
It’s a really exciting and unique job, which I absolutely love. As a team, the work we do is quite technical and scientific in nature – getting to do a role like that in such a creative industry is a great mix, and that’s the aspect I love best. It’s really important not to be at odds with the creativity – using our research and insight to help people be more confident in trying new ideas and be bold in what they do is the key for me.
What’s the culture like in your team?
We’re only a small team of four and we get on really well as a group. Everyone enjoys what they do and the fact that we get to try new things and experiment and innovate. We’re also lucky to work with lots of other teams across the business and get a glimpse into the various skills that bring a book to life. We all really respect the amount of people it takes and the hard work and love that goes into the books we publish.
When you’re hiring for your team, what are the things you look for in a candidate?
There are a few things that are key for me; being a problem solver is essential, we’re doing new and sometimes unique things which often means working out how we make it work. It’s also important to have a logical approach but be able to explain things in a straightforward way to our less technical colleagues and bring things to life for them. Most important is passion; the best people I have worked with have always been those who are excited and interested in the work they do and why they do it. If you have that, it gives you the drive to develop any other skills you might not have perfected yet.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you at work this week?
My team have just developed a new tool which brings together lots of different information about the books we publish in a single place. It will allow teams across Penguin Random House to quickly access information that’s currently in lots of different places, which means they’ll be able to answer and investigate their most frequent questions much more easily. We’ve just rolled out a prototype with some great features – my favourite is a heatmap which shows where a book is selling across the UK. I’m really excited to see how people react to it with it (hopefully) making their lives a bit easily!
The best thing about your job?
People are genuinely excited by this area of Penguin Random House and we’re lucky to have support from the top-down that values having this kind of capability on hand. This means I can spend my time showing people interesting and exciting things and then making them better, rather than having to try explain what I’m even doing here.
The biggest challenge to your job?
Keeping everyone happy – people are excited by what we can do, but we’re only a small team working with lots of different teams across Penguin Random House, so it’s always a balancing act to try and meet all their needs.
All-time favourite book/story?
It’s always changing but recently Murakami’s novels are a favourite. I get really drawn in by the mix of surrealism, pop-culture references and great writing.
Karaoke–nothing like belting out a few classic hits to round off a good night!
This post originally appeared on the Penguin Random House careers blog in February 2016.