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DataIQ Awards 2021 winner – The Professor Derek Holder Lifetime achievement award: Caroline Worboys

DataIQ Awards 2021 winner - The Professor Derek Holder Lifetime achievement award: Caroline Worboys

“I’m not an easy person to write about,” admits Caroline Worboys. Indeed, condensing a phenomenally successful career spanning more than 30 years in data and analytics across early-stage start-ups, large corporates, not-for-profits, global agencies, investments and advisory positions is no easy task.

If there is a constant theme in her career, it is a perennial curiosity and creativity in generating value from data.  After spending time working in Europe, Worboys entered the workforce in the UK at a time when data was a smaller, more male-dominated discipline. “I can’t pretend that I knew where my career was going, nor how I would navigate it as a working mother,” says Worboys. “It was a different time – I didn’t go to university and was told that if I wanted to make money, I’d have to marry well.”

Her first roles in the industry were on the data services side, where she quickly recognized the role that data could play in value creation. This, coupled with increased client interest in analytics, led her to launch HDM Worboys in 1995.

The business’ model was to engage directly with clients to generate recurring revenue rather than working through agencies. She admits the business was created “partly out of a drive to succeed, partly out of bravery and partly out of naivety.” Underpinned by her knack for keeping a “clear view of what clients wanted,” the firm quickly acquired a set of blue-chip clients including Cunard, Mulberry, Lancôme and The Department of Health before it was sold to News International in 2000.

The sale of HDM Worboys is one of the biggest achievements of her career, she reflects: “Looking back, it was impressive because there wasn’t money flowing around start-ups like there is now – I had to put my house up as collateral.”

Following the sale she became CEO of News International-owned media and customer engagement business Broadsystem. After 8 years under the News International umbrella, Caroline sold HDM Worboys as a foundation of what would grow to become CallCredit (now TransUnion), where she served as director until its sale to private equity.

Four years at Wunderman, latterly in New York, leading global data and insights followed, before a return to the UK to join customer data insights company Starcount as managing director. A self-confessed love of AI led to the formation of predictive insights company Outra in 2017, where she served as chief operating officer until May this year.

The variety and longevity of Worboys’ career path has been driven by two key factors: remaining curious and keeping on trend. “It wasn’t just a case of right place, right time – success comes from knowing and understanding trends. For example, it was a conscious decision to work across all types of data and to migrate into building value with AI.”

Worboys now works part time as a non-executive director and continues to push the envelope by spending time with businesses she believes are operating in key areas of growth and innovation. This includes organisations such as Intelygenz, an AI automation business, and Epicombi, a business that uses AI to design and optimize the creation of epigenetic-driven, multi-targeted treatments for cancer. To feed her personal interests, Worboys also serve as senior non-executive director of the British Mountaineering Council.

Among all her other achievements, it is this ongoing drive that ensured DataIQ picked her to receive the Professor Derek Holder Lifetime Achievement Award. Not least because Worboys was close to Holder during the creation of the Direct Marketing Centre which became the Institute of Direct Marketing (now part of the Data and Marketing Association), while then ensuring that his legacy endured by helping to found the IDM Trust, a grant-giving charitable organisation to which he left around £700,000.

DataIQ Awards 2021
Year: 2021
Category: The Professor Derek Holder Lifetime Achievement Award

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