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Richard Walker, Data & Insight Director, Auto Trader

Describe your career to date

 

My career to date could appear not too varied to some as it has been with the same organisation for almost 30 years. It has, however, been one of continuous learning that has presented challenges and opportunities as the business transitioned from a media company that published automotive classified magazines to now a FTSE100 Tech organisation operating the largest automotive marketplace in the UK offering advertising solutions and a suite of data products. My path has included research roles and involvement in new product thinking in the early days resulting in developing the first versions of our website proposition. I spent time operating in our overseas businesses for a period, and as a member of a small team, learnt to roll my sleeves up and get involved in all aspects of the business be it Marketing, supporting Sales approach or commercial planning and analysis. On coming back into the UK business, I was clear that my passion was for data, but more how to use data to make better decisions – be that within our business or through supporting customers within their businesses. This led me to leading what was a centralised data and insights function enabled by a traditional data warehousing team. This has evolved over the years to better shape our data capabilities to enable continued success, but fundamentally focusing on the power of our data and what that can enable. I have been part of the leadership team at Auto Trader now for over ten years. 

How are you developing the data literacy of your organisation, including the skills of your data teams and of your business stakeholders? 

 

This has been, and continues to be, constant evolution. I would also say our ambition does not stop with our organisation either; we are working hard to develop the data literacy of our customers and the wider industry so that everyone benefits from the products, tools and insights that are available to help make better decisions that result in improved performance. We are fortunate, but work very hard, to attract and develop amazing people both in the Data Platform teams that fundamentally underpin enabling us to leverage the data we generate and, in our Analytics, and Data Science capability. Our Analytics and Data Science resource is embedded within cross functional teams that work on the priorities of the whole business building products and experiences or journeys for consumers and customers alike. By doing this, we organically create a culture that has data literacy at its core. We have democratised our data by creating trusted data models that can be accessed via visualisation tools and training is delivered to all people in the organisation to varying degrees dependent on role in the business. As a leadership team, we understand the importance and value of data and how to optimise performance through leveraging it as an asset.  

How are you preparing your organisation for AI adoption and change management?        

 

As an organisation we are very comfortable with change and would say we are always challenging ourselves to improve and grow which undoubtedly needs flexibility and the need for change. While we probably had a programme of change at some point from our transition from print to digital, I cannot remember the last time we talked about specific change management projects. Change is just something we expect to be a constant, our organisational purpose is Driving Change Together. Responsibly, so culturally it is normal to have change in order to achieve our strategic goals. More specifically, relating to artificial intelligence (AI) adoption, our work started several years ago with creating a data platform capability on which we can operate. In parallel to this, we consciously evolved the types of people we brought into the organisation in Analyst roles which included recruiting people with a background and capability in Data Science; we have been improving our capability in these roles for the last five or more years and continue to push the bar on this. We work closely with universities and people in the latter stages of their academic studies to widen our exposure to capability in specific fields. We work together to create projects that are mutually beneficial as early stage thinking for us. We have several implementations of projects and live products that could be under the umbrella heading of AI and are currently developing some product propositions within the existing team that we think are really exciting, but mainly beneficial, for our customers and therefore for us. 

Richard Walker
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)