Nick Peart is the VP of Marketing, EMEA, at data and AI company Databricks. We caught up with Nick to find out more about his day-to-day working role during the pandemic, and his predictions for the future.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I am the VP Marketing, EMEA. My role involves running the marketing across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. I have built a team that focuses on driving awareness and demand for Databricks Products and Open Source Projects.
We optimise every activity around one of three main metrics: Engage, starting a conversation with suspects and prospects; Convert, identifying opportunities for our Sales Team; and Close, creating success for our customers and building long term value.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
The most significant change has been in terms of commuting. My typical commute would be about 90 minutes each way from South Northamptonshire to London – today it is a few flights of stairs. The second difference is I have gone from an average of one international trip a week to… none. I have not been on a plane since early February.
I’m lucky in that we have a spare room that has been repurposed as an office. Although having teenage twin boys, they have coined it Rural Startup land, given they also have a table football table, sofa and a PlayStation in it!
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
I am a glass-half-full sort of person, and we are looking everywhere for the opportunities that the current situation is presenting us with. I am a great believer in connecting communities and making it easy for your audience to engage with your content.
One example of how the switch to virtual has helped us would be our Data+AI tour earlier in the pandemic, which was planned initially with two EMEA stops, one in London and Paris. By switching to virtual, we were able to add more local language content, expand the promotion and turn it into one big EMEA event. We had teams online from every EMEA office answering questions in most languages, and in three short weeks we created an event that had 10x more people actively engaged than would have been possible in person.
We are taking this concept into all we are doing; driving scale through more pan-regional opportunities to engage, while having smaller local breakouts to connect our local in-country teams with their local audiences.
Nothing stands still, and we are busy planning for hybrid in-person/virtual events, and then also for the return of normality over the next 12 months.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
There is so much going on. One thing for sure is that nothing is what you expect, and the acceleration of digital transformations across organisations is very much happening.
I would have bet my house on certain customers slowing down their investment, but who have since doubled down and actually increased their investment in Databricks. Why? Well some of the most impacted industries, which always run at 100mph, have been able to take the time to re-architect the way they do business, without the pressure of maintaining production lines or keeping the tills open. They have been able to tackle the three-year strategic visions that always appear to be delayed. Organisations are thinking about how they can automate and how to optimise costs to be more efficient in how they run their businesses.
Businesses are all looking to unlock the power of their data, to solve their most challenging problems, which today include finding a cure for diseases or vaccine for COVID-19, through to cash forecasting and production optimisation. For every challenge, there is an even more significant opportunity.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
First and foremost, you need to let the data decide. However, you need to keep in mind two key tenets: firstly have a bias for action, and don’t over-complicate your data models.
Keep it simple and once you know the general direction you need to head, set off, keep checking the models and the decisions that have influenced them, and don’t be afraid to correct your course a little mid-journey. This is preferable over standing still while you wait to see if you have all of the data; the world is always changing and moving forwards, so standing still you run the chance that what you measured for at the start will no longer be a big problem.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Zoom, Slack, and Google Docs. Basically, the buzzwords for remote collaboration. Being part of a broader international team, and on numerous global projects, I am used to making use of these tools for at least 30% of my daily life. Currently, I am using them for every aspect of my day.
Zoom provides a quality way to connect – share screens, annotate on virtual whiteboards etc. and with virtual backgrounds, we can celebrate diversity and allow a little of our characters to shine through.
I’ll admit it has taken me a while to embrace Slack fully. Maybe I should write a blog post on the tips and tricks I’ve found that are not obvious, having been a power user of Jammer, and Flowdocs in the past. I am a big fan of using tools like Slack to save on emails. Still, it has to be used in the right way, with everyone onboard.
Google Docs offers simple remote collaboration, and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
Zoom is certainly a good one, in the way it addressed the issues over security vulnerabilities (user-generated for the most part IMHO), and in the way it has been able to scale its offering and keep pace with the demand, without dropping the individual call quality. Outstanding, and also a big advertisement for cloud-based solutions.
I also have to say Databricks for the way we have looked after our customers and also employees during this time. Our People Ops team have been outstanding in keeping everyone connected, asking for input on how we can do things better and then acting on them.
Finally, The Green Room Brackley, which is a local family run cafe/bistro/tapas bar. They are a great example of how people have managed to keep going and evolve their business. For example, creating TGR Hampers during lockdown to keep the staff employed and to serve the community. This innovative idea has continued to grow as the premises have reopened. I even used the Hampers as the basis for a virtual gin tasting to keep my team connected!
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
It is always essential to have a vision of what the future can hold for you. What is the direction? What do you know and what can you take time to learn? Balancing all of this gives a decision-making process grounded in the data, with a bias for action, that delivers results today.
So today that means making plans to engage with our audience in new and innovative ways, that makes sure we can still connect as much as possible, and above all, be ready for the day when we can meet again in person.