My Digital Hero: Rob Heasley, Head of Design, Pizza Hut Digital Ventures

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Rob Heasley was Founding Partner & Creative Director of digital agency Naked Penguin Boy before joining Pizza Hut’s in-house digital innovation unit. He’s long been a key player in the digital design industry, sitting on judging panels for awards across the sector.

Who is your digital Hero?

For me, it’s Paul Welling a good friend of mine, now an Expert Associate Partner, Digital Labs at McKinsey & Company.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Several years back when I first met Paul Welling, I was fortunate enough to work with him on a digital transformational project, I was one of the first hires on his new team.

Building a compatible team is not easy and building team culture is even harder.

Paul’s leadership style was to delegate responsibility to team members and letting those individuals solve tasks in their own way.  Everyone in the team were self-motivated, experienced individuals who didn’t need a lot of supervision, I felt Paul’s recognition of this and his leadership strategy was perfect.

Through Paul’s leadership everyone had autonomy, everyone was mastering their craft and everyone had a sense of purpose. A truly motivated team created by a great leader.

We all know what a positive impact a great team can make to any business – Paul has a natural talent to bring the best out in people and this is why he’s a hero. I’m super grateful to have been there to learn from his methods.

Paul has been a mentor to me over the years and whenever I reach a crossroads he’s always the guy to see the situation through a different lens, which I really appreciate, ultimately helping me make better decisions.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Paul empowered each member of the team and let them realise the potential within themselves.

Everyone from that original team has gone on to do great things in in their respective fields of product, design & development. More than half that team have gone on to become leaders themselves.

With great foundations and direction our paths to success are easier to follow.

What’s the biggest challenge in digital we need another hero to solve?

Everyone working in tech has the opportunity to influence and to become heroes, we need to be more responsible, no matter what brand or client we’re working with we need to be thinking of environmental and social impacts.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

The one I’m still most proud of is in early 2001. I’m still buzzing off the hype of winning second place in a Macromedia (pre-Adobe)  Animation Award – I was invited to build digital content for a film release with Universal Pictures. Along with other digital assets we built a game based on a key scene in the film where the main characters are engaged in a quarter-mile car race.

The film was The Fast & Furious, no-one anticipated the box-office success and instant cult status the film would receive. Our game averaged a million unique players per month, we translated it into 12 languages and the DefJam record label called us up and asked to include tracks from the soundtrack in the game.

2001 was early content marketing days but it was great to see clients appreciate the value and reach of good branded content. This project won us several new clients including Dreamworks, Paramount and Warner Bros.

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