My Digital Hero: Sienne Veit, Director, Digital, John Lewis

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

Sienne Veit has long been a powerful driving force for the power of digital, mobile especially, to transform the retail experience. She joined John Lewis in 2014 as the first to hold the newly-created role of Director of Online Product. Before John Lewis, she was Head of Mobile at Morrisons and Head of Mobile at Marks and Spencer. Sienne has always been an active supporter of the industry at large through her work with trade associations.

Who is your digital hero?

Vanessa Bakewell, Client Partner, Entertainment at Facebook

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

Vanessa has been a pioneer in creating great conversations and connecting people and communities of fans in digital and entertainment with brands and content as well as being a passionate creator and supporter of new forms of media across Facebook and Instagram.

I met and started working with Vanessa in the long-ago days when Facebook was still a brand new platform for brands in 2008 (and mobile was just becoming more mainstream). As a digital retailer, we were looking at how best to create a social presence and how best to engage our passionate customers.

In those pioneering days, there weren’t budgets and teams to create and manage social media, so we were inventing things as we went along. Vanessa was an incredibly engaged, passionate and creative partner to us – she has a truly collaborative and experimental approach and felt part of our team.

Over the years Vanessa has also been instrumental in setting up networking events and groups to connect, educate and empower women in digital and entertainment.

She is a bit like Kevin Bacon – whenever you meet a great woman doing brave things, regardless of her field, you will soon discover that Vanessa is a common denominator in their experience.

She remains an active advocate of diversity in digital and is a truly lovely, humble and selfless person who always has a big smile and an offer of support and help at the ready.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Vanessa inspires and helps brands to better connect with their communities in truly engaging and inspirational ways. She is always optimistic, balanced with real pragmatism and depth of knowledge of digital media.

The result of this is that she creates an environment where people can do brave, revolutionary and innovative things and feel well supported and, most of all, brave.

Also, her active support and promotion of diversity mean that we all benefit from a richness of ideas, experience and thinking in creating and shaping digital media.

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

As digital becomes all-embracing, making sure it is ethical, responsible and humane becomes ever-more important.

There are so many people focussed on features and capability, but we need to ensure that the gap between the digital haves and have nots and the implications that digital may have in terms of access, education and well-being and more are actively addressed.

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

I’m not sure if this is heroism but unlocking the power of our Partners to better engage with our customers through mobile devices on the shop floor always makes me so proud of the many people and teams who worked to achieve this goal.

I suppose if anything, the pace at which we were able to respond to our shop Partners’ request for a mobile solution (90 days to trial, a year to full rollout to all shops and shop floor Partners) felt heroic.

We how have Partners using them to advise, email, solve personal styling problems, translate, sell and more.

They are also a fertile ground for innovation with Partners now actively exploring how we can use mobile functionality to unlock productivity and customer happiness.

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