Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Dr Shorful Islam, Chief Data Scientist, Tribal Worldwide

Dr Shorful Islam is the Chief Data Scientist & Practice Lead at Tribal Worldwide. We asked him to choose his digital hero

Who is your digital hero?

I am going to go for Annelies Jansen,  President & COO, Spring

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

I met Annelies when she hired me at ITV, and at the time I didn’t realise, but she was a pioneer in digital in an industry that was still to acknowledge that the internet was going to fundamentally change their business model – media and publishing. She pushed for the industry to embrace digital, not just as a technology, but also as a business model, even when the prevailing mindset at the time, before Facebook, Twitter or Instagram were big, that digital access to content was a niche behaviour. One of the things she empowered me to do at ITV, which makes her a hero in my eyes, was getting ITV to understand the importance of data, and allowing me to innovate in that area.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Annelies was Director of New Media at Times Online in 2001 when many publishers probably didn’t understand how the internet would impact their business model. She has pushed the digital agenda throughout her career, including the role of data, and this has now proven to be the correct path as many companies are very much digital with a huge focus on data.  

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

The power of digital has been its ability to collect more data about people and the use of data has become very central to digital. However, the responsible use of data has not been something that is thought about often. It, therefore, falls upon individuals at companies who collect and use data, that shapes people’s lives, to be more ethical and responsible in how it is used. Now is the time to ensure that data is used to benefit people, society and the planet, and not just be seen as a revenue generating lever, deployed at will to increase profitability at the cost of everything else.

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

I don’t think I have done anything particularly heroic, but if I look back at my career, I have always nurtured talent. In every company I have been in, I look for individuals who have potential and may have been missed by conventional hiring practices and helped them achieve their full potential. Looking back at some of the people I have hired, it is rewarding to see what they have achieved.