Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Sharon Palmer, Managing Director at UM Manchester

Sharon Palmer is the Managing Director of UM Manchester and has been with the agency since 2000. We asked Sharon to nominate her digital hero

  • Who is your digital hero?

I have had many digital heroes over the years but my most recent heroine is Carole Cadwalladr, the British author and investigative journalist. 

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

Carole is a brilliant journalist so I’m a fan of her work generally but particularly over the last few years as she has focused her time on exposing the ways in which people’s data has been used to influence things like Brexit. She was also the journalist who exposed the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

  • How has their heroism helped drive digital?

She is fearless in her mission to uncover truths and drive the transparency and accountability of data, its role and use in society.  Her infamous TED talk“Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy” shared the role that Facebook had played through use of its data and hungry commercial drive to drive the Brexit outcome.  Ultimately, she questioned the ability to have free and fair elections ever again.  She is not afraid to call out the people she thinks are responsible (namely Mark Zuckerburg, Jack Dorsey,  Sheryl Sandberg etc), challenging their ethics and holding them to account.

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

I’d continue with Carole’s theme and say transparency, accountability and use of data is the single most important area we face not just as an industry but as a society.  We are so rich in data now, the power that leads in the wrong hands can have some pretty terrifying consequences.  We need to empower people with their own data, understand it and ensure it serves the best possible role and outcome for them, rather than give it up to be abused.

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

I was fortunate enough to be involved in digital media from its inception.  I had a visionary boss who could see the place digital would have in marketing communications and empowered me to set up, structure and lead a team.  Over the last 20 years, I’ve enjoyed working with some of the brightest talent, some of whom have built their careers within UM, others who have left to continue their learnings.  All of whom have been stars.  When I think of them, I feel humbled and proud (if not a little heroic in the small role I have played in their future).

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