Our latest leadership spotlight features digital professional and consultant, Gavin Alexander!
In an established career to date, Gavin has over 20 years of experience delivering growth; as well as a background working with Omnichannel retail. His career as a Growth Consultant has also been successful; delivering results for well-known companies such as Victoria’s Secret, La Senza and Lily’s Kitchen.
In our exclusive Q&A, Gavin goes into depth about his career experience to date; including the beginning of his career in Financial Services, advising and delivering on projects for clients, the difficulties of 'trying to educate non-digital leaders', his career highlight, why AI will have an 'immense' impact on our lives and his passion for sports!
Read it in full below...
Why did you join the Digital Leaders Club?
I wanted to be part of a community of like-minded people who understand the unique challenges we face as digital leaders.
What's your career journey been like to date?
I have always been interested in new technology, and when I was starting my career, the internet, and digital marketing were still new, and businesses were the ‘next big thing’, so I started in a digital marketing role in Financial Services. From there, I moved to retail as the pace of change, at the time, was quicker, and I wanted to be at the forefront of the web evolution as things changed constantly.
I’ve always taken on additional responsibilities, largely as new technologies have appeared and needed to be taken on - this seems to be the story of ecom leaders! I've worked my way up to leadership positions, and I’ve also worked as a consultant, advising and delivering on projects from technology selection to running outsourced, fractional ecommerce teams helping businesses grow. I’ve worked in small businesses, and large businesses, from founder-led businesses to PLCs - there are a lot of similarities irrespective of the size or structure of businesses.
I’ve enjoyed the journey so far! I’ve had some great fun working alongside some great people in this space. At times it’s been challenging, often operating alone, or within a very small team as digital has evolved over the years, it’s been rewarding being able to use data to prove things are working and continue to learn and evolve.
What do you love about working in digital?
The speed of development and change has meant working in digital has always been interesting and the variety and speed of this change keeps things interesting. I have also enjoyed meeting a huge number of very smart people working in and around digital and had the pleasure of working with some amazing businesses along the way.
Have you had any interesting moments in your career so far?
There have certainly been a lot of interesting moments, from having lunch in the Directors Box and a tour of the ground of my favourite sports team. To finding myself in a tiny Belgian village having to buy some emergency clothing after an interview, following a rather embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, which had happened before the interview!
Have you had any challenges in your career to date; and how did you overcome them?
It has got better, slightly, as the years have passed, but several years ago being involved in Digital in multi-channel businesses, where the leadership didn’t have a digital leader involved constantly made it more challenging to hit targets as a lack of understanding often meant JFDI commands from leadership. Constantly trying to educate non-digital leaders and colleagues, has been a part of my career from helping leaders understand reports, and the ‘why’ to educating lawyers on why something needs to change, and the implications of this.
Tell us about your best success story
There have been several successes I am proud to have been involved in. One of the most complex of these was a re-platforming project I led (alongside BAU) to deliver a new enterprise-level platform for multiple store-fronts. This also required several back-end systems and integrations to be replaced, and it was a real achievement to deliver on time, on budget, and with zero negative impact on performance on all channels (including SEO).
What’s it been like transitioning to a hybrid setup over the past two years?
I am fortunate to have a dedicated workspace at home. One of the many benefits, I think, of digital is the nature of the tools we use tend to be cloud-based and lend themselves well to remote or hybrid working, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this all settles over the next few years to ensure that those colleagues just starting in digital have the ability to learn as we had when we first started working in offices.
It has been great to get back to seeing people as well, and whilst online tools are brilliant at most things, I’ve still not found a solid online alternative for brainstorming - being in the same room as people is invaluable for this!
What's the coolest/most interesting trend you're excited about?
The impact AI will have on our lives is going to be immense - one way or another. I am watching with interest many of the ethical discussions around how this can be a help to society, and not wipe humanity out altogether! I think the pace of change we will see over the next 10 years will far eclipse the developments we have seen over the last few decades, and am excited about seeing how lives will change, and all the new skills and jobs that will arise as a result.
How would your colleagues describe you?
Kind, fair, open, and inclusive.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I spend a lot of time posing as a taxi driver for my kids, and spending time on the side of football/rugby/cricket pitches. When I do get some time though, I watch sports, love track driving, and play golf (badly). I also really enjoy cooking, and I am looking forward to BBQ season soon.
What's your plan for the future?
I am excited about continuing my career in Digital, and seeing what is next! The world is changing so rapidly at the moment, and digital has such an impact on what we do as a society. To think it was only 13 years ago the iPad launched, there are now more than 600 million, not to mention all of the other tablets and smartphones we use. Curiosity about the world around us and the future is something I will continue to do, and then making a difference and being happy are both big parts of the future!
What would you be doing (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
Good question! Viticulture fascinates me, the art and science around growing excellent grapes, and winemaking generally is something I’d like to do. Playing golf professionally would be another option, although sadly my golfing ability would not help me there!
Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn