Level Up is a monthly webinar open to anyone interested in improving their leadership skills. The series is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.
Most recently, we spoke with David Proctor, President of Experian Partner Solutions. Under David’s leadership, the credit bureau received material investment to fuel product innovation, market expansion and technology initiatives that will create long term value for Experian. David has spent his entire career managing large product portfolios and driving new product innovations. Prior to joining Experian, he spent 7 years in the telecommunications industry with both regional and national carriers in product development and marketing roles.
We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with David for Level Up.
Mike: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Level Up Leadership podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.
Patty: My name is Patty Guevarra.
Mike: This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.
Patty: In this podcast we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work-life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion, and so much more.
Mike: We hope you enjoy the show.
Patty: Today we’re talking to David Proctor, president of Experian Partners Solutions in North America. Okay if you could just start by telling us a little bit about your educational and professional background.
David: Sure. So I went to school at Texas Tech and I started in mathematics because I was good at it in high school and I thought, well, let me just do that. And so I did that for a little while and then I started thinking, well, this isn’t what I want to do for a career. So I went into the business school and I asked that counselor that I met with and I said, “What is the degree with the highest average starting salary coming out of business school? And she said, “Management Information Systems.” So I said, “Well, sign me up for that.” So I started doing that, going to the courses for that. And a lot of it was theory, management theory, operational theory. Then a lot of it was also programming and code. And so I started coding and I wasn’t a great coder, but I made my way through the program, partly by acing all the tests, even though I was writing bad code, so I still made it through.
David: So I did that, and I got out of school, went to work immediately for a consulting company. And they put me into one of our client’s businesses, it was GTE at the time, and who became Verizon later, and they put me into this cube, and they said, “Hey, you’re going to work on an Oracle database, have fun.” And no instruction, no direction. And I started trying to figure out what to do, but I also figured out at the same time that technical work wasn’t for me. So I was working with the marketing team at Verizon, they were my internal customer. And so one of the leaders in the marketing team at Verizon called me one day and said, “Hey, what do you think about joining the marketing team?” I said, “Okay, yeah, I like that idea.” Because I wanted to be more on the business side, less on the technical side.
David: And so started in marketing, I went through a few different companies in the telecom space, this is all in Dallas, Dallas, Texas area. And went to finally work for a privately held carrier in the long distance space, and they were having a lot of challenges with financials, and they declared bankruptcy, private equity came in and cut the workforce down quite a bit. They cut my marketing team from 80 people to 20. And I was one of the 20, which I guess was good, but I just we’re about to have my daughter. And so I just thought maybe it’s time for a career change. And so I found Experian. And that was in 2005, and I started as a product manager.
Mike: Well take us back to and that was really interesting hearing your story about being in school and obviously just having that question, what’s the program I need to be in to make the highest salary? That’s a very specific type of question. And so you’re pretty much at that point open to like you’re in mathematics, so obviously you had to get a strong background in math and then you’re like, “Okay, I want to get into a career where I can make good money.” And they said, “Well, Management Information System, that’s the place where you need to be like.” Great, “Sign me up.” And you talked about like the coding part was kind of difficult for you, but you managed to like, you did well on the tests, you got through. And then at that point did you know … Because you went to telecom, but did you know like, “Oh I want to go into telecom?” Or were you just kind of at that point open to like, “Let’s see where the paths take me?”
David: Yeah, I was very open and I didn’t really have any premeditated in state in mind of a type of company or an industry I wanted it to work in. And even at the time I made my degree choice of Management Information Systems, you can tell my motivation was very kind of one dimensional. So I was just very open and career was not on my highest list of life priorities at that time, as with most 22-year-olds. Right? So I was just kind of going with the flow, taking my career one step at a time, making sure that once I got out, I wanted to be able to get a job and it to be something that I can make good money, and that was about it. It was as simple as that. And then as my career progressed, my motivations and values and everything started to develop and mature and change quite a bit.
Mike: What was your first entering in the workforce your thoughts on the leaders that you saw, like leaders that you saw that were doing a really good job and you’re like, “I want to be like that.” Tell me about the leaders.
David: It’s funny the first few leaders I worked for or worked in relation to, maybe I didn’t report to them directly, but these would be the directors or VPs at Verizon for example, I got more exposure to behaviors that I didn’t I did not want a model. There was just I saw a lot of passion but a lot of volatility and stress and that coming out externally. Maybe not in big open forums but in more small meetings. And that was something as I thought about, am I going to be in a position like that some day? That’s not how I want to be perceived and that’s not how I want to feel, right? Like some of the leaders I could tell they were stressed, they had a lot of pressure on them, but they seemed almost frustrated or angry.
David: And so that was I think a point in time and a snapshot I got. As I moved to other companies, I got different views of leadership and I think some of the qualities I did like were the ability to articulate a vision and the plan and reinforce it, right? So it didn’t change every day and we didn’t go after every shiny object or new idea. There was continuity and consistency in the leader’s ability to articulate the vision and drive the organization forward. And as I saw more examples of that in leadership, especially early in my career coming out of school, that motivated me. And that was something that I valued, and as I talked to my peers, that we got a good sense of where we were going and why we were going there. And so early on I started to build that understanding of the importance of leadership.
Patty: It sounds like you’ve got a lot of good and bad examples of leadership that you wanted to create for yourself. But do you have any other like, a-ha moments that kind of defined your leadership style and how you lead today?
David: Yeah, there was another one; it was my first performance review here at Experian.
Mike: Oh, tell us. How did that go?
David: It was eye opening for me because when I joined Experian, even though I’d done product management before, and that was my job here at Experian coming in as a product manager, I hadn’t done it in with our type of products in our industry and financial services and credit scoring like it was all new to me. And so I was learning a lot that first year. And so when I learn, I listen, I observe, I think, I’m analytical. And so what that created was … And people’s perception of me was very quiet. Because I was going through a learning process and there would be points in time where I would move to the front and be more vocal or verbal, but they were isolated and very specific. So their performance review was fine. I got a three, which everybody’s familiar with our rating system.
David: And for me being a high achiever and a driver, that was a little bit of a smack in the face. And one of the reasons that my manager told me I was a three was I hadn’t really hit that level of performance and drive that he wanted to see from me in the role. And he even mentioned, “You’re kind of quiet, and you have good ideas, but you need to be more verbal and vocalizing.” And so that resonated with me. And that was a little bit of an a-ha moment in many ways. One of which was, okay, learning curve is over time to stop, just analyzing and learning and thinking and act. And so I started focusing more on what I was driving and the impact I was making at the time as an individual contributor. But then shortly after that as a manager.
Mike: Yeah. I think it can be very frustrating especially you’re a high achiever, you work really, really, really hard. You’re productive, you come to work, you’re like, you’re taking in all this new information, you’re trying to process everything, learn the business. And all of a sudden you go to your first pores review, and it’s like a three and you’re like somebody who’s like, “Wait, what’s the scale? Like five, I’m going to get three. Like if I’m already working so hard, this is the best I can do, I’m getting a three.” Sometimes it can feel very frustrating.
David: It can, it can, and it requires perspective and context. And for me, if I had been new to product management and I was a new product manager, I think I would have taken it in stride and it would have been a fair, I think it was fair. I don’t mean to say it wasn’t fair, it was the right rating. I absolutely deserved it because my performance was a three. But you take it into context and I think because I had done product management for a while, by then even I just, it was a check, a check and balance for me to say, “Okay, I’m not delivering and performing at the level I know I can.” And that motivated me. And I think for my peers and others that I was working with at the time a performance rating of three is good, right? It means you’re doing a good job and it’s everybody themselves has to define what their motivation is and what their drive is going to be about and what they want to do, and their role in the context of the role you do also has a factor in it.
Mike: I think the feedback that you received is actually common about speaking up, right? Because I feel like a lot of us your head down, you’re working really, really hard. You’re processing new information, you’re just trying to work hard. And then and you’re also when you go into meetings, you’re trying to be respectful and be a good listener. And then to get the feedback you need to be speaking out more like that can be hard for a lot of people.
David: It can be. And that’s just part of it. The other part is impact. And as I’ve matured in my career, I see the difference because there are people who come in, do an awesome job and are just not going to be comfortable, whether it’s socially or just with themselves and being very vocal. It’s just not their personality style and their personality type. And that’s okay. But the impact they have is huge. And you give people like that based on their impact, a much higher rating because of that. So it’s a variety of factors. Depends on the person, depends on what’s expected and the role you’re in and the impact you’re having.
Patty: I have two questions. Did you get a four in the next year?
David: I got five the next year.
Mike: Nice. That’s like unheard of around here.
Patty: Yeah. Okay. My second question. So you described someone who’s more introverted and maybe doesn’t want to speak up more. Now that you’re a leader, how do you empower someone to be able to use their voice properly?
David: I think you have to … Leadership is situational and the size of the group you’re leading is a part of it. But my philosophy is you have to get to know, maybe not at the same level, but you have to get to know everybody in your organization and give them a voice, whatever that might be, could be in a meeting. So one of the tips or techniques I use is sometimes there are meetings, when we’re talking about an idea or we’re talking about a decision that needs to be made and there’s two or three people driving the conversation, I’ll reach out and ask someone, “Travis, what do you think about this idea?” Right? “What are your thoughts?” And if I get a sense that they’re not comfortable speaking up in a forum like that, I’ll ask them separately.
David: We’ll have a one-on-one conversation or I’ll reach out to them individually and try and pick their brain and hear what their ideas are. So there’s multiple approaches to it, but you have to draw that out from your team as a leader, from the individuals, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about the business, not only what their ideas are for things we can do with the business, but things we can do from organizational, cultural process standpoint as well. And so I think that’s the job of the leader is to find ways to bring people in and a lot give them the forum to be vocal and whether that’s group settings or individual.
Mike: That’s really, really good. You mentioned going back to when you first entered the workforce, you got into a role that wasn’t maybe your favorite, sitting in front of Oracle database and like, “Hey, get to work, figure this thing out.” And you learned very quickly, like, “This is not what I want to be doing.” And then you moved into management roles. And actually the job of a good leader is actually moving people, like they might be in the wrong role, what advice do you have for leaders here who have a good team, but maybe some people are just not in the best role, they’re not going to thrive in that programming role or whatever it is they’re doing.
David: I would start with having a talent agenda and this is something I didn’t really figure out until later in my career. After I had been in management for a few years is you have to have a talent agenda and you have to start broadly with connecting it to the goals of your area or the business or whatever level you’re at and build out a plan for developing the skills of your team and identifying what are the skills we need today and then going forward over time. And then once you have a sense of that, and that’s got to be fed by multiple groups, that just can’t come from inside your own mind. It’s got to come from other groups. From your team, from your other managers, leaders, peers, HR, et cetera. Right? So once you have that point of view, then you’ve got to push it down into the organization and make sure that that talent agenda, your leaders and other managers are making it work every day and helping individuals manage their career trajectory against the talent agenda you have as an organization. There should be a marriage there.
David: So it should be what talent and skills do we need in the business to achieve our goals against what is the need of each individual and where are they at? And it could be linear, it could be zigzag for each individual, for technical roles that may not be into management. It may be going deeper into specific technical areas or learning a new programming language or something like that. For people who want to move into management, what are we doing to get them those opportunities and to coach them and get them into development leadership development programs. So you have to have a plan, build a talent agenda, and then start to push it into the organization and have some structure and discipline around it. And that’s not easy, it’s not easy to do that. And what that requires as a leader is to have the trust of your team.
David: And so if you’re just doing it as more of academic exercise or an HR exercise, it’s not going to resonate and it’s not going to work as well. So you have to do it from within the trust and context of the team that you direct reports and then how you’re running the overall business. So it’s not easy and it takes time. And I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way in my career that it takes persistence too and patience in some ways because you’ve got … It’s one of these things that is germane to the business and then germane to the function and then germane to the team and the individuals that make up that team. So you have to, it’s not a formula you can just run the same way every single time. You’ve got to fit it to all those different levels. And that means tweaking and learning and adjusting. And some people are going to take hold of it and run with it and others you’re going to have to kind of bring along. And so it just kind of depends. But that would be my advice.
Mike: Like had you mentioned I mean, a big part of this is building that trust from the team. The team like looks to you as like “David knows what he’s doing. He’s and leader us, he’s going to help us be successful.” But it requires like that trust and also that likability. How do you build trust with your team? Because this is something, like you said, takes time.
David: It takes time. I think it starts by having the courage to bring more of yourself to the role. At least that’s what I learned because of my nature and my tendencies to be very analytical and thoughtful and planful and strategic. Earlier in my career I didn’t always prioritize creating more of a personal connection with people in the business I was part of. And what I learned from that is people always felt like, “Okay, David’s got a plan and he’s communicating it and he’s making it very clear what we need to go do to help with the plan. But I don’t feel like I know David right as a person.” And so that was feedback I got earlier in my career with one of my mentors.
David: And so what I’ve had to do and what I encourage other leaders to do is have the courage to bring more of yourself to work. Other leaders have the opposite problem. They bring their whole soul [inaudible] everybody knows what’s on their mind all the time. Their interpersonal skills are very sound and they’re very just boisterous and easy to get along with and easy to know what’s on their mind. But then they struggle on more of the hard part of me, we’re just making the tough decisions, developing people, making talent calls that are sometimes tough. And so everybody has an area they start from and have to build more muscles. And that was an area I had to work on.
Mike: That is so true. It’s like a fine balance, right. As like that can be very, very difficult. What does that mean to you? You’re very analytical. You got that feedback. Like you need to just like work on developing relationships and you’re like, “Okay, that means bringing more of myself to work.” What does that look like for you?
David: It was pretty, so I’ve always been easy to get along with. That’s some of the feedback that I’ve always gotten is that people like working with me. I’m easy to get along with, always have a good attitude. But what it meant is I needed to bring more of my outside life, my personal life, like what’s going on, create connections with people on things outside of work, part of that relationship development that’s so critical at companies like Experian, has to be based on something more than just what’s the job we’re doing? And what do I like about it? Not like about it? And what’d you do about this? And like that’s a big part of how we grow and build relationships with others, but bringing more of the personal side into it was something that I needed to do.
David: And it was actually, once I started it, it was very easy. Because I’m a very open person by nature at the same time. And so it was actually kind of fun talking about things going on in my life and connecting stories about what was going on in my life to what we’re doing at work and what’s driving me and motivating me at work. I think it just, it gave people more since that what I was driving for was not just an outcome, but the journey along the way to that outcome as well. And that I’m able to kind of lead by example and I’m able to make sure that as I’m managing my career and making sure I’m doing the best I can for my organization that rely on me, that I’m also bringing what I’m learning in life and having a family and all these things to the table as well.
Patty: While we’re on the topic of more personal situations. Your career moved from Texas to California and that’s not like a huge, my own firm but in my case I think that’s still a big decision to make. So how did you come to the conclusion that you were going to move to California especially when you mentioned you had a daughter on the way? That’s a really-
Mike: That must have been a hard decision.
Patty: How did that look for you?
David: At that point when I was deciding to move to California, that was eight years into my career at Experian. And so also eight years into my life with my daughter, she was about eight years old at the time. And that was another pivotal point in my career actually, because I was in decision analytics for all those eight years. And I reached a point where I realized that I wasn’t growing anymore and I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t challenging myself, I wasn’t thinking through my career in multiple steps. I was taking kind of one day at a time managing the work that was coming in and doing a good job. Right? I was a senior leader in DA had a lot of responsibility, had a lot of great relationships. But I wasn’t really growing my career. And-
Mike: And by the way, it’s got to stop him because like from the outside, everything is great. Like, you know what I mean? You’re a DA, you’re a leader, you’re driving business, you’re doing well. But then personally you felt like, “Oh, I’m feeling kind of stuck.”
David: Yeah. Feeling a little stuck, just feeling like on a plateau. And so that was motivating for me personally because I knew that, okay, I have to be thinking. And by that point I was 37 years old and I thought, I’m not getting any younger and where do I want to end up? And so being me, I set on a course of analysis.
Patty: You were right.
David: About my skills and experience to that point matrix against the skills-
Mike: Oh my gosh.
David: I have a spreadsheet, I have a spreadsheet-
Mike: Oh I love it.
David: That I could send you.
Mike: I would love to [crosstalk 00:23:45]. Oh my gosh.
David: And it’s got boxes of skills and experience and breadth and depth for each area and then gaps that I color and saying, “Okay, if I’m here and I want to get to here.” Which at that time I forced myself to kind of declare where do I want to end up? Like when I retire, what’s on my business card? And so I decided that, that end state was a CEO role. And so I kind of mapped out what is the gap from where I am today to that type of role. And I looked at the gaps, I talked to my mentor about and talked to my manager at the time and I said, “Okay, I’ve got to do something.” Because I’m on a plateau and not growing and that’s not good enough for me, that’s not good enough for DA. DA needed all of myself, not just a portion of it.
David: And so that’s when the change came about. And I started initially looking at roles globally with decision analytics. And then I got a call from Andy Sheehan, you’re in California and said, “Hey, what do you think about this role in CIS? And you’d have to move to California.” So I thought about it, looked at my matrix. Scored that role-
Mike: Love it.
David: Against a potential roll in DA globally in Singapore actually. So we were going to do something big. I was either going to go on assignment to Singapore for a couple of years. I was going to move to another business unit, move to California. And I picked the role in California and that was a big decision. It was for sure. Yeah.
Mike: Two young kids.
Patty: Do you have any regrets or?
David: No regrets at all.
Mike: What was it like, the family as you’re talking through this with your family, because they know you’re hungry, that you want to keep, and you’re going to support from your family. Like yes, yes, we want to support you, but doing these moves is big for the family. Right? So tell us about that.
David: Well then in 2013 because my kids were so young, it was a pretty focused conversation with just my wife and I and we were talking about weighing the pros and cons. California, Texas. And as she knew my career was important, and so she was very supportive. And we actually … She’s very analytical too.
Mike: Let’s see her.
Patty: Let’s compare on [inaudible 00:26:07].
David: We know she didn’t know to make it, we didn’t have to make it. But we did start thinking about what’s the step after this and the step after that. And whereas Experian in being in Costa Mesa, what does that mean in terms of your exposure and access to other potentially future roles as well? So we talked about that and ended up being a pretty straightforward decision. And then it just became about the stress of the physical parts of [inaudible 00:26:40], right? Like, okay, we have to find a new house and move all our stuff-
Patty: And drive to California.
Mike: So that would be a lot of stress, like taking on a new role like this, aside from all the family stress and the moving, like that’s a lot of stress. But then like jumping into kind of a new role, so tell us about that transition for you?
David: That was an exciting transition because I got here to California and that it was a vice president role in CIS Marketing. And so I had a few other peers that I was working with at the time. And then I was working for Andy Sheehan and I actually took over Michelle Botha’s role when Michelle was in CIS Marketing. She moved into a new role starting up a new venture. And so I moved into her role and so I was working with other senior leaders in CIS Marketing and then working for Andy. And shortly after I joined, I forget how soon, but it was soon like two or three months, Andy went to Australia and then two of my peers left the company.
Mike: Oh, wow.
Patty: Oh, no.
David: And then another one moved to decision analytics. And this is all within the first six to eight months of me being in CIS.
Mike: That’s [inaudible 00:27:56]. So what were you thinking at this point? Because this is like your family is like-
Patty: Like a lowly just got here.
David: It was really invigorating actually-
Mike: Was it?
David: Yeah. Because it forced me to learn the business more quickly. The whole business, not just my piece of it in the products I was managing at the time, but it forced me to learn the whole business very fast. And Genevieve was the leader at the time and she was coming in new and so we kind of grew into it together. And it was exciting. I really enjoyed it.
Mike: That’s cool. That’s really cool. I mean I love your attitude because I think I would be like free-
Mike: I like the opposite where like, Oh my God, what do I just do, I just brought my whole family to California. And now the group is gone. But you took it as like, Oh my gosh, this is what a huge opportunity.
David: Yeah. And then it also created a career opportunity because I was proving myself that I could take on this additional responsibility and I … What I ended up doing was just kind of moving the different groups together. And then eventually I was promoted to senior vice president. And it was just, it all kind of worked in. I mean, I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was fun and it was exciting and it provided an opportunity for me to be that stabilizer. Right? In a time of big change and where focus was needed.
David: It allowed me to grow into a role where I needed to do much more than I signed up for and how do I change an organization and stabilize it at the same time. In doing that inside a business as big as CIS, it’s challenging, but it’s also in some ways you’re protected because it is so big and if you make some mistakes, some of you learn from those, you move on quickly. And one of those mistakes don’t end up affecting the business in a dramatic way. Right? So you’re able to learn and kind of change and apply your learning as long as you move quickly. And that was something that I developed very fast in that period. Yeah.
Patty: So this positive and opportunistic, enthusiastic mindset of yours, is that something you always had or is that something you had to cultivate?
David: Good question. I think it’s always been a part of me. For sure, I’m a glass is half full person in general to use the cliché, because of my nature being very analytical, I also see most if not all sides to any situation, and so I try and make sure I channel that in a positive way, and that’s just how I’ve kind of always been I think.
Patty: Okay. So I have your bio in front of me and it says while you were in CIS, you increased the revenue from new product innovation by over 50%. So that’s huge. And I feel like that positive attitude probably rubbed off on your team. I want to know more about how you gathered all these people to achieve such a huge goal, like over 50% that’s astounding.
David: Yeah. So I’ll say a few things about that. One is, at the time I joined CIS had a lot of stable, mature products that were driving a lot of revenue growth for the business. We didn’t have a huge pipeline of new innovative capabilities, and so what it required is some more discipline and process around how we bring new ideas into the business. And creating an innovation program around those potentially in some new directions. And at the time a couple of those directions were alternative data that we needed to go after and to help get a better view of the consumer beyond just what was reported to the credit bureau at the time. The other was creating more of empathy for the consumer themselves. Right? And CIS is a B2B business and we been building B2B products for so long and it was all about moving data into the market.
David: And so the innovation discipline we had to put in place was around how do we create empathy for the actual end user or consumer at the end of the day? And we started rethinking some of the design principles in how we built and developed products and that by having think of a user interface, so not just how we ship pre-screen, or a credit report, or set up a big analytical environment for a large lender to come in and do analysis. That was all table stakes. And we had to do that and then continue innovating even in those areas. But how do we think about building a user interface that a consumer’s going to come into through our lender or through our customer, and interact with our data in a way they never have before. And so when you start making changes like that, that start to kind of rip at the fabric of what the business has driven their revenue from for so many years, it requires you to look at the team and augment that team with some new skills and new perspectives.
David: And so what I did, I don’t know what our actual change over rate in terms of people at the time in CIS Marketing was, but there was a lot, there was a lot of change. And people just being in CIS for a long time and opting out and saying, “I need to go do something else kind of like I did from DA.” Some skills were needed to upgrade to just new incremental resources we needed to add to the team to build an innovation discipline and to think about alternative data and build all those business cases that we needed to focus on. And so my approach was start with a strategy, and go from there. And then as we went, we hired additional people and I tried to make sure I was very clear about where we’re going and why. And on the alternative data side, that’s an interesting experience I could talk more about, but I don’t want to ramble [crosstalk 00:34:14]. But in general, does that answer your question?
Patty: Yeah, yeah. I have a few questions following up with that. So you said that you’d have to introduce some new skills into your team from time to time. So I have two questions. How do you differentiate from someone who just probably won’t perform as well versus someone who just needs to be taught new skills and kind of brush up on different things? And then my second question would be, what do you look for when you hire people?
David: Well, I think looking at the difference between people who can upgrade themselves or upgrade their skills and those who can’t requires a lot of work and attention to the individual. Back to some of the comments I made earlier about tailoring your talent agenda and your development of each individual to that person and what they need and what they want to do, what their motivations are. And if you’re doing that the right way, it’s going to come out that the person who isn’t motivated to learn something new, well it will be clear. And they’ll either make that clear explicitly or implicitly and then you make a decision. And if they’re in a role that the business needs them to adapt new skills or something, then and they don’t want to do that, then they’re not fulfilled in that role anymore. And they need to find work where they’re going to be fulfilled and that’s attached to the needs of the business.
David: And so usually what in the kind of inner workings in the day to day of management, those things work themselves out. But what you’ll also find is a lot of people who, the majority who do want to learn new things and do something different. And then you’ve got to give them the training, the resources to do that. And that’s your job as a leader.
Patty: And what you look for when you hire a new worker.
David: Oh, what I look for? So what I look for is, so outside of the function that they’re going to be doing, just some of the traits and characteristics of people I look for. I look for people who are going to be curious and curious about potentially anything just as an attribute of themselves. They’re curious about how things work, they’re curious about where the markets are going to go, why clients want things a certain way, what problems need to be solved, what processes could be improved? Why do we do something that way? I look for curiosity. I also look for integrity in a person. And that’s sometimes hard to gauge in an interview process. And sometimes you need to make a call on hiring someone based on other things that you observe in the interview process. And just over time learn more about them once you’ve made the hiring decision.
David: But I look for integrity. I look in how that might manifest itself as just how they described their background and their work experience and their achievements and described themselves as a person. You’re going to learn a lot about people when you just say, “Tell me about you.” And some of that is also going to be based on how well you read people and some people read others better than others. I’ve always been pretty good at reading people just based on talking to them, getting to know them, asking the right questions. So those are some of the key attributes I look for when I’m interviewing candidates, curiosity, integrity, and then all the other obvious things. Background, experience, achievement, impact, right?
Mike: So you talked about … I mean obviously you’re a change agent, you come in, you like to constantly be innovating, and that can be very, very difficult depending on the business that you’re in, especially in a huge organization like Experian. And I was at the Andy Legal training recently, he said like, “How many people here, have been at Experian over four or five years?” And I raised up my hand, and he’s like, “You’ve been institutionalized.” And the message was really like, if you’re going to come before a very long time, you can become not hungry anymore, right? You’re like, you’re part of the system, there’s a bureaucracy that can exist.
Mike: And so when new ideas funnel up, you’ll be like, “Well, that won’t work. That, you can’t do that. Can’t do that. Sorry you can’t do that.” And you have that attitude of always being hungry. Why can’t it work? What can we do to make it work? So can you talk to those, that are here at Experian who maybe feel a little bit trapped, they’re like, “You know what? I want to do something new. I want to innovate, but I feel a little bit like we have too much bureaucracy going on.”
David: Yeah. So the first thing I’d say about innovation is it comes in many forms. Most people associate innovation with products. And that’s a majority of where innovation manifest itself in terms of commercials and running a business. But there’s so many different ways you can innovate. You can innovate a process, you can innovate even culturally, you can try new things and do things different. Innovation is about progress. It’s not about invention or what’s the next iPhone that’s going to be market breaking, right? It’s about progress. So if you set your mind on innovation being about progress and challenging the status quo and you believe that we can do something better than it’s being done today, either by us or a competitor or maybe no one, right? Maybe it’s an opportunity to do something that no one is doing.
David: I think it comes back to the empowerment and behind your role at Experian and you have to feel like you can take some risks, and you can vocalize your ideas and put them on the table and challenge the status quo. It’s the leader’s job to create that environment for you if you’re an individual contributor or manager. And if you’re not feeling like you have that opportunity, then I think it’s something you have to talk to your manager about. Because I know that there’s, because of our drive as a company, there’s so much work and so many people are just overwhelmed in the day to day with the work they have to do to achieve the goal for that week or the goal for that month or a quarter or a year. Right?
Mike: That’s right.
David: And so a lot of what I think stifles our innovation is we just get so focused on executing and when something new comes up, we’re afraid it’s going to take us off course in what we’re executing. And so we say, “No, not yet. Or that will never work.” Partly as a reflex because we know-
Patty: Too much.
David: I know too much already, right? So that’s I think also part of-
Mike: That’s true.
David: And so I think each individual needs to feel compelled to find well, it doesn’t mean you say yes to every idea that you either you have or one of your peers have and you go chase it. Like we have to be focused in executing on what the business goals are at that point in time. But I think more people need to step out of their day to day and say, “Here’s a better way to do this.” And take it to the leader. Escalate your ideas. Don’t just let them sit there or something fester. The more you speak up in your way, with your voice, the better. And I think the more people we have here who say, “No, we could do this better.” Doesn’t mean we’re going to do it tomorrow, It may be next month or the month after. Right? You’ll have to be persistent sometimes. But the more people we have taking those risks and not just getting comfortable or complacent than just running the day to day, I think the more innovation and the more the acceleration of our progress as a company will happen.
Mike: I have a question about what like recharges you. You come to work, you’re working really, really hard, you’re super curious, you’re very energized while you’re here, you go home, you’re with your family. I’m curious about the things that kind of charge you up so you can be 100% at home, 100% at work?
David: Yeah. This is an interesting topic because I’ll answer it kind of overall and then more personally. Overall Experian I’ve been here 14 years. Experian as a company you have to be good at self-rejuvenation or you will kind of get tired of the grind and being with an organization now in partner solutions and a CSID team in Austin that came through the acquisition, seeing how some of our bureaucracy and process and governance, how it affects people there who are used to moving fast and getting things done quickly as part of a startup environment. It can start to drain you, and you have to find ways to … It’s a little bit like judo. You have to kind of use the energy of the corporation to your advantage, right? And sometimes that means you have to know that some things are just going to move slow or some things are going to require a lot of check and balance.
David: Usually are the right, things like security. But you have to just develop your attitude about those things and be willing to allow some things to be slow and bureaucratic and find projects or initiatives that you can move faster and maybe move in smaller ways. And so if you’ve got a huge idea, break it into pieces, compartmentalize it, and say, “Okay, well let’s do this part first so I can prove it.” Prove the value to the market, the customer, the client, internal, whatever and then we’re going to build on it. Right? And so that’s where that persistence comes in. And how you rejuvenate by investing your time and yourself and your energy in something you’re passionate about. And that should refresh in rejuvenation. If you’re getting where you feel like you’re just starting to get grounded down and just tired and fatigued overall all the time about what you’re doing, then it’s time for a new job.
David: It’s time for you to approach your job differently or it’s at a minimum time for you to have a conversation with your manager about what you can do to be more fulfilled. Like I don’t want anybody in the organization I’m responsible for to feel like they’re stuck. And maybe they are stuck and I can help them get unstuck. Maybe I can’t help them get unstuck, but I don’t want anybody to feel that way. And so you have to drive that yourself. But back to me, how I rejuvenate myself, was that even the word you used? What was it?
Mike: Yeah, like recharge.
David: Recharge. Yeah. How I recharge one is throughout the day I recharge by interacting with people. And so some of my day, like mostly ears is on the phone and video conference in your office, in meetings, different things. So what will naturally happen throughout the course of the day is I’ll be alone for a little while or on a call and then I’ll be with a group or I’ll be in a one-on-one. And anytime I find myself interacting with someone, I find that, that’s renewing my energy throughout the day.
David: But that’s just me, and so what I make sure I do is if I’m locked in my office for three hours on conference calls, after those are over, I get out and I go walk and I try and talk to people or in my next meeting, I’m interacting with someone and I try and make sure that the discussion isn’t just about the topic of the meeting, right? I do different things to interact with people and that recharges me. The other thing I do is I run. I’m a runner and so I run every day. And that is a big source of energy creation for me is that running.
Patty: You run as?
David: Sounds not intuitive, but I get up at 5:00 AM and I go running and that gets me energy at least through noon. And then [inaudible 00:46:56].
Mike: That’s awesome. How long do you run for?
David: It depends. Right now I’m training for a marathon so I’m running 10 miles a day.
Mike: That’s awesome. So what keeps you going with the running because that is 10 miles a day and just you and your thoughts, what keeps you going? What keeps that marathon line going?
David: Well one is I’m always in my head anyway. I’m always analyzing, [crosstalk] I have a lot of thoughts that I run through. And some of it is it’s running is very meditative for me. It’s one of the few activities that you can take the mental and physical aspect of it and separate the two and not focus on the physical how you’re feeling, but just what’s going on in your mind and you’re meditating and thinking about things. And then you can go the other way and just focus on how is my body feeling and Oh, it’s feeling great because I’m in a good level of fitness and or Oh, I’m really hurting and this sucks. Let me go back to the mentor, and distract myself with my own thoughts while the body goes through the pain. And then you can bring those two together. And when those two are in harmony, that’s when the performance really kicks in. I just love that whole aspect of running and it’s just, it’s been natural for me ever since I was little.
Mike: I have one last question. I love how organized you are and how thoughtful you are about your career and how you like sat there with a spreadsheet or thinking through gap. Like I wouldn’t even know where to begin because I’m not like that at all. So what advice would you give to someone like me who wants to keep developing in their career, but doesn’t necessarily know like where that X is? What advice would you give for someone who needs to be more methodical about their career progression?
David: Well, I would say first of all you don’t necessarily have to be methodical. I think the first question to ask is, are you fulfilled in what you’re doing? And I come to work for fulfillment in three areas, social fulfillment, intellectual fulfillment, and competitive fulfillment. That’s just me.
Mike: That’s a matrix, here we go. So I love that.
David: Yeah. That’s just me. So you have to ask yourself, are you fulfilled in what you’re doing? And if the answer to that is yes, then you’re in a good spot already. And really what you need to be thinking about is how do you maintain that? And at the same time, how do you challenge yourself and grow? And if you’re doing something and you’re not thinking 10 steps ahead, that’s okay. And if you don’t have this huge aspiration or ambition to be an executive or the top subject matter expert in some programming language in the country or whatever that form of ambition is, you might define for yourself, that’s okay too. And you just need to make sure you’re fulfilled and you’re having an impact and that you understand how your work is connected to the impact of the organization on meeting our goals, on helping consumers, on helping our clients. If you’re doing that, then you’re doing a good job.
Patty: I have one last question and we’re closing in on our hour here. So it’s probably our last question. So the first time I saw you, it was actually at the Women in Experian Leadership Summit when you talked on the all male panel, that was a really good conversation and I remember you and Robert Boxberger you were talking about how diversity is good business sense and I feel like here at Experian that’s just like common sense to us. It’s diversity. It’s just like in everything we do.
Patty: But I was scrolling through LinkedIn today and I saw this article that said NASA is going to be doing its first space project with an all female team. And all these comments are just like, why do we need to talk about all female? Like we don’t need to bring attention to that, blah, blah, blah, like this is a misogynist or whatever. I was just like, I feel like it’s important to us, but it still doesn’t make sense to some people. So I want to know what diversity looks like on your team, and what that looks like to you, and any advice you have for leaders who still kind of don’t understand why it’s important and why it impacts business.
David: Yeah, I think, diversity is important for a lot of reasons. And diversity of thought is first and foremost what I think about is how do we bring people that have different perspectives, come from different backgrounds both professionally, socially, and how do we bring that diverse thought to how we want to run the business today and going forward. And so that’s one of the first things I’m thinking about and that diversity has got to come through, it could be gender, it could be other forms of diversity. But that is a principle that as I’m forming a team, and over at now and then over time, and all of the different levels within the organization that I’m thinking about because you can actually see the data, right? That it actually has an impact on business performance. And that was something we referenced, I think Greg referenced in the panel.
David: But I think in terms of comparing experience to the outside and convincing others that diversity is good, that’s one of those things that is a continuous journey, right? That we’re always going to be on as a culture, and as a society. And I think each person just needs to do their part in my opinion in promoting diversity in whatever form that is it could be in outside work, it could be at work, just depends on how you want to put your energy behind it. But I think it’s important, and then so we don’t always talk about it openly, it’s kind of like one Experian, you don’t want to go into initiative saying, “Hey, we’re going to do this one Experian thing and let me tell you how.” Right? It needs to now be more organic and it needs to be a baseline. Right?
David: And so we don’t always sit as my leadership team sit around the table and say, “Okay, what can we do to be more diverse?” It’s just, it’s expected. I expect it of my leaders and they expect it of me and Ty expects it, Craig expects it of me. So it’s just how we roll-
Mike: Right kind of like, how can we be ethical? It’s like, no, that’s just part of who we are. We should be acting as-
Patty: It’s part of our culture.
Mike: Part of our culture. Yeah.
David: Not that it happens by itself, it takes diligence. You have to work it.
David: And some parts of our society and some industries may not be as developed or evolved as we are at Experian, we have a lot of work to do at Experian, don’t get me wrong. So I think I’m just building it into your day to day, in your planning and expecting it to be something you continuously improve. Just like innovation is a great starting point.
Patty: I think that’s a great place to end our conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today.
David: Thank you guys. That was great.
Patty: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Level Up.
Mike: If you’d like to see a summary of today’s show, you can go to the Experian blog. The short URL is just ex.pn/levelup.
Patty: If you found any of the information today helpful, please consider supporting us by hitting subscribe or leaving us a review. Thanks for dropping in and giving us a listen and we hope to see you again for our next episode.