Editor’s note: In an ongoing series, INMA is profiling our most engaged members — our super fans. Today we profile Mehul B. Shah, director of data for Guardian News and Media in London, United Kingdom.
The Guardian has a global reputation for holding power to account and championing the voices of those less heard, so creating a financially sustainable future built upon its values and principles is crucial to longevity. One of the pillars to accomplish that is data.
“We are on an exciting data journey to enable these [principles] and build a loyal relationship with our readers,” explained Mehul B. Shah, director of data for Guardian News and Media in London, United Kingdom. Shah said he looks forward to continuing on this exciting journey to build, manage, and leverage data as an asset for the organisation.
“Data is a key enabler for an organisation irrespective of its industry, size, or location,” he explained. “At the same time, you can’t treat all data the same. Business strategy-aligned data initiatives are key to success.”
INMA recently caught up with Shah to learn more about him.
INMA: What big lesson have you learned over the past couple of years that helped shape your plans moving forward?
Shah: A big lesson for me as a data leader over the past couple of years is understanding the role of two critical foundational data activities — data literacy and data governance. The plan is to improve in both areas and make well-governed data accessible to everyone.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Shah: I was fortunate enough to know my passion for data right from the beginning of my career 20 years ago. However, if I had to do it over again, I would have wanted to start my career in an organisation that had data/information as a product. I think these would have helped me learn to spot data-driven business opportunities very early in my career.
INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Shah: Incredible opportunities to build, manage, and leverage data as an asset for the organisation.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in the media — and what did you learn from it?
Shah: My first role in the media industry was called “information landscaper.” Every time I introduced myself and my role, I used to get a confused reaction for obvious reasons. I don’t think many people (including myself) had heard such a title before.
The role was to understand the “as is” data landscape of an organisation and help focus on the most important data assets. After the first year in the role, everyone realised how critical it was for the overall success of building the data capabilities. But it was quite a crazy first few months in the role.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Shah: Success is a result of great teamwork. I am very proud of building a great team and empowering them. I am also very proud of the way we have been collaborating with various business areas to create a single version of the truth which not only aligns with business strategy but also aims to have data governance by design hence reducing the data risks.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Shah: Spend time with family, watch documentaries, or listen to music.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into news media, what was your backup plan?
Shah: Being an analytical person, I might have had some role in financial services.
INMA: What is your favourite thing to read?
Shah: Newspapers! In my childhood, I was forced to read at least three newspapers every day, which has become a habit now. Also, with technology these days, I have many more newspapers on hand so I am spoiled with choices.
Apart from that, I like to read non-fiction books and have been listening to quite a few podcasts and audiobooks.
INMA: What do you find the most challenging/interesting about the news media industry right now?
Shah: Right now, the most challenging and interesting aspect of the news media industry is building the trust and loyalty of readers in the dynamic world of deep fake news, changing news consumption patterns, and smaller attention times.