29 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Caroline is an award-winning data expert and co-founder of global data consultancy Carruthers and Jackson. She was one of the first women to take on the role of Chief Data Officer in the UK public sector for Network Rail and has worked across multiple industries to build data capability from the ground up, delivering real change to each organisation around how they valued their data as an asset.
Caroline has authored several best-selling books on the role of data in organisations, including the renowned “chief Data Officer’s Playbook” and the bestselling “Data Driven Business Transformation.” Working alongside co-author, and co-founder of Carruthers and Jackson, Peter Jackson, Caroline now consults public, private and charity sector organisations around the world on how to get the most out of their data.
Caroline was named one of the top 20 inspirational female role models in data by The Female Lead in 2018 and won Computing’s Rising Stars Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2020 for her work consulting major international organisations on their data operations.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was one of the first Chief Data Officer’s (CDO) in the UK, in charge of all of the data from Britain’s railways as the CDO for Network Rail. Before that I’d worked with data across a range of public and private sector organisations – I suppose at heart I’m a problem solver, and data is really the root of solving almost all problems an organisation might face, so working with data is a dream job!
I founded Carruthers and Jackson alongside fellow CDO Peter Jackson in 2018 to offer our experience as pioneers in the data industry to other organisations looking for guidance on their data journey. We work with organisations across the private, public and charity sectors to make the most out of their data and improve data literacy, as well as running events such as Data Talks and the Carruthers and Jackson Summer School to help bring together a community of data leaders who can learn from us and from each other about data best practices.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
So before setting up Carruthers and Jackson, Peter and I wrote The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook, which was kind of like a guidebook of things we wish we’d known when we first started in the industry. Our second book (Data Driven Business Transformation) was aimed more at those who weren’t in the data industry but were interested in understanding how data could help their organisation. As a result of these books, we had so many people writing to us asking for help with their data strategies, and we soon realised there was a big gap in the market for a company like Carruthers and Jackson!
How did you achieve awareness?
One of the big ways we created early awareness was through the books – people were coming to us after reading Data Driven Business Transformation and asking for our help in building their individual data strategies. From there, the word spread!
I also think the role that the wider data community played can’t be overstated – We had a good network within the industry which helped to build our reputation quickly. From day on we wanted to use the company as a way to expand our niche community of CDOs into a wide network spanning continents and organisations. We’ve not done a bad job three years in!
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We were in the incredibly fortunate position of having work as soon as we started as a company, so we’ve always had a positive cash flow. That, combined with knowing the right pace to grow at, has helped us expand at a solid pace.
What are the key successes?
One of our biggest successes over the last few years has been our Summer School for data leaders – It’s a free course that data leaders across the world can apply to take part in, and helps to connect government and business around the world by bringing together a data community and allowing data leaders to learn from each other.
On a personal level, the biggest success to me is that people come up to me and tell me that we’ve made a difference to them! From women coming up to me and telling me that I’ve inspired them as a female founder to helping encourage data leaders to take the next step in their careers, knowing we’re making a difference in people’s lives is truly humbling.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Probably the biggest initial challenge we faced was that our customer base was worldwide, so being able to meet with them and carry out data strategy workshops was tough logistically. The pandemic has really added an extra layer of logistical problems in that regard, but the move to remoter work as standard has meant we’ve been able to adapt well. We’ve also developed good relationships with regional partners, which has allowed us to have a much bigger presence in areas that we would have struggled to reach otherwise!
What are your plans now/for the future?
We’re focussed on further global expansion, both in terms of our customer base but also in widening our data community to make it stronger and more inclusive than ever before. Reaching out to data leaders in Africa and Asia in particular, and bringing them into our data community, is a major part of our future plans.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Be curious! It’s also crucial that aspiring entrepreneurs have a high risk tolerance. Understand that if you spend all your time worrying about what could go wrong, you’ll never take your first step – My advice is to jump!
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
1) Curiosity is key – Always strive to find out more and push boundaries.
2) Be resilient – Things won’t always go right, but successful entrepreneurs have the capacity to weather any storm
3) Be true to yourself – You do you best! Be authentic and forge your own path rather than trying to copy others
4) Take time to have fun – It’s easy to get swept up in the hard work
5) Be humble – There’ll be a lot of people who will help you on this journey, so make sure that you thank them!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
1) Maggie Philbin – Seeing a woman talking about tech when I was growing up was so inspiring, and made me realise that I could follow whatever career I wanted to!
2) Albert Einstein – Maybe a cliché, but I love how he told stories to help others understand what came naturally to his incredible mind
3) Malcolm Gladwell – He’s an inspiring story teller, and brings his topics to life for a wide audience!
4) Ada Lovelace – For anyone to carry out the kind of research she did during her time period, especially as a woman, was just incredible; she was a true pioneer!
5) My mum – She’s always been there for me and helped me take the next step. She never fails to inspire me!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Every man dies, but not every man really lives”