Ed Thewlis, along with Anna Sutton, co-founded The Data Shed in 2013 to make data insights widely accessible to decision makers.
The consultancy creates value-first data solutions to clients through the work of its support team providing operational insights, along with products like its integrated data management platform.
Thewlis has worked in a range of data and analytics roles at firms including Provident, Connolly Inc, and Jet2, bringing extensive expertise to The Data Shed.
We found out the lessons he’s learned.
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Reading. But fiction reading – allowing me to take my brain away to a space where I’m not thinking about work, technology or data.
I tend to read first thing in the morning, and last thing at night – which must work, as I sleep like the dead (or so I’m told).
What’s been your luckiest break?
I’ve had a couple of lucky breaks. Each time, my lucky break has been where I found myself working in a small team, where we were all dedicated to being delivering the most innovative, rapid and value-focussed solution to our customers.
My technical and professional skills increased hugely whilst operating in these teams, setting me up nicely for my future running a consultancy business.
What’s your best failure?
I’ve had several over the last couple of decades.
The most memorable one is early in my career when I managed to omit the house number from the mailing file when creating a marketing campaign. Unfortunately, this meant that the Royal Mail were unable to deliver over 100,000 mail packs, and the stack of returned mail was easily taller than me.
This is probably my ‘best’ failure, because it taught me very clearly that you can’t just rely on natural capability and fun technology to do a job – and training yourself on less technical skills, like an eye for detail, will ultimately set you apart (and prevent similar failures!) in the future.
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
Starting a business! I know there are lots of ‘hustlers’ on social media nowadays telling people how they can create a business and it’ll suddenly get them a Ferrari and a fancy yacht in the Med.
The investment we made when we started The Data Shed was a sacrifice of personal income, personal time, and personal relationships. It’s really started to pay off, but the investment you make when you start a business should never be trivialized or underestimated.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
One of my favorite things to do is to take a book I know well, and then get it in a different language. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a country by learning their language, and using a book you really enjoy is a nice way to do it.
Recently I worked through the German translation of ‘Guards! Guards! ‘ – and I learned a few very amusing German idioms as a result.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Stop rushing! Focus more on why you’re doing things, rather than just celebrating that you can.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
My degree. I was a pretty amazing failure at university, focusing more on working in pubs than actually studying.
This set me back in comparison with many of my contemporaries – which meant that I had to nurture a focus and work ethic to help me catch up. As the great Dwayne Johnson said, “always be the hardest worker in the room”.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
I’m not sure I could say much that would surprise people nowadays – but for those that don’t know me … I like funny noises.
I’m able to do a pretty decent Chewbacca, a quite terrifying Dalek, and loads of accents. I need to get out more – which, based on the above, will not surprise anyone.
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
I’m not sure it will. COVID introduced a huge shock to the work “system”. The impact of this will take years, if not decades, to work through.
COVID will certainly make work different, but only time will tell if it is better. Would I have had the same opportunities I experienced in my early career if I were working remotely? Possibly not.
What does success look like to you?
Freedom – freedom from my mortgage, freedom to choose to head off for the weekend with the family in the camper van whenever I want, and freedom to be able to chat to a friend whenever I want.