Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Home CIO Spotlight CIO Spotlight: Darren Person, Global Chief Information Officer - The NPD Group

CIO Spotlight: Darren Person, Global Chief Information Officer – The NPD Group

Walk us through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you progress to your current organization?

I started with technology at a very early age, in fact, I started programming when I was about eight years old, and by the time I turned 12, I had partnered with a colleague to create an early days Bulletin Board System, or BBS as they were called back then.  My first programming language was BASIC on a Commodore 64, but then I learned how to code in C on an Amiga 500/2000.  As personal computing was accelerating, I was getting more involved in both building computers and programming them, which really piqued my interest.  After that, things progressed at a rapid pace as my passion for technology grew each day. It was not long before I knew that I wanted to spend my career in technology.   

In order to prepare for the future, during high school and undergrad, I leveraged my summers looking for internships and side jobs that would allow me to work with and somehow integrate technology.  I was able to work for some amazing companies including Andersen Consulting, E&Y, Young & Rubicam – all of which helped me develop my resume before I completed my degree, and all of which enabled me to establish a strong set of industry contacts and personal connections.

As a young technologist in a nascent field, I was highly passionate and always looking for ways to leverage my technology expertise to find solutions to difficult problems.   I started out as a Helpdesk engineer, then programmer / analyst, and worked my way up to the CIO role over 20+ years at a series of wonderful companies in tandem with some of the most amazing leaders / mentors.  I joined The NPD Group, Inc. in January 2019 as their Chief Data Officer and was promoted to the Global CIO role later that year.

As a young technologist in a nascent field, I was highly passionate and always looking for ways to leverage my technology expertise to find solutions to difficult problems.

Tell us about your company.  Speak to the industry, size of the company, and the services provided to your customers.

The NPD Group is a privately held company, founded in 1966. Based in Port Washington, NY, NPD has offices in 27 cities around the world and employs over 1600 people.  NPD offers information and advisory services that help the world’s leading brands achieve data-driven growth.  We uniquely combine data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics across more than 20 industries to help our clients measure markets, predict trends, and improve performance. 

NPD syndicated services include retail tracking, distributor tracking, and consumer tracking.  NPD offers weekly data, store-level enabled data (for looking at geographies or custom store groupings), and account level information (for participating retailers). Point-of-sale data is collected from over 600,000 doors worldwide plus e-commerce and mobile platforms.  Consumer information is collected via online surveys and NPD’s Checkout service, which uses receipt harvesting to track and analyze purchasing and behavior.  Prescriptive analytics include market forecasting, new product forecasting, pricing and promotion evaluation, and segmentation.  

With deep expertise in more than 20 industries, NPD also provides thought leadership to the C-suites of many of the world’s leading brands.  Senior industry advisors are available for strategy sessions to guide long range planning or address specific needs, such as preparing for earnings calls.  Topics include industry and category performance, the state of retail, and winning strategies of best-in-class companies.

For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

What are your top 3 – 5 (ongoing) main priorities as a CIO in your organization?

  • Safety & Security remains the topmost priority, both for our assets as well as our employees
  • Making sure we have a clear, focused strategy and vision supporting our clients and industry.
  • Investing in training our people across the entire organization in the use of new technologies to drive higher levels of engagement (think Cloud, Machine Learning, API’s, etc.).
  • Ensuring that our investment in technology helps to deliver “Magic Moments” for both our internal and external clients.

How do you decompress from your role as a technology executive?  What do you do for fun?

The first question is a bit hard to answer because my outlet/hobby tends to be incredibly similar to my career choice.  As a technology executive, much of my time has shifted to helping develop my teams, managing financials and helping focus the organization on our key objectives, all through the lens of commercial technology leadership.  My favorite way to decompress is still to write software and research new technology trends.   The running joke in my house is that I’m always reading something related to technology or technology leadership vs. a general fiction/non-fiction book.

As for fun, I enjoy coaching my son’s baseball team and cheering on my daughter’s tennis playing.  I have been my son’s baseball coach for the past 8 years and have watched him and his friends not only develop into great athletes but also into fine young men.  Although I am not a tennis coach, I so enjoy watching my daughter play tennis along side my wife and being her cheerleader from the stands.  

Can you list your top 1 -3 books that you would recommend for a technology leader to have on their bookshelf/kindle?

  • INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, by Marty Cagan – This is my favorite book as it does a great job articulating how to put the customer at the center  of product development, and clearly describes  the organizational constructs that will help technology leaders understand how to engage with their business partners to deliver impactful outcomes for their clients.
  • Mindset, by Carol Dweck – A great book that really challenges what we think we know about high performance and the impact our mindset has on helping us or holding us back from achieving our full potential.
  • How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff – This book is a great short read and opens your eyes to understanding the use of statistics and making sure that you see when others are using metrics that may not always be what they seem.

Can you share a specific quote that is a source of inspiration for you as a leader?

“Disruptors don’t set out to beat you at your own game — they change the rules.”

Kai Riemer, Professor of Information Technology & Organization, University of Sydney, Australia

The way of thinking represented by the quote is analogous to what we do everyday as technology leaders.  We are always changing the rules, developing new ways to address age-old problems and reimagining the future.

Please share a recommendation or testimonial on the benefit that you see as a member of this CIO Professional Network?

I’m very excited to be a member of the CIO Professional Network as it’s a great opportunity for like-minded technology leaders to connect and build stronger relationships.  In times like COVID-19, one can easily feel isolated by all the environmental changes and daily news events.  Having a place to hear from other colleagues who are going through all the same challenges and sharing best practices and learned lessons is a key instrument to staying engaged and helping you accelerate your journey.

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