CIO Spotlight: Darren Person, The NPD Group

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? “First and foremost, make sure that technology is something that excites you…. Be willing to continually re-evaluate your work.”

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What's the best career advice you ever received? As you advance in your career, the advice you receive changes over time. In the early days, the best advice I received was about ways to make myself indispensable at a company, to identify ways to deliver value and to always be someone whom others could trust and respect. As I moved into management and leadership roles and building on the early suggestions, the advice evolved to thinking about ways to hire the best people, to enable their growth and to mentor future leaders. You never know, you could be working for one of those future leaders one day.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Succession planning is a critical tool that all companies should ensure they have in place. This was really put into focus for me during the pandemic when I unexpectedly lost a dear colleague and friend. In close partnership with my HR team, we now regularly maintain succession plans. 

The importance of these activities is to establish a clear set of actions that can be taken in the event that the unexpected happens. As anyone who has lost someone either unexpectedly on short notice or even if someone has resigned with a proper notice period, not having a plan can create anxiety in the organisation and become disruptive. It’s always good to have thought through both temporary and longer-term plans along with an associated set of steps to take when something occurs.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? First and foremost, make sure that technology is something that excites you. If you find change uncomfortable and don't like continuously learning new things and new ways of working, this is probably not the right field for you. Be willing to continually re-evaluate your work and also be open to thinking differently about solving yesterday’s problems with today’s technologies.  That's the essence of the field. One other piece of advice is that there always will be parts of a job you don't like; make sure that at least 80% of what you like overshadows the 20% you don’t.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Having been in the industry for nearly 25 years and having worked for over a dozen different companies, I believe my greatest achievement has been assembling my leadership team at NPD. My team and our entire organisation have worked through some of the most challenging times in history and have stepped up to support our journey together. Having taken the company successfully through everything from a global pandemic to a digital transformation and through the sale of the company to our new private equity owners over the past three years, it’s been an amazing adventure. Doing all of that with a team as skilled and capable as they are has been a true pleasure. I’m sure they are tired of hearing me say this, but It’s been such an outstanding experience standing on the shoulders of these giants.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? If we are talking about my career, I honestly don't have anything I think I would have done differently. My decisions were made with purpose, meaning and thoughtfulness about where I aspired to be, and how I wanted to get there. Make no mistake, there were absolutely mishaps along the way, but they were quickly corrected including changes like not staying in a role or job that I realised wasn’t for me. In fact, overcoming obstacles along the way gave me added clarity and supported my resolve. 

What are you reading now? There are two great books that I’m reading now: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, by Chris Voss. The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek.

Most people don't know that I… Most people don't know that I played baseball in college. I was a pitcher.

In my spare time, I like to…I like to be an active parental fan, watching my son play baseball and basketball and my daughter play tennis and softball. I also enjoy going on walks with my wife and our two puppies.

Ask me to do anything but… Ask me to do anything but fix your computer.

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