If you stay safe, then you stay mediocre, warns Fetch's data chief

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Dan Wilson shares what he's learnt on his way up the career ladder.

I was selected as one of Media Week’s 30 Under 30 in 2012, which feels a very long time ago. Since then, I have moved to Fetch. It delivers mobile-first advertising and digital media services and has a remit to understand the mobile consumer better than any other.

I am lucky to work with some of the world’s most pioneering brands, including Uber, Facebook, Hulu, Expedia, eBay and Hotels.com.

My team sits in three continents and delivers solutions across (almost) every country. Working with market-disrupting clients in new channels means every element of what we do is both a challenge and an opportunity.

I feel like I now speak a different language compared with when I worked in a traditional agency. Being truly mobile-first means my team has to ignore accepted processes of running and assessing media and reassess everything.

Here are a few things I have learned along the way.

Follow innovation and work in growing sectors

The status quo is boring. I have spent most of my career in parts of the media industry that don’t quite work yet (and that most people don’t understand). Finding the solutions to these problems is where real value lies.

Spend time with people who are different to you

Whether this is within your team or elsewhere in the agency, hire a team with skills you don’t have and try to work with teams whose jobs you don’t understand. Hiring people with a different skillset, background and outlook allows you to learn from those around you. New industries require new approaches and variety of people is key to this.

Work with inspiring clients that interest you

If you don’t enjoy your job, then you won’t excel in it. Find a role and a client list that you want to tell your non-industry friends about in the pub.

Push for variety

You learn faster with exposure to different sectors and media.

Be critical of your own work

One of my first bosses told me to act as if you are pitching for your own clients. Far too often, agencies promise better work to potential clients than they deliver to their existing ones.

Take ideas from outside the industry

There is a world outside media. Some of the best concepts my teams have delivered are from well-established techniques from other industries. Within the ever-increasing data side of media, it is worth looking at areas such as research science and psychology. Take some time to network and learn from other sectors.

Be brave

My department’s objectives include "fail at four experiments this year". If you stay safe, then you stay mediocre. One of the proudest moments of my career was hearing from a client that some work that my team had delivered was considered "impossible" by a competitor.

Be nice to work with

No matter how good you are, you can’t get anywhere on your own. People have to want to work with you. Be a good colleague.

Dan Wilson is global head of data and analytics at Fetch. He was featured in Media Week's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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