At a Glance
Focus Areas: Big Data, Analytics, Procurement, Supply Chain
Thinkers360 In-Depth Profile & Portfolio: Susan Walsh
Thinkers360 Leaderboards: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Analytics 2023, Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Supply Chain 2023, Top 50 B2B Thought Leaders & Influencers You Should Work With In 2023 (EMEA)
Thought Leader and Influencer Interview
Thinkers360 thought leader interviews profile prominent members of the Thinkers360 community who embody the power of ideas in their work. In this edition, we speak with Susan Walsh, Founder & Managing Director of The Classification Guru.
She is known for her ability to analyze complex information systems and her expertise in data classification, taxonomy customisation and data cleansing. She is also an industry thought leader, TEDx speaker, and author. Susan has worked with a diverse range of clients, including government agencies, non-profits, and private companies, to develop practical solutions that improve efficiency and accuracy.
She is also the creator of the COAT philosophy, a framework for managing information. COAT stands for Consistent, Organized, Accessible, and Trustworthy. The philosophy is based on the idea that information should be managed in a way that is consistent, organized, accessible, and trustworthy in order to ensure that it is used effectively and efficiently.
Susan is featured in Thinkers360’s annual Leaderboards Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Analytics 2023, Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Supply Chain 2023, and Top 50 B2B Thought Leaders & Influencers You Should Work With In 2023 (EMEA), among others.
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Thinkers360: Tell us a bit about your background and areas of expertise
SW: I graduated with a degree in commerce and never, ever really knew what I wanted to do when I finished.
My first job was as a paint merchandiser, travelling all over Scotland. But my dream was to live and work in London and the company I worked for had a vacancy down south and that’s how I ended up here in Guildford. That didn’t last long though, it wasn’t for me, so then I tried recruitment… that was traumatic!
After a few wrong turns, I decided to set up my first business – a clothes shop in Guildford. Unfortunately, after seven months, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to close it. I couldn’t even afford to go bankrupt at the time, so I needed a job and I need one fast.
I ended up getting a spend data classification job through an online ad, I’d never done it in my life, but I thought ‘hey, I can give this a go’ and I took to it really quickly! I was really fast and accurate. It wasn’t a full-time role though, so I ended up taking a contract job at Wonderbra. I was even on QVC, my 15 minutes of fame!
When that came to an end, the spend analytics company had a full-time role for me classifying data and as their business grew, I recruited a team and trained them to classify and just discovered how much I loved it.
I was there for five years and after all that time I found myself looking for something more. That’s when I decided to set up my own business so I could keep doing what I loved and here I am six years later – The Classification Guru, an author, TEDx speaker, international speaker, course creator, and award winner!
Thinkers360: What are your current responsibilities and what’s a typical day look like?
SW: I am the Founder and MD of The Classification Guru Ltd. In the last two years, the business has expanded to include several freelance classification specialists, a business manager, a data analyst under the Government’s Kickstarter scheme, and a marketing manager.
Under my guidance the team has grown and gone from strength to strength, classifying and cleansing data for every size of business you can think of, on an international scale, and in multiple languages.
One of the things I love most about the business is that every day is different, and I get to do a little bit of everything I love. Some days are back-to-back meetings with clients, ensuring that there’s plenty of data to keep my team busy. On other days I am doing interviews and appearing on podcasts or speaking at incredible events all around the world.
There’s also team training and most importantly, I still love getting my hands dirty and getting that data classified!
Thinkers360: What’s the favorite part of your current role?
SW: My goal is to make data relatable and easy to understand for everyone – not just data professionals, because clean data is the foundation of every successful business. I believe everyone should have the tools to correctly manage and maintain their data, so my favourite part of what I do is anything that lets me further – whether that’s on social media, through blogs and podcasts, or at speaking events!
Thinkers360: How do you like to work with brands who wish to engage you as a thought leader?
SW: I like to work with them as if they were part of my own team. I like to be collaborative, inventive, creative and give them something a bit different. If you’re not sure what I mean, just check out #lipsyncsunday on LinkedIn. And above anything else, it’s important to have FUN!
Editor’s Note: See Susan’s Thinkers360 In-Depth Profile & Portfolio to work with her directly.
Thinkers360: How do you utilize Thinkers360?
SW: I am the top female in data and one of the top women in procurement on Thinkers360 and that means so much to me. One of my main goals as a thought leader is to inspire other women and girls into the sector so knowing and being able to track my output and reach on the platform is a great help in furthering that agenda.
Thinkers360: What’s your main advice for upcoming thought leaders?
SW: Find your niche, set yourself apart, and don’t be afraid to stand out! Some of my marketing strategies and concepts are not necessarily ‘conventional’ but they are very me – and it’s always been really important to me that my business is authentic – you get back what you put out and I have built an incredible network by doing so!
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