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Spotlight Series: Dr Sachiko Scheuing, European Privacy Officer, Acxiom

Dr Sachiko Sheuing

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Dr. Sachiko Scheuing, co-chair of WomenLEAD at Acxiom and co-chairwoman of FEDMA, shares her journey from chief analyst to managing government affairs and legal compliance.

She also shares her knowledge and experience of country-specific and cross-border European-level insights on data protection matters with Acxiom’s clients.

Alongside her day-to-day role, she is co-chair of the WomenLEAD, a global gender equity business resource group at Acxiom, and is currently serving her fourth three-year term as the co-chairwoman of the Federation of European Data and Marketing Association (FEDMA), based in Brussels.

In 2020, Dr. Sachiko was awarded the DataIQ Professor Derek Holder Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to and exceptional leadership in the data industry.

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How did you land your current role? Was it planned?

I’ve always been interested in all things maths and statistics, so you can imagine how excited I was when I joined Hyatt International Hotels and Resorts as their database marketing analyst! I then went on to pursue my PhD and started my career with my current employer, Acxiom, as the chief analyst of their Dutch operation.

It was in that role that I learnt analysis does not stop with presenting the results; the real work starts after the results become available, using data to make sense of why someone decides to take out one insurance policy over another, or what their customer journey must have been like.

I spent hours with marketing consultants, creative writers and philosophers to tell customer stories using frequency tables and pie charts. Fast forward a couple of years, swapping countries and departments, I was in a whole new position in charge of privacy in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and eventually, became a member of Acxiom’s senior leadership team – which is where I am today.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far?

‘Proud’ is not quite the term I would use. Rather, I’m humbled and grateful to serve the whole data and marketing industry as co-chairwoman of FEDMA for my fourth consecutive three-year term.

Most people immediately associate the advertising industry with the likes of big players such as Google and Amazon. But the vast majority of our industry actually consists of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) who are the economic backbone that have brought us the standard of living that we enjoy today.

It is part of my mission to support these businesses and the wider marketing ecosystem, using my knowledge and hands-on experience in both marketing and privacy to engage in dialogues with legislators, regulators and experts in the field of data protection.

What does an average work day look like for you?

My average workday consists of one of two types: I either have video conferences and desk work the whole day, or I am travelling on business – and I love the balance!

On home-office days, I have my cute German Shepherd underneath my desk, keeping my feet warm. When I travel, I meet colleagues, customers and fellow privacy experts face-to-face, which always outperforms even the most effective meetings conducted via Teams or Zoom. The added bonus of travelling is that I get to visit different cities. However, the only downside is that, compared to a holiday, you have very little free time to explore.

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field?

Definitely understanding the impact of AI! If you are in the data or privacy field, it’s imperative to acquire the knowledge and skills to leverage artificial intelligence. If you don’t yet have this, I’d suggest taking up training courses that your company offers, investing in professional AI education, checking out other online courses or simply just reading around on the subject.

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive?

Quite the opposite actually! I am fortunate to work at a tech company where sharing and helping is the norm, regardless of which office you are working from. For a born bookworm like me, I love getting the opportunity to share and compare notes and learnings from think-tank meetings, conferences and general chats with fellow data protection officers, lawyers and industry experts.

A specific example that comes to mind is from a time when I was asked to moderate a panel at a conference on the topic of Connected TV, which I knew very little about. I simply asked for help via Slack and, in no time, I was put in touch with the CTV expert in our New York office.

He carved out a good chunk of time to patiently explain how the market works, pointed me in the direction of key research papers and literature on the topic, and even scheduled follow-up calls to discuss them.

This type of kindness happens all the time at Acxiom, and I always try to reciprocate the generosity I’ve personally received to others when they ask for my help.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

Insecurities are definitely something I’ve battled with, at least until I was in my early 30s. But I think this is quite normal! When you are young, you often feel insecure and anxious when you’re the only person suggesting a certain opinion in a meeting, or when someone copies multiple people, including your manager, into an email to tell you something. However, over the years, I’ve learned not to take things personally. They are just doing their job after all, and they most likely have a valid reason for doing what they need to do.

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology?

It may sound obvious but the best place to start is to know exactly what your career goal is. Ask yourself, what brings you joy and fulfilment? If it’s joining the C-suite, you might want to increase networking opportunities, change employers and roles regularly, and gain overseas work experience. On the other hand, if you’re motivated by a brilliant business idea, I’d urge you to just go for it! Today, there are many grants that are specifically designed to help entrepreneurial women succeed.

Another piece of advice… sleep well, and be consistent with this every night. Acxiom’s global gender equity program, WomenLEAD, recently organised a seminar on burnout prevention. The highly sought-after neurology specialist eloquently explained that women are more prone to mental stress due to social expectations. On top of working full time, the bulk of the workload of caring for children and elders, as well as household chores, are still expected to be carried out by women, so a good night’s sleep is a must!

To build a great career, your body needs to be properly rejuvenated. This can be achieved by a quick stretch before bed, or by sipping a glass of water. But the most important thing is to keep your smartphone or tablet away from the bedroom, so you have no screen time in the one hour before you fall asleep. Try that for a week and (trust me) you’ll find yourself starting up your mornings thoroughly refreshed, ready to enjoy another lovely day – at work!

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