I interview Mr Stu Garrow, Senior Vice President of Sales and General Manager Asia Pacific at Talend, to get his views on management, leadership, and his take on fake news.
Mr Stu Garrow (left) at Talend Engage 2020 conference in New Orleans.
With over 25 years of experience in various data integration and software companies, Mr Stu Garrow is very experienced when it comes to developing high performing teams and developing alliances strategy. He also serves as a business mentor helping various social entrepreneurs in the areas of business as well as innovation.
Talend is reputed for being a leader in cloud data integration and data integrity. Their software is frequently used to transform businesses and companies with data. They have teams globally and in Asia Pacific, Mr Garrow joined Talend in January 2019 as its Senior Vice President of Sales as well as General Manager, Asia Pacific.
I ask Mr Garrow on his views on various topics ranging from his take on fake news and on management and leadership.
Sadie-Jane Nunis (SJN): There is a constant debate that management and leadership are different. What are your thoughts?
Mr Stu Garrow (SG): I would totally agree. I think leadership is very much about setting a vision and a direction of where you need to go and what you need to do. It is based on the projections of growth. Management is the execution steps to get there. You need both in a successful organisation—you need great leadership and great management. However, I do not necessarily think they are the same thing.
SJN: What is your management or leadership style like?
SG: My leadership style is certainly looking at the bigger picture—trying to set people a longer-term goal, seeing a bigger vision of the outcome of where we want people to get to. I think it is based not only on where the company wants to get to but also making sure the long-term career of an individual−being able to articulate how I see them in their career, their job over the next 1 to 2 to 4 years as we head towards that bigger journey.
SJN: What strengths should an effective leader have?
SG: An effective leader needs to be able to inspire people. First and foremost, some form of presentation skills is needed to be a great presenter and storyteller. Storytelling is a very key so people can relate to the story, the journey and the direction that you are going. I do think you need to be able to create a vision for yourself, your team and the company. An effective leader needs to be able to inspire people and being able to present and articulate that in a way that people would understand and would inspire them.
SJN: How do you stay motivated?
SG: I am very self-motivated. I do not necessarily need accolades from others. I set my own long-term goals, the way I would do for those that work as part of my team, and I tend to drive in a very focussed direction to head in the direction that I want to go. I personally love the challenge of change, and I love the complexity—it is simply solving each problem one by one. Therefore, that is certainly what motivates me and gets me up in the morning.
SJN: How big is your team and how do you manage and motivate your team?
SG: The total APAC team for Talend is about 244 people, plus or minus a little bit, across 11 countries in Asia Pacific. Not all of those reports directly into me. The way I try to motivate people is through regular communication. We really try to set that vision from the start of the year. In addition, on a weekly basis, we guide our people back to that bigger vision and their respective goals through regular communication. Another a great way to motivate people is certainly leading by example. As leaders, we should be prepared to step in the shoes of our team members to guide them and enable them to improve as well as enhance their skills.
SJN: When and why did you join Talend?
SG: I joined Talend a year ago when Talend was looking for a leader to manage the business in the APAC region. Prior to joining Talend, I spent six years in my previous company and saw it through from the early stages as a start-up company all way until the company went for IPO and so on. I managed to successfully achieve the goals and visions that I had set for that company so when the opportunity with Talend came along, I knew that this was a new challenge that I wanted to take on. Talend is operating in a very important space which is the world of data and that has become a key businesses component for almost every company in the region. Furthermore, Talend is currently going through a rapid growth phase and the transition that is taking place is an incredibly exciting time for me and I feel very privileged to be a part of this company.
SJN: Any personal favourite projects that have come out from your time with Talend?
SG: I think it is really changing the way we sell. As we really move to outcome-based, everything is based on customer outcomes. Moreover, in many cases, those larger outcomes and engagement with executives, we are no longer just a project level sale; it is very much an executive and an organisational level sale. Driving that transformation in the way that we sell and where we engage and how we deliver those outcomes at a whole new level and scale for me is probably been some of the proudest things. The other one would be really raising the bar in how we recruit and the amazing people that we have been able to bring into the business to continuously raise the bar and the calibre of the team as we get bigger and bigger.
SJN: What are your views on fake news?
SG: You see fake news day to day. According to research firm Gartner Inc., in 2022, the majority of individuals living in developed economies will consume more distorted information than reliable information. The confusion and the noise that fake news creates—it creates distrust. I think everybody today wants to be able to trust, whether it is trusting their people, trusting their data, trusting their use. The loss of trust is incredibly damaging across the organisations that are impacted by this. And, that is just simply sad—that we become paranoid as a society that.
We begin to question if we can really trust the information that were being given when the news was one of those things that people would traditionally have trusted.
SJN: What have some of the challenges faced by Talend pertaining to Fake News?
SG: Fake news is not limited to a few ill-intentioned individuals on social networks or agents of influence. The business world is not spared: rumours to influence stock prices, the trickery of results to bring new products to market. There is always misinformation in sort of the world of vendors that goes on but a lot of that is not the sort of fake news. We are more likely to be impacted by society-level fake news around. The current spread of the corona virus and things like that where people stop traveling, people wanting to walk away from meetings, they will not necessarily engage in the same way. And it is because some of that is very real and some of it is fake news. Nevertheless, if fake news makes it into the mainstream, it could certainly influence those kinds of scenarios for us.
SJN: What are some of the positive outcomes that have surfaced because of Talend’s attempts to counter fake news?
SG: At Talend, we know that data quality and governance is crucial because the use of distorted data effectively renders the analyses that are done with it worthless. The digital transformation is forcing companies to adopt such approaches, and to understand the types of data sources they ingest so that they can subsequently classify and evaluate the information. I know Talend has been used by a number of organisations as the data platform in order to scan and try to link information for automating the identification of fake news or at least finding a source of particular data. Talend is being a part of that from a customer journey, from the organisations that are trying to solve that problem. Certainly, people using machine learning and AI, using Talend’s platform to do it. I think that is probably the primary contribution that Talend has had enough space.
SJN: Based on your years of experience, what are some of the mistakes that the members of the public make pertaining to fake news?
SG: It is how quickly people are prepared to share. They will jump on and all of a sudden, they will share it with everybody because in their mind it was real. Then, failing to go back afterwards and take responsibility for sharing fake news. I think it is that lack of accountability, because I think everyone makes a mistake when you share something that you thought was real. However, when you find out it is not, you need to put your hand up and tell everybody, that it was not real. By doing that, it forces people to start and think twice to actually check and validate before they share again. Until we take that level of responsibility, we are always going to have some level of challenge.
SJN: Why do you think the members of the public are so easily deceived?
SG: The origins of fake news go back centuries. Throughout history, states or individuals have used propaganda and misinformation campaigns to influence public opinion. What is different today is how much easier it is to spread this kind of untruths. In many cases, people have grown up trusting the news as it was a source of a trusted source of information. In addition, we, as humans want to share bad or impacting news with other people. We have grown up trusting sources that we can no longer trust. It is a broad crisis of confidence that we have in our society today. Alternative realities are blurring peoples’ perception of what is real and what is fiction. Aside from not trusting the integrity of information they receive from organisations, they also do not fully trust what organisations do with the personal and sensitive data they gather on them.
SJN: What is your opinion on Singaporean companies’ ability to detect fake news?
SG: More and more companies have embarked on the fight against fake news, which is likely to cost them credibility and consequently their revenues, but I think it is still relatively low at this point. Companies now need to take new steps to control their data to ensure trust, transparency, and openness. The problem is that it is increasingly difficult to create trust in a world where everything is "data", where everything is accelerating, and where everyone can easily appropriate what’s "real" and take over the torch of trust with ads, programmed targeting, and fake news.
Providing the automated ways for people to validate is still in its infancy, and I think it is something that will have to continue to grow. I think Singapore better correct, in terms of how it uses technology to solve these kinds of problems. In general, the world is still relatively low on the scale of being able to deal with it at the speed at which it comes out, because we all have the ability to react to it eventually, but the damage is done and it is done so quickly when this is that kind of news comes out.
The trust factor is not something companies should take lightly—nor should they delay in building a data management strategy that helps build trust. The time to start is now.
It is, therefore, more than imperative for companies to implement a strategy focussed on data quality and governance in order to maintain their credibility with their customers but also with their partners.
SJN: Any advice for Singaporeans as to how to deal with fake news?
SG: Pause and think. It is just as critical for us as individual users to ensure that the information we read, and share comes from legitimate sources. It is really about thinking about the consequences if something is not what it seems. The human side of it is the hardest piece and the technology is always easy. People should always think about the consequences of spreading something that is not true and work backwards from there. We will be able to stop the spread of fake news once people take accountability and responsibility for their actions.
In this fight, even if technology can help, humans must remain the gatekeepers.
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