EVP & CDO
Sebastian Klapdor joined Vistaprint in 2019 as Chief Data Officer and has since embarked the company on an impressive transformation journey. His mission is to transform Vista – a 1.5bn tech company and world leader in mass customisation – into one of the world’s most iconic data and analytics driven companies.
He joined Vista from McKinsey, where he was a Partner and global leader in the Digital and Analytics space. During his 12 years at McKinsey, he led digital and data transformations and delivered digital products that helped clients across B2C and B2B to build capabilities that support their strategic goals.
As Vistaprint´s CDO, he is building out a global data and analytics (DnA) team building data products on a data mesh – worthy of the current and future potential of a fantastic business that enables small business owners to live their dreams.
He holds a PhD in Digital Marketing from the Technical University of Munich.
Learn more about leaders in the DACH CDAO community here.
Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.
After graduating from the Technical University of Munich, earning a Master’s in Computer Science and Quantitative Finance, I joined McKinsey. Early in my consulting career, I focused on commercial analytics in retail.
After returning from my PhD leave (Digital Marketing), I doubled down on the ‘new McKinsey,’ leading cross-functional teams with developers, data scientists, product managers, UX designers and – notably – strategy consultants to jointly build ‘minimum loveable products’ – one of my favorite concepts. These helped solve customer and business problems with tech and data. Subsequently, I took the same cross-functional approach at Vista, where we built a new dynamic pricing model.
Later, I received an offer to build a state-of-the-art data and analytics team for a global 1.5bn tech player. I could not resist, and jumped on the opportunity, becoming Vista’s first Chief Data Officer.
What is one of your guiding leadership principles?
Driving lasting value for our customers and business. While we often lack the foundations to drive value from data at scale, I encourage my teams to show the tangible value of their products within the first increment – after a few weeks/months – ideally through an AB test.
One of the first initiatives I took as new CDO at Vista was to work alongside Finance to define an impact measurement framework, allowing us to quantify the value of our work. This gave great impetus to unlocking continuous investment in the Data team, which we were able to grow from 120 to 320 colleagues over the last 2 years. Notably, this has continued to generate an annually recurring incremental profit, at multiple times the Data team’s expense.
With disruption being a key theme of the past few years, where do you see your role as a CDAO going in the next 1-2 years?
From the moment I joined Vista, we greatly disrupted our approach to data. While founding the Data and Analytics team, I doubled down on the concept of data as a product. From day one, we transitioned from a monolithic approach to data (with an on-premises DWH and a central BI team), to one of end-to-end feature teams, distributed across multiple domains – and who live and breathe the business context.
Another notable disruption to data – again, very early in the industry – was to take the practice of product management from the tech and software engineering space, and apply this to data. Currently, we have over 25 cross-functional data product teams, with over 100 products. All of this is supported by the data mesh architecture.
Moving forward, I want to double down on these foundations, enabling our teams to build even more iconic AI/ML-based data products to fuel our customer experience and internal processes, scaling our impact exponentially. I’m very excited!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the role as a CDAO?
Three pieces of advice:
- Focus on generating and proving value from day one.
- Double down on the concept of data as a product, to make it scale.
- Ensure a healthy mix of products. This mix should include products used by humans, and thus require data literacy (which takes time to build), as well as products that fully automate decision processes with models, and are merely supervised by humans.
Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself.
- When I was a young consultant at McKinsey, I was advised many times not to use my short first name, ‘Basti.’ However, this has been my name ever since I can remember, and it matches my personality far better. I’m grateful that I always pushed back and stayed authentic, staying true to the person I am while at work.
- I love flying planes and usually organise team events around flying somewhere in a Cessna 172. I’m incredibly proud that so far, none of my colleagues have thrown up. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for some family members, who also joined us on these trips.
- During Covid, I created a remote-first band called ‘Double Helix,’ paying homage to my team’s name, ‘DnA,’ at Vista. So far, we have performed 3 songs with over 30 colleagues playing instruments and singing. We are currently recording our next song, and I’m very much looking forward to it. This is one of many small things that go a long way in creating culture in a remote-first environment.
What is the value of participating in a professional community through Evanta?
Participating in a professional community through Evanta has allowed me to build up a network of fellow data professionals. I’m able to hear about their approaches to driving value from data, jointly bouncing ideas in interactive calls.
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