Meet our expert, Michael Saunders

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What do you like best about working at Target?

There are no barriers at Target. Regardless of your role within the organisation, your opinion is always considered. There are endless opportunities for ambitious individuals here. Such opportunities in other companies are usually locked behind closed doors with hefty requirements. If you think you can make an impact, you’re given the freedom to do that.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

My role is very conceptual. It challenges me every day to think outside the box. Root Cause Analysis isn’t limited to a scope. We’re encouraged to explore almost all aspects of the business from the way we design our communications, all the way through to the more technical aspects of our system capabilities.

What would you want someone to know coming into this role?

Leave your expectations on skillset at the door. You don’t have to be exceptionally gifted at statistical analysis. Equally you don’t have to be the fastest or the most knowledgeable with the technical system-based aspects. All of my colleagues bring their own skills and viewpoints. Together, we continue to achieve things that a few months prior were considered unachievable. If you like solving problems that haven’t been solved before, you’ll excel in this type of role.

What’s the most “memorable” project you’ve been on? What’s something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?

Back in 2018 I worked on our GDPR programme. The introduction of the GDPR regulation was the biggest privacy-focused regulation to come into place in the last 10 years. Nobody within the industry really knew what good looked like, there was a lot interpretation and theory-crafting that had to be done, all of which had a very strict deadline. A massive effort from everyone involved, spreading across every aspect of the business all with their own insights and points of view. A very engaging project and one that really showcased the culture of collaboration and ultimately, the belief we all had in each other.

What’s been the most challenging part of your role?

One of the primary objectives of the role is to identify issues. You have to be resilient and confident in your findings if you want to remain effective. It’s easy for an analyst to feel like they’re always pointing out negatives and get demotivated from the energy that can bring. Much like a fire-fighter or a paramedic, a lot of your day is going to be consumed by things that aren’t going the way they should be. It’s important to remember that every step you take is a step towards making it better for everyone, even if it takes a while to get there.

What motivates you to do what you do at Target?

Target operates a very diverse operation spanning across multiple markets and industries. It’s always interesting to be presented with challenges that are unique to certain areas. The lack of predictability makes the job very engaging. That feeling of satisfaction you get when you learn about something new can often be a daily occurrence here at Target.

What’s your go-to productivity trick?

I book my personal breaks in my calendar so I don’t get overwhelmed with invitations. Booking those breaks also helps me stay fresh and engaged. Much like going to the gym, that rest period in-between sets is important. Your brain is no different. Sometimes that 30 minute lunch away from the task is the key to resolving it.

In your opinion, what is a good customer experience?

Definitely getting things Right-First-Time. When I think of all the services I’ve used in my personal life such as my bank or my car insurance, the ones that have my loyalty are the ones which I rarely contact. I rarely have-to contact my bank, but when I do, my query is always answered there and then. I don’t need to call them back, and I’m never left with unanswered questions. I know I can rely on them. I can’t say the same for my internet service provider!

What are the values that drive you?

Definitely determination. I’m heavily influenced by those around me and I’m a big advocate for those who keep getting up and trying again regardless of failure. That drive to do something that you’ve tried so many times before is inspiring.

What does inspirational leadership look like for you?

Looking back at all the leaders I’ve worked with, I think the ones who inspire me the most are those who level-up the organisation hierarchy. I’ve always worked best with leaders who see their teams as horizontal instead of vertical. Every role is important and the playing field is level. They are often very approachable, and they are often the most engaged and knowledgeable in their field. They live and breathe their teams, day-in day-out.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I have so many I’d like to name here but ultimately the biggest influence on my professional career has to be Chris Thomas. A true leader, he had the buy-in of his entire team and most importantly he very much believed in the development of individuals. While working for Chris, not only did I notice my own professional development improve because of the opportunities he gave me, but most importantly he mirrored that with everyone he met. He had a real talent for bringing out the best in people. I’ve worked with so many talented colleagues that are in their positions now because of the encouragement they received while working with Chris.

What are some of your favourite hobbies outside of work? What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I’m a tech-enthusiast mixed with a sports fan. If I’m not out with friends enjoying the sun, I’ll most likely be looking up the specs of the newest Formula 1 car, or the specs of the newest Tesla.

What’s your ‘target’ in life/work?

I’m obsessed with learning new things. I enjoy breaking through meaningful milestones in my personal and professional development. You never really learn alone – guidance and mentorship is a big part of how we learn. Recently I’ve felt like it may be time for me to give back and help those around me to also achieve their goals in both their personal and professional development. I think my new goal is to focus on what I can do to help those around me to progress.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m not actually sure! My parents gave me the freedom to explore my passions and, despite both working in medicine, I was never pressured with expectations to follow in their footsteps. That being said, I’ve always had a sentimental attachment to our Armed Forces. So, if I had to lock-in a choice I’d probably say an Army Medic. Younger me probably thought that was the coolest job on the planet and I’d still say that would be pretty cool.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know I didn’t actually study technology at university – I studied Art. I’m part of that generation that grew up around the internet and the technology boom. That’s where I refined my technical ability, but academically I focused more on my creative skillset. But hey, at least my spreadsheets look pretty!

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?

I’d trade places with Virgil Abloh. He’s a Creative Director who has very strong technical ability but also has the vision of a creative eye. Anybody who knows me knows I’m very much a creative type despite working in a very technical role and environment. Virgil to me represents the pinnacle of both skillsets that are so often segregated. Also, he’s a very close friend of Kanye West. I can’t pass up on meeting him too!

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Immortality – I can’t even imagine what kind of tech we’ll have in 100 years. I’d rather live it than dream it.

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn

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