Leaders’ Insights: Ian Dodson, Digital Marketing Institute

6 May 2016

Ian Dodson is the co-founder and director of the Digital Marketing Institute.

Founded in 2008 by Ian Dodson and Anthony Quigley, the Digital Marketing Institute has developed a global certification standard in digital marketing education. To date, more than 15,000 people in 80 countries have graduated with a DMI qualification.

Dodson is an advocate for education and digital literacy and he recently put pen to paper to write a book about The Art of Digital Marketing.

Describe your role and what you do.

I founded the Digital Marketing Institute in 2008 with long-time business partner Anthony Quigley. While our CEO, Ken Fitzpatrick, concentrates on day-to-day operations, Anthony and I focus on the more strategic aspects of the business, helping to improve and increase the quality and reach of our certification programmes. This has resulted in our certification now being available in 80 countries around the world – something we’re extremely proud of.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

Two key thoughts have emerged as we’ve built this business.

The first is to regularly ask: “What does the business need?” The answers tend to drive our short, medium and long-term goals. It helps us move in the right strategic direction and ensures that the big picture informs our everyday decisions. We’re fine with the odd detour, as long as we see a path back towards the core business goal of continuing to be the global standard in digital marketing certification.

Secondly, having been involved in various businesses and companies over the years, I feel that the key to personal success is knowing your own strengths in business and getting the chance to exercise them. For many years, I knew what these were but, for various reasons, didn’t have many opportunities to operate in those areas. Now that I can, I see a remarkable difference in the energy I can bring to my role in the Digital Marketing Institute. We apply this to everyone who works with us and try, as much as possible, to give them the opportunity to exercise the skills and talents they excel in. It makes for a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience for everyone.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

Our greatest challenge as a business is not taking advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of us, and falling short of what’s possible. We can’t control our competitors or the marketplace, so we choose to focus on what we can control, which is to create the strongest digital marketing programmes and partner with the most reputable colleges and universities, as well as delivering a top-class online experience for students who come to us directly.

‘I don’t believe in mistakes’

What are the key industry opportunities youre capitalising on?

As consumers, digital has transformed every aspect of our lives, yet many businesses are still lagging behind their customers regarding their approach to and knowledge of digital marketing. We work with the digital industry to codify a set of standard certifications that students, colleges and employers can use to gain industry-validated certification in digital marketing.

Our opportunity is both to disrupt and activate the existing distribution channels within the global education field. Colleges across the world teach our courses, with testing provided by Pearson Vue test centres, the global computer-based testing leader, meaning DMI exams can now be taken in over 180 countries worldwide. Most recently, Wiley, the leading global academic publisher, has published the first of our textbooks for our Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing. It’s called The Art of Digital Marketing and is a step-by-step guide to building a digital marketing campaign.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

We were ambitious enough to think that a small Irish company could define a global certification standard for digital marketing. Why? Because no one else had done it yet, and we had the industry know-how and passion to realise it.

‘Breaking the gender stereotyping within STEM will involve a broader look at gender within society’

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I don’t believe in mistakes. There are the decisions you make with the information you have to hand and you always try to make the best one. Hindsight is a luxury you neither have nor can afford. It only leads to regrets and second-guessing yourself. The idea that there are mistakes in business suggests that there is a perfect path or a perfect approach when there isn’t.

How do you get the best out of your team?

At the risk of trotting out a list of clichés – hire people who know what they’re good at and give them the chance to do it. Give people as much autonomy as possible and back them in their decisions when they’re right. If you delegate what is done, you also have to delegate how it’s done.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and whats needed to effect change?

In a sense, you can’t criticise the cake without looking at the ingredients. Lamenting the lack of diversity in the STEM sector means going right back to how we teach in schools from day one of a child’s education. We must look at how we teach them pedagogically speaking and what gender emphasis we place on particular topics or subjects. Kids are influenced by their parents, peers, teachers and their environment. Gender stereotypes exist within all of these. Breaking the gender stereotyping within STEM will involve a broader look at gender within society.

Who is your business hero and why?

I treat any ‘wisdom’ from business heroes with a grain of salt, as they tend to downplay the influence of blind luck. I believe you control some factors in business but there are many you don’t. If you take the credit for the success, you have to take the blame for the failure.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I avoid business books and gravitate towards ones about people and human psychology.

My recommendations would be: Light Years by James Salter; The Joke by Milan Kundera and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

My five-year-old daughter, who exerts the gravitational pull of a planet and is the one thing that eases my escape from the ever-present iPhone and one more email!