Leaders’ Insights: Cronan McNamara, Creme Global

14 Sep 2015

Cronan McNamara, Creme Global

Our Leaders’ Insights column today comes from Cronan McNamara, CEO of Creme Global. The Dublin-based company develops cloud-based software applications for exposure assessment and predictive intake modelling of food, nutrients, cosmetics, personal care products and their ingredients or formulations.

The company will this week bring together more than 40 Irish and international speakers for the Predict Conference where it will reveal how data and predictive analytics are changing the nature of decision making.

Describe your role and what you do.

I am the CEO and founder of Creme Global. My role involves a balance of high-level company vision and strategy combined with hands-on product development, marketing, finance and business development.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

Future Human

My daily routine revolves around customer outreach, product research and development, and finance. I try to centralise business information with dashboards that are built on strong project management processes. I am surrounded by a great team whom I can trust to take care of the details, and so I get good data and insights on progress across departments.

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

The realisation of how data can transform a business or sector is really only happening now, especially for more traditional companies not born in the web. Predictive Analytics is a subset of the world of data so we spend a lot of our time evangelising and explaining our message.  On the positive side, we are passionate about data and analytics and public relations efforts like newsletters, blog posts, social media and the Predict Conference are symbiotic.

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Companies are now competing on the back of data and the volume of information produced is rising astronomically. Our expertise and opportunity is in the area of making sense of all this information by processing, analysing and managing the data in a collaborative cloud-based environment. Our centralised technology and specialised team enables us to produce high-quality results more rapidly than any other solutions in the market.

Traditional businesses are only now learning about the power of data analytics, which opens up an enormous opportunity for us. The main reason we are running the Predict Conference in the RDS this month (15-17 September) is to expand our horizons and understand the broader business opportunity for predictive analytics across sectors.

There is a real shortage of data science talent available to companies – which is an opportunity for us to help them fill that gap with smarter solutions provided by us.

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

I have always enjoyed maths, science and technology and I can recall enjoying building things right from my early childhood. In college, I got interested in computing and I knew this was the area where I wanted to work. Working with computational models showed me that you could solve big and interesting problems using data and simulation, which I found fascinating, and I haven’t looked back since. I got into business, rather than staying in research, as I felt that was the best way for my work to have an impact and to build things that people really need and that will solve important problems for organisations.

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

I think introducing experienced managers and implementing better management processes earlier would have relieved growing pains in the organisation in our early-mid years. In those days, money was tight, so I took the view that we couldn’t afford it. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to invest in that type of talent sooner. Also, I think you learn what you are good at and what you enjoy and you also learn what tasks drain you. It is important to hire people to fill in for the areas where you are weaker, so that you can spend your energy on the tasks you are good at and that you enjoy. If you try to do everything, you will do a bad job of the tasks that you don’t like and this will cause problems over time.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Recruiting and investing in the best talent is the starting point and making sure they understand and share the vision. It’s equally important to keep in touch with the workflow but let people get on with their jobs.

Once you get the right people in the job, it is easy to let them get on with it, because you build up trust quickly and easily.

On the other hand, if you are finding it difficult to trust a team member that reports to you to deliver with the quality you need, it may indicate that you don’t have the right person in the role, or that they need more training or guidance. For me, I find it best to have self-sufficient people reporting to me, as I find I don’t have enough time to really manage their day-to-day tasks.

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

I am a firm believer that diversity in teams brings unique insights and learning. We are lucky in Creme Global in having a multinational and almost equal male-to-female ratio in our team, which creates a unique, fun and collaborative culture. We try our best to offer family-friendly policies and flexibility for our team.

I feel that ‘Ireland Inc’ sheds a lot of talent by letting traditional work arrangements force experienced staff with family commitments out of the workplace.

Equal access to maternity and paternity benefits for parents should be introduced at a policy level by government in terms of maternity benefit, workplace rights, etc. Both parents should be able to access/share maternity benefits in whatever ratio they like.

Strong female role models that show that careers in STEM are attractive, exciting and accessible to women are key to encouraging more female participation in the sector — especially at school level.

Who is your business hero and why?

It has to be Elon Musk, because of his deep technology expertise combined with design flare, business acumen and, finally, his outrageous vision and ambition with his SpaceX, Telsa and Solar City ventures.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Built to Last by Collins and Porras. Some memorable concepts that have stuck with me in my business life are:

Reject the “Tyranny of the Or” and embrace the “Genius of the And” – which means that sometimes you have to live with and find a way to reconcile two contradictory ideas at the same time. Some companies may think “you can invest for the future OR do well in the short-term”, this is the tyranny of OR, I would rather figure out how we can invest for the future AND do well in the short-term.

Further concepts are “Preserve the core and stimulate progress” and “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”, which we are working on in Creme Global at the moment.

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

Out of the office I rely on my iPhone and iPad, but I do love my office (and home office) dual monitor desktop for getting hard work done. The real action for me is carried out on collaborative cloud-based tools like Google Docs, online CRM systems and our project management system JIRA.

I get insights and inspiration from everywhere, I travel a lot and enjoy design (product, graphic and engineering) and architecture. I like to read about the latest trends in technology and business on news aggregators like Zite on my iPad. I believe business opportunities can flow from the creativity to combine two (or more) things that you may not have thought would (or could) work together. Creme Global is testament to that with its unique combination of food science and nutrition with data science and cloud computing.

Data Science Week, with special coverage of this rapidly-growing field, will take place on Siliconrepublic.com from 28 September to 2 October 2015. Get updates by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic and the hashtag #DataScienceWeek on Twitter.