Geek looking at data


Geek Of The Week: Mark Harrison

Jul 12, 2012, 12:51 PM by Jack DePoe
mark-harrison"The Relaxed

There are many titles that Mark Harrison, a Senior Client Advocate at Environics Analytics, could rightly claim, including Handy Man, Skipper and Detective. But the one moniker he thinks most apt is simply “relaxed guy.”

With over 20 years of experience in customer relationship management, Mark has held positions with such industry giants as AstraZeneca Canada, CIBC and American Express. His experience has given him special insight into the world of Canadian consumers. But he’s also managed to pick up a few other talents along the way.

A self-confessed handy man, Mark is not afraid to tackle any home repair job, from fixing a faulty circuit to completing a full roof renovation. “I’ve always been good at figuring out how to fix things,” says Mark. “So if there’s a project around the house or on the boat, I’m happy to teach myself how to do it and then get it done, rather than hiring someone else.”

Yes, a boat.  Mark keeps a 24-foot sailboat on Lake Ontario, which often serves as his retreat on summer weekends and warm weather holidays. He says he enjoys the feeling of being out on the water without any cares. And the fact that the boat is a bit of a fixer-upper is not a problem. In addition to his boat, he owns a cottage in Muskoka Lakes; another of his projects which allows him to tinker to his heart’s delight all while being out in the fresh air.

Of course, summer in Toronto could drive anyone to jump in a lake. But when the cold winds begin to blow, Mark takes his love of the outdoors to the mountains—or rather ski hills—of Ontario and beyond, where he can be found shushing both downhill and cross country. And while he enjoys his time away from Toronto, Mark is equally comfortable spending a Saturday afternoon in his in-town Urban Spice neighbourhood of Leslieville, walking around and enjoying the community’s amenities.

“It’s sort of like ‘CSI Miami,’ where you see the data up on those big screens and the officers are moving it around looking for the insights.”

In this vibrant East Toronto neighbourhood, Mark frequently participates in the activities at nearby Woodbine Park, which boasts a band shell for jazz festivals and other small concerts in the summer. At these events, he enjoys the diversity of his neighbourhood, with everyone from young families with children to seniors drawn to the lively setting.  Being close to the lake, the park is also a popular spot for watching the fireworks displays on Victoria Day and Canada Day. On those days, Mark likes to think of the pyrotechnics as his own personal celebration of a life built around hard work and occasional serendipity.

By making a decision long ago at American Express to focus on the data analytics side of marketing, Mark set in motion a series of events which have put him at the leading edge of marketing innovation in Canada. With his role offering data visualization services through user-interface dashboards, Mark helps clients extract insights from their large databases. He also sees data visualization as the future of analytics; as the volume of data continues to expand, the need for tools and technology to make sense of it all will grow as well.

“It’s sort of like ‘CSI Miami,’ where you see the data up on those big screens and the officers are moving it around looking for the insights,” Mark explains. “When they find something, it’s a ‘Eureka!’ moment, which is something I really enjoy experiencing with clients.  Of course, the tools and technology need to be there, but in the end you need the detective to solve the case using those insights.”

And Mark likes his role as detective solving clients’ business challenges through analytics. It’s a job that keeps him coming back in search of more data solutions every day. Mark may be the only relaxed handy-man-skipper-detective geek in the world, and EA is happy to have him.

–Jack DePoe