David Ahuja knows a thing or two about blazing a trail. A native of Belize, the only English-speaking country in Central America, he left home to attend college in the United States, earning a position at renowned corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G) straight out of college. For the past 22 years, he has worked his way up the ladder at P&G, with a special focus on IT, analytics, and digital marketing. His latest position—as associate director, global business services leader for P&G Walmart—precipitated a move from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he and his team work to deliver business intelligence, data, visualization, and analytics services and expertise to one of P&G’s most important vendor partners. We spoke to Ahuja about what he does and how business intelligence has become the hot topic of the 21st century.
Working in business intelligence puts you in a unique position. Describe what you do.
Within this business, I’m responsible for business intelligence and global shared services. In the IT world, global shared services is the trend from a few years back where big companies centralized a lot of common work and services, and use partners to deliver work. One piece of my responsibility is to make sure that, globally speaking, P&G Walmart has all the right infrastructure and services being delivered in a quality way. The other part of my job is in the area of business intelligence. Before moving to Fayetteville, I spent two and a half years leading our global business analytics team for North America and Latin America. At that time, we were starting to create that organization and design how business intelligence operates in the company. Now, my team and I help deliver business intelligence to Walmart and P&G Walmart.
The Career of David Ahuja
Moves to the United States from Belize.
Becomes a US citizen during a year that marks the 200th anniversary of the US Constitution.
Begins career at Procter & Gamble (P&G).
Takes a two-month break from work to spend time with his new baby daughter and help his wife transition back to her career. He calls it “one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Spends a year with P&G’s new-business development team researching lower-income consumers in the United States. Recommends that P&G develop special products to fit with retail strategy in the dollar channel. Several dollar-channel retailers are now top P&G customers.
Begins new role in global business-analysis organization, which then becomes the company’s business intelligence group. Also builds a home for an economically deprived family in Belize and installs the first computer lab in a San Pedro Village school.
Promoted to associate director, global business services leader for P&G Walmart.
How has your background prepared you for this position?
The time I spent working for P&G in Baltimore doing marketing analysis was a good stepping-stone toward the business intelligence work I’m doing today. I would also say that, over the 22 years I’ve been at P&G, I have had some really supportive and outstanding mentors and coaches who cared about my success, helped me be ready for the next position, and have become friends in the process. I do and have done the same for people on my team and people I’ve worked with in the past.
Growing up in another country, you really learn about diversity through a different lens. When I moved to the United States, I had to check my ethnicity on a government form. I was from Belize, so I was Belizean. That option wasn’t on the list, so I checked “other.” Ultimately, that led me to spend time developing diversity programs and making efforts to recruit more Hispanics and African-Americans to IT. I began to realize that diversity wasn’t just about ethnicity; it was about a different way of thinking, a different culture or environment, a different company. Leveraging diversity is about bringing people with different perspectives together so that we create more innovative solutions. Diversity is powerful when we learn to value and build on our differences to make great ideas even bigger and better.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you over-come them?
The biggest challenge throughout my career has been work-life balance. Early in my career, I was really striving for work, working to succeed, and then I had a family. And I got frustrated about work because I wanted to spend time with my family. People will fail at one of the two if they don’t figure out how to find the right balance.
I think we overdo it on the work side in the belief that the more time we spend at the office, the better it looks. If you get your work done and do it with excellence, I don’t care how you do it or where. Just get it done.
What do you like best about working in this industry?
I love the field of IT. Millions of jobs and people around the world need to use technology. It’s a part of our lives, and being part of that journey and seeing the evolution of technology has been amazing. Business intelligence is the hottest topic right now, and it’s really exciting to be in the hot-topic area in the industry.
If you had to share one piece of advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps, what would it be and why?
Invest in yourself to develop right skills. I believe in developing people skills because they’re so critical to being successful in life and in business. These skills allow me to talk to my business partners without having to wow them with what I know about technology.
The other thing I’d say is, “Never be satisfied.” If it seems too easy, it’s probably because you’re good at it. You need to put yourself in situations where you’re uncomfortable and you have something to learn. That’s my definition of growth.
A Message from Fractal Analytics:
Everyone knows the U.S. Hispanic population is growing in size (52 million people), in buying power (predicted $1.6 trillion in 2015), and in political clout. But everyone doesn’t know how to effectively reach and earn loyalty from this exploding market segment. FMCG companies are doing exactly that by finding new insights from Big Data analytics. We already know Hispanics tend to have larger households. When we measured when, how and where they shop, we found Hispanic families tend to be value shoppers, frequent “big box”, clubs and mass merchandising stores, and spend roughly 10% more than the average household. By mining and analyzing shopping patterns from stores and manufacturers we can learn how specific consumer segments behave, such as how they respond to promotions, seasonality, and what drives loyalty. Armed with unique insights, we can create new product or promotional strategies to win more business from Hispanic consumers.