Meet Arnold Macauley, Chief Product Officer and Co-Owner at Nansen and Self-Described “Petrol Head”

Meet Arnold Macauley, Chief Product Officer and Co-Owner at Nansen and Self-Described “Petrol Head”

As the Chief Product Officer and Co-Owner at Nansen, partner Arnold Macauley holds a fair amount of sway over the agency’s current and future direction. His vision for Nansen draws on what he sees as the company’s greatest strength: building true relationships with customers that help generate innovation and success.

What's your career background? Where were you before Nansen?

I come from a development background; I was a developer for many, many years. I don't think anyone at the team would let me near a keyboard now. But yeah, I definitely still enjoy tinkering and playing around.

I started off working for the police force in the UK. We were building native systems. Then I moved from more applications-based to web, and was working with them on a lot of web portals that facilitated how the force did their work. From there, I actually jumped across to the agency world, with my first role being in the public sector, still helping the police force. This was where I got exposed to Episerver. One of the first applications I built with Epi was something similar to Facebook for the police. Essentially a social network for the police force across the UK used for internal communication.

From there, I took the next step and was working for a number of well known agencies such as Digitas, LBI, and a few others. I then transitioned into contracting which I really enjoyed due to the exposure you get from working with different companies and people. This is where I came across Nansen in 2013.

It was just such a cool environment. Very different from anywhere I’d worked in the past. I never thought I was going to go permanent again but given what a creative and employee-centric company Nansen was proving to be, I took the jump and haven’t looked back since. I worked in their UK office and then transitioned over to Chicago.

At Nansen, what was your journey to your current role?

In Chicago, my role changed slightly. So rather than doing the actual hands-on development, I was focused more on the delivery of projects—how we deliver projects for our clients, faster, whilst maintaining our high quality standards. The end goal was to make this into a repeatable process that could be used as a framework for other projects in the future. That was my initial role.

From there, I transitioned into the role that I'm in now, which is working with the team to help our clients understand what tools or solutions they need from a technology perspective to help improve their overall CX (Customer Experience). I think that is the easiest way to describe it.

You’re an Episerver MVP. What’s that process like?

Indeed, there are two MVP tracks: there's a strategy MVP and then a technical MVP. The technical side is more about doing the actual implementation and best practices and coming up with new solutions that can be put back into the platform. I was on the strategic track, focused on helping educate the Episerver community, but also clients and others, on how they can utilize Epi from a strategic perspective to achieve the goals that they were looking for. I also shared thoughts to help enhance the platform. 

I was very honored to be categorized as an EMVP. A lot of work went into making sure I could get onto the list and everyone in the community is super smart. There's a lot of imposter syndrome at points, which is reassurance you are with a bunch of inspiring and talented people.

What do you think is unique about Nansen's work?

I would say it's the relationships we have when delivering the work with our clients. I think that's one of the things that drew me to Nansen initially: not just the relationship between the team itself, but also the fact that we can transfer the uniqueness of our relationship to our clients, I feel that is very rare. 

It's not just camaraderie, but that is certainly part of it. We're all striving together to achieve the same goal. And because we have these meaningful relationships with our clients and with each other, I think it does build the most impactful work, which is our mission. I think once you've got that trust, you are able to then take some of the more innovative approaches and push the boundaries of what's possible in terms of innovation. I feel that's really where the magic happens.

What are some recent Nansen projects that you're particularly proud of?

There’s one recent project that I'm really proud of. I think it comes back to that relationship piece: about talking to the client about utilizing Episerver for part of their headless implementation. In terms of their roadmap, they didn't have any of that flexibility of having a CMS to help manage their content. So, talking to the client about the opportunity to be able to add this and seeing the benefits that it brought was super powerful in terms of the end result.

And we now know we've won, or they have won, an award. So the fact that we were able to come in with the idea, lead the presentation and the thought behind it, get acceptance from the client, then take it through to fruition, and have that out in the world with end users using it, as well as the external recognition for that effort—that's something that we are definitely proud of.

Nansen has a policy where employees can spend four hours a week working on a side project. Are there any of yours that you’d like to share?

I've got two that I'm working on at the moment. One, I've called it "who is". With everyone working remotely, in our team's communication tool Slack, we brought a Slack add-on so that people can message the Slack bot, which then collates those messages. You are then able to see, by typing "who is," a list of who is either in the office or working from home and whether they're online or off at that point in time. So it offers just a nice quick overview. 

Have you been able to apply something you learned in a side project to a client project?

One of the things we were working on is what we called Nansen Preview. It was something one of the old colleagues of mine wrote, meant for internal purposes, that we could use to preview clients' work. And then, I was screen sharing one time and the client saw the pieces that we were using for that, and noticed the ability to be able to see different designs and examples. It then got pulled into the actual clients' project as well. So they were able to utilize that same piece, but for case examples that they had on their site.

As a partner at Nansen, what excites you about the future of the company?

In terms of the actual work, I want to try to continue to build on the customer experience. It's more than just the website—so really trying to utilize our tools and our expertise across other areas of the customer journey, whether that be an app or something to support the sales team when they are potentially speaking to another customer. Is it a dashboard that can be inside of a warehouse that's going to provide up to date information? Those are the things that are really exciting. We're building not just the web, but actually looking at products and services that can enhance the overall customer's journey.

And I think that part and parcel of expanding into that realm from the actual work that the team will be doing, from a cultural perspective it's going to bring in much more exciting projects for us to work on. It actually could be physical things that we could see or just very interesting projects that could excite the team. And as I mentioned, that almost circles back to enhancing the relationships when we can all rally around a new project or exciting goal or something that we've achieved together as a team.

Outside of work, what do you like to do?

I am a huge petrol head. I'm not sure if that term translates into the US. But anything to do with driving and racing is my passion and hobby. I used to race go-karts with a 125cc 2 stroke engine which can do 75mph. I’ve been a fan of Formula One since I was 5 years old and never miss a race on TV. I'm a huge Mercedes fan.

What initially got me into [Formula 1] was how they were using technology to push the boundaries of innovation. I think it was 1993 when the Williams F1 team introduced a car that could essentially drive itself. The car was ahead of its time because it included a number of onboard computer systems. I remember watching as the engineers connected about 3 or 4 different laptops, with a number of engineers huddled round each laptop, and this was just to start the car! I remember watching their demonstration of one of their features which was called “active suspension”. It was linked to a button on the steering wheel that would lower the car to eliminate the drag and increase the top speed. When they released this in 1993, watching what the engineers had envisioned actually come to fruition on the racetrack, is honestly what got me hooked.

That level of innovation to really break the boundaries of what's possible is what this is all about right?