In conversation with… Judith kleine Holthaus

In the spirit of Bill and Ted, Judith is most excellent.

She did great things in the Insights, Analytics & Strategy team at McDonald’s before leading the Insights and Analytics team at Whitbread. She’s now helping lead the workplace revolution at Fora as their Head of Data & Insight.

Outside of work, she’s crazy fit. She loves adventure and has been cycling all her life. She recently got the team at Whitbread to join her swimming the Channel for the charity Aspire.

We caught up with her recently between adventures…

What was your first-ever job?

Either English, Latin and maths tutoring, or working in a supermarket. I don’t quite remember which one came first. Both were great lessons for life.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with / go for a drink with?

I like meeting people, having a debate and learning and know a range of fascinating people that I enjoy drinks with, so I’m starting from a lucky base. If I could, I’d also love to meet Nelson Mandela. Simone de Beauvoir. Freddie Mercury. J.K. Rowling. Reinhard Messner. Emily Pankhurst. The Dalai Lama. Jeanne d’Arc… I’m also fascinated by how quickly things change. So, as an experiment, I’d love to meet my female ancestors going back consecutive generations and learning about their lives, thoughts, feelings, relationships and outlook on life.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

I’ve had a lot of fun so far, so can I name a few again…? Doing some cracking, solid work that drives good change and better decisions gets me out of bed. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few experiences like that. And I love developing people and have had moments when I’ve felt like I have made a difference. That is such a privilege. And finally, rather indulgently, winning a few awards, such as DataIQ’s data and analytics leader in 2018 or Marketing Week’s Insight & Market Research award with Listen + Learn. Very surreal but also very proud moments to remember when imposter syndrome kicks in.

Nature or nurture?

Both, but I worry more about nurture because that’s what I can influence.

Best advice you ever heard or received?

“If information was everything, we’d all have a six-pack”. Working in data and “facts”, that’s a great reminder of the value of human ingenuity, inspiration and energy.

What talent do you yearn for?

Mastering the art of words. I savour good writing and languages, so it’s a skill I greatly admire… Imagine the book I could write from meeting those ancestors…

What last impressed you at work?

My boss at Whitbread, Ben Carroll’s integrity and ability to motivate, back and develop people (while being mega sharp). You inevitably end up going the extra mile for him.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn? 

One lesson that might be helpful to talk about is the experience of being made redundant early in my career. As a young, self-reliant foreigner in expensive London during the financial crisis, that was scary. And as someone who liked to win, achieve and deliver, it was a sore experience. But it helped me gain perspective, build resilience and self-confidence in the long-run. If you are in that situation (ever!), please don’t feel afraid, keep doing what you love and smile. This, too, will be an opportunity.

What do you want to do when you retire?

Spend a lot of time with the people I love! And I can’t imagine not working or trying to progress something… I’m also pretty nosy, so I’ll probably still want to learn something new and will likely be searching for new experiences.


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