The Authors

Meet the authors
Richard Lees and Azlan Raj

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Getting a taste of the book from Richard Lees and Azlan Raj

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Richard Lees

Chief Strategy Officer, Merkle EMEA

Richard Lees is Chief Strategy Officer for Merkle and dentsu’s EMEA Customer Experience Management service line. His remit sits at the intersection of customer experience strategy, measuring what matters, omnichannel architecture and organisation transformation, to enable businesses to capitalise on the total customer experience. He plays a key thought leadership role that underpins the strategic and competitive positioning of the Merkle business across EMEA, and works collaboratively across both Merkle and dentsu to deliver this. Prior to this role, Richard was the CEO and co-founder of DBG, a marketing and technology consultancy that was acquired by Merkle in 2016.
Richard has spent more than 30 years applying data to solve a multitude of business challenges. In this time, he has been a founding partner of, grown, and sold two successful businesses, both of which focused on using data, technology and insights to optimise cross-channel customer communications. Working both on the client side and in his own businesses, Richard has had profound hands-on experience across myriad technology, data, analytics, decisioning, experience, strategy, and communications disciplines. He has been a regular speaker at numerous global industry events, a regular contributor to mainstream publications and was recognised in DataIQ’s top 100 list for the most influential data and analytics practitioners.
Richard plays an active role in the execution of Merkle’s DEI initiatives, leading the Lived Experience pillar, which is tasked with improving the daily experiences of our ethnic minority colleagues’ lives. He is passionate about the power of diverse collaboration and the compound value of the shared know-how and experience of all our people.
Richard Lees
Azlan Raj

AZLAN RAJ

Chief Marketing Officer, Merkle EMEA

Azlan Raj is the Chief Marketing Officer for Merkle and dentsu’s EMEA Customer Experience Management service line. His role spans all dentsu capabilities across commerce, data and technology platforms, analytics, media, customer experience, content and B2B. He is responsible for continually evolving Merkle and dentsu’s leading digital and data capabilities across the region to drive customer experience transformation for clients, helping them find the balance in blending brand and data through their customer experience. Previously the EMEA leader for Merkle’s customer experience capability, he built the company’s regional capability to over 1,200 people in just three years to help global brands transform their organisations to deliver more personal and data-fuelled customer experiences.
With over 20 years of experience in the digital industry, prior to joining Merkle, Azlan worked for leading brands, agencies and consultancies, including Barclaycard, Publicis Sapient, and Accenture. Through his career, Azlan has been part of award-winning teams and led a diverse set of capabilities from marketing strategy through to analytics, website design and development, and marketing activation. He is a recognised thought leader writing for mainstream publications and presenting at leading industry events including Forbes, Campaign, The Drum, PerformanceIN, Adobe Summit and Econsultancy, and is a member of the renowned Forbes Communications Council and Data & Marketing Association (DMA) customer engagement committee.
Azlan is also passionate about the industry’s efforts in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) space. He is actively involved in supporting Merkle’s DEI pillars, and is especially committed to ensuring that inclusivity and social responsibility are embedded into today’s communications.
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    Rich’s take on Az

    Az is from that rare group of people who excel at everything they do, accumulating learnings and experiences along the way, making him one of the most engaging storytellers I have had the pleasure of working with. He has an insatiable curiosity, fuelling a unique ability to balance art and science, and on top of all of this, still be a family man, putting the people in his life first.
    “Dreams are born in our heads, but they are forged in the fire of experience” – Carol Tice
    We have combined our respective strengths on this project, and given Az the freedom to use his superpower – simplifying the complex, which in trying to synthesise ideas and content across such a multifaceted topic has been essential.
    One of my favourite quotes has always been “it’s never crowded on the extra mile” and I have found through this process that Az lives right out there! Never was a hurdle too high, or a time Az wasn’t totally focused on our goal.
    “Together” would be my simple summary of what the journey has been like. We have learned and grown through what has been a fun and fulfilling process, and I hope this is only the first edition!

    AZ'S TAKE ON RICH

    Growing up in South Africa and moving to the UK, Rich had a diverse lifestyle which started as a curious young boy who would burn leaves through a magnifying glass at school, to learning discipline and structure through his mandatory service in the army, through to having his supportive family around him today. All of which contribute to the way that Rich thinks, acts and draws on his experiences.
    Rich has some unique talents including an amazing ability to draw (and write) upside down whilst simultaneously explaining something, but I’ve had visibility of his superpower in full flight through our time working on “Shift”: his brain. It works like lightning in a bottle; one spark can set off a series of thoughts that are processed at the speed of light. It’s incredible to watch.
    If I were to reference our pyramid approach in this book and try to describe Rich in three words, they would be (super) smart, humble and empathetic. Individually they are all great traits, but pulling them together, I can only describe as the intersection of genius; and Rich, in my view, is one of the best thought leaders in our industry with an unparalleled passion for helping businesses to turn motion into progress.
    At a time when everyone has had their fair share of ups and downs, writing “Shift” has been one of my favourite memories, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed and feel incredibly honoured to have worked with Rich on this book.