Nate Mayfield: when to check your tyre pressure

Speaking to Data Leaders across the world to better understand their journey to self-service analytics is a truly insightful element of my job. I get to talk to those that see small pockets of success in scaling a data culture and are learning how to best optimise that adoption behaviour and replicate it across the business. Easier said than done. 

In these conversations, I can quickly see that the journey to enterprise data ubiquity doesn’t really have an end. It’s a constant journey to better gain insight and drive efficiency across the business. Everyone is typically at their own unique stage of their data journey with a specific strategy in place to help get to the next phase of adoption across the workforce. 


Nate Mayfield Headshot


I was recently fortunate enough to speak with Nate Mayfield at Illumina, the coolest company you’ve never heard of. Illumina is the world’s leading DNA sequencing company. Its machines allow the genomes--the DNA code—of any living organism to be read so that the cause of a disease can be identified, or a new medicine can be developed to target a specific point in the code.  It was Illumina’s machines that first read the genome of the coronavirus, allowing others to make the right tests and vaccines to target the virus.  

Illumina’s data journey is at a key moment in time where self-service analytics continues to gain momentum across the organisation. Talking to Nate Mayfield, Global Head of Commercial Data and Analytics at Illumina who sets about with a simple mantra for 2021; giving the right information, to the right people at the right time. The idea behind this adoption strategy is rather than overwhelming users with endless access to data to mine through at their own convenience; it’s optimising information to each department in order to deliver relevant insight at the right time. 

By doing this, it intends to activate curiosity in the data for each user. Enough curiosity, to then ask further questions of the data. This method of tailoring information allows proving the value of data in a unique way specific to each user with data that is important to them and their role within the business. 


“When I’m driving, I don't randomly stop the car to check the tyre pressure when I think the time is right. The light on my dashboard tells me when I need to do that.”

Nate likens the process to driving. “When I’m driving, I don't randomly stop the car to check the tyre pressure when I think the time is right. The light on my dashboard tells me when I need to do that.” And that is exactly the process Nate and his team are looking to replicate with providing insight through data to the business. “How can we deliver timely and insightful ‘dashboard’ notifications to help peak the curiosity of each user on an individual basis?” 

To do this, Nate and the team worked together with various department heads to understand what information they needed to not just do their job but also better excel in their output on a user, team and department level. With this research, the Commercial Data and Analytics team were able to automate these data notifications to actively encourage business users to think more with data at the forefront. 

Now, users at Illumina are more informed about when they need to check their tyre pressure as Nate and team continue to help drive relevance and engagement on their data culture journey to self-service analytics.  

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