From Traffic Engineer to Group Vice President of Oracle Data Cloud with Kurt Kratchman


In episode two of Leading with Data, we speak to visionary and leading thinker in data-led decisions, Kurt Kratchman.

Kurt is Group Vice President of data giant, Oracle Data Cloud. He started out his career as a humble traffic engineer in New York City, “counting vehicles and people” to collect transportation data.

So, what has his journey looked like? Kurt joined Jason Dorsey on our Leading With Data podcast to share how he used data-led decisions to skyrocket his career and the knowledge and insight he’s learnt along the way.

Hit play on the player above or read on to find out more.

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How Kurt Became GVP at Oracle Data Cloud

After college, during his time as a traffic engineer, Kurt quickly learnt the importance of analyzing, processing, transferring, loading and enriching data in all its forms.

In an unlikely next step, he went to film school in Vancouver! Not to learn to make films and TV shows, but to really learn how to leverage the data that he was working with as a traffic engineer, and how to visualize it.

Working on early GPS technology, he discovered how to tell the story of data through visualizations – “this became the core of my career.”

So how did his career in data progress?

Kurt went through a lot of start-ups throughout his career. The first ten years were in professional services and the second ten years were around products and product development. Eventually, he got involved with a company called Grapeshot, a start-up out of Cambridge University, who recruited him to help them upscale.

Kurt was the COO of Grapeshot. At the time, Grapeshot were one of the only non-cookie technologies, meaning they didn’t use any tracking of personal information but could still crawl the internet and extract meaning from it (in over 100 different languages!).

This became critically important for Ad Tech companies particularly when regulations around tracking created demand for non-cookied data. Grapeshot’s value exploded and it was acquired by Oracle in 2018 – “that’s how I got into Oracle Data Cloud.”


What Makes Oracle Data Cloud Such an Exciting Company

The global success of Oracle Data Cloud cannot be overstated. Kurt says he knew the potential within the company was massive due to their philosophy, their approach and their broader capabilities.

The 40 billion dollar a year company is extremely strong in marketing and advertising technologies, having made over 100 acquisitions in the past decade, and continues to make huge waves in the data industry.

The company is starting to merge Ad Tech and Martech to create a super platform. With 400,000 customers, you can almost get to anyone you need to through Oracle.


Kurt’s Most Important Data-led Decisions

Kurt has made many data-led decisions throughout his career, but the most pivotal one for him was made during his time at Grapeshot.

Kurt explained that Grapeshot had an application that was horizontal enough it could be applied to any industry, but one of the most important decisions they made was to make it really vertical, in order to get the exponential valuation from the technology. In deciding to go vertical they solved a very specific problem in a particular industry.

Whilst Grapeshot had the ability to understand the context of any text on the Internet – written, audio or video – but Kurt knew applying this solely to one specific marketplace was the best way to go. Using data, Kurt identified the Ad Tech ecosystem was growing very strongly and that was the industry to focus on.

“By going into this one vertical marketplace we were able to accelerate our growth”.


An Unexpected By-product of Working with Data 

Oracle is the largest data marketplace in the world. They host peoples data and help them manage it; use it for segmentation, return on investment, measurement and analytics.

But Kurt reveals what many people don’t know about Oracle is that they also discover fraud.

The increase of automation and digital in our world has brought with it an underbelly of fraud. It’s likely that you or someone you know have experienced it yourself.

Oracle’s global footprint means they have the ability to discover fraud, which is a by-product of working with Oracle.

Kurt claims that fraud detection and prevention is one of the ways we can use data for good in the world.

“A lot of people don’t realize the role data plays in exposing fraud and it’s likely to solve a problem for a lot of businesses in some form.”


How Kurt Defines Effective Leadership in the Field

There’s no denying that Oracle is a leader in the data industry. But what makes it such an effective leader?

Kurt emphasized the importance of being mission-led. He believes that what makes Oracle an effective leader is the fact that the company’s first priority is being there for its customers and employees.

Supporting its customers through the recent pandemic and adapting with the times has also been key to Oracle’s sustained success, “we’ve helped our customers to migrate to new systems and to using systems that will help them to work remotely more effectively in the current times.”

You may not know the work Oracle produces supports governments, hospitals and payrolls systems.


A Prediction About the Future of Data and Business

Kurt predicts that the future of data-led decisions is bright, “my prediction is that prediction will become stronger, with stronger signals, and with better outcomes.”

Companies use fundamental analysis, technical analysis and quantitative analysis of data sets to make short and long-term predictions about their business and Kurt suggests this will only keep advancing.

Oracle uses data to build models and predict outcomes. We can use more data to keep progressing these methods of predictions and how accurate they are.

We need to consider – what is the specificity of the question being answered? How quickly can it be answered? How accurately can it be answered? How many resources need to go into the question to answer it? How often do the predictions need to be updated to retain value? The infrastructure and the technology are there, and they are advancing, in order to raise the bar on all of these parameters.

Kurt is positive that data is key in helping solve real world problems in the future.


Kurt’s Words to Live By

When asked to share some words that have helped him through his incredible career in data, Kurt highlights two phrases in particular.

“Those who set the agenda win the debate”. Kurt has used this quote to remind himself that having a clear agenda and staying on topic makes things more effective and helps get to the outcome that you want.

His other favorite quote is one Kurt picked up during his time in Kyoto, “ichi-go, ichi-e” which translates roughly as “one time, one chance”.

We’ll leave you with Kurt’s inspiring words when asked to expand on it’s meaning: “this one chance that we have, what are we going to do with it?”

We think that you should take this chance to go and listen to Kurt’s full interview on Leading with Data now!