The Data Chief | Episode 45

Afterpay’s Nitish Mathew on Prioritizing Customer Needs, Balancing Governance and Freedom, and Giving Your Team Purpose

Nitish Mathew

Global Head of Data Engineering and Governance


Current EpisodeEP45: Afterpay’s Nitish Mathew on Prioritizing Customer Needs, Balancing Governance and Freedom, and Giving Your Team Purpose

Episode Overview

Over the last two years, Afterpay has more than doubled its consumer base from 7 million to 19 million by giving consumers more opportunities to make big-ticket purchases using its simple, pay-over-time platform. Their ever-growing success in the crowded payments market is what led the company to be acquired by Block, the parent company for such brands as Cash App, Square, and TIDAL. Now, as part of the Block family, Afterpay Senior Director of Data Engineering & Governance, Nitish Mathew has made the move to Cash App where his team’s mission is to enable data and platforms for everyone in the company. He joins The Data Chief to discuss measuring the impact of analytics, the rise of the analytics engineer, the importance of taking risks, and much more.

Key Moments

0:00 Changes for Afterpay and joining the Block family

4:10 High growth in the digital space

10:37 Changing user expectations and measuring the impact of analytics

12:50 Reframing KPIs to focus on stakeholder satisfaction

14:59 Applying product management principles to your work

19:32 Giving your team purpose

21:40 Analytics Engineer may be the hottest new role in tech

24:30 Creating a “walled garden” for business people to use and explore data

27:08 Defining team success in terms of impact

32:54 Taking risks and celebrating failures 

Key Takeaways

  • Stakeholder satisfaction is the ultimate KPI: When it comes to measuring analytics success, stakeholder satisfaction should be your key KPI. Start by understanding who your stakeholders are and then make a plan to regularly check in with them, such as through a quarterly NPS survey. If their needs are being met you’re on the right track. If not, you know where you need to refocus your energy.
  • Nothing inspires people like purpose: Teams thrive when they have a clear purpose to rally behind. The ability to grow, feel safe, and be happy are all rooted in a sense of feeling like you’re contributing real value to the rest of the organization. The more you invest in establishing a strong purpose and mission for your team, the more fulfilling their work will be.
  • Take risks and celebrate failures: As a technology leader, taking risks is a necessary part of the job. And you set the tone for the rest of the team. By empowering those around you to experiment and explore, you allow them to think more creatively about their work and come up with better solutions. 

Key Quotes

The cloud gets you the opportunity to understand your hardware and reduce costs. And then you spec up and down and use CEL elasticity effectively… You cannot take a data center mentality and transform it to the cloud. It doesn't work well.

People have gotten used to a Facebook page loading in 500 milliseconds. They expect complex analytical queries to come back in milliseconds. It pushes us to get creative. It's possible in many, many cases with some of the technology we have right now.

I think the key KPI should be satisfaction of your stakeholders. And you just measure it within NPS. You ask your stake, let's say you are analytics leader in a company, right? You need to first understand who are your stakeholders? Is it sales, marketing, security compliance? Who is it?

Product thinking is all about putting the customer in front. Asking them what is it they want, and then having customer needs drive your work.

I strongly believe security is a collective responsibility, and you get really good outcomes by providing tools, frameworks, providing guardrails monitoring, and also culture. You'll probably get more secure data by promoting really good security and privacy-focused culture in technology.


About Nitish

Nitish Mathew is the Global Head of Data Engineering and Governance at Afterpay. He built the engineering program that brings together data from 50+ sources and is the foundation for ther executive decision making, sales enablement, marketing campaigns, fraud monitoring, risk analytics, machine learning development, financial reporting etc. A graduate of College of Engineering, Trivandrum, and Pennsylvania State University, he has been working in Analytics, Business Intelligence, Technology Leadership and Data Platforms, across the US and Australia, since 2002.