Test and Learn: Data4’s Marketing Head Youmna Malak on Growing Data Centre Branding

When she joined European data centre operator Data4 in 2018 as Group Marketing and Communication Director, Youmna Malak was assigned a triple objective mission: optimise strategic marketing actions, promote the brand and improve its reputation in France and abroad.

Just over four years later, the company has grown to be one of Europe’s largest data centre brands born on the continent, with current expansion CAPEX in the high norths of nine figures. 

Youmna joined Data4 from Kwanko, where she was Marketing and Communication Director. Having started her career as a marketing manager at Vivendi’s telecoms division, she then joined Colt managing an indirect sales network and telecom-related marketing. Youmna was then appointed as Marketing Manager at Webhelp in 2008 until she joined Kwanko in 2011. Youmna holds a degree from l’Institut Supérieur du Commerce.

In this conversation with JSA’s Media Consultant João Marques Lima, Youmna shares her career journey over the years, the lessons, the achievements as well as how data centre marketing is changing.


JML: Tell us about you and your journey. How did you get involved with the data centre world?

YM: I started my career in the telecom industry when the liberalisation of the sector offered great opportunities to young graduates. Then, with the rise of online marketing tools, I became aware of the importance of digital in the marketing business, and I spent seven years in an online advertising company, which allowed me to acquire an expertise in digital marketing and related tools. 

A few years ago, with the exponential growth of the volume of data produced and the criticality of data centres as pillars of the digital world, I had the opportunity to return to my original sector. A data centre without connectivity is not a real data centre, so the bridge between telecom and IT was natural. Today, with the importance of sustainability stakes in the industry, I am happy to be able to contribute to raising awareness of the environmental issues in the IT sector. 


JML: Do you feel you have had to work harder than male colleagues to advance your career?

YM: First of all, marketing is traditionally a rather female sector. But it is true that marketing in IT can be quite technical and I was lucky enough to work with male teams who were very supportive, educational and always had a constructive approach. 

As far as I am concerned, I cannot say that I was handicapped by the fact of being a woman, but the challenge was more about evangelising on the role and added value of marketing and communication in a sector with a strong technical component. 

On the other hand, I must say that on the technical side, the women I work with generally have to fight to prove their skills and impose themselves in a world where they are taken by default for the assistants of the technical director.


JML: What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

YM: Definitely “test and learn”, which is the basis of effective marketing.


JML: What do you do in your current role?

YM: I manage the Marketing and Communication department of the Data4 Group. As such, I define the company’s positioning, its identity, and promote new services and campuses. 

For me, marketing is definitely a key business partner to acquire new customers, retain them and offer them a truly differentiating user experience.


JML: How do you keep up to date with marketing trends and what is your trend to watch?

YM: I attend trade shows and conferences on marketing trends and the data centre industry. I regularly meet agencies and innovative start-ups, I subscribe to several specialised newsletters (including The Tech Capital of course). 

I am also a member of CMIT, a French association of IT marketing managers who are on the lookout for new trends and LinkedIn is obviously an inexhaustible source of information on the IT and data centre industry as well as on new marketing trends.

JML: How has data centre marketing changed in recent years?

YM: The messages were initially quite technical. While arguments around quality of service are still essential, communication is now much more focused on smart, value-added services, and sustainability is no longer an option.


JML: What makes up a good marketing campaign in this post-Covid period?

YM: I believe it is still the same ingredients than before. You have to empathise with your target, address their concerns, demonstrate how you can make their lives easier, and as always test, test, test.


JML: What three skills would you say are crucial to your role? 

YM: Be customer-centric, listen to your internal and external customers, understand their problems. You also have to be business-oriented, carefully measure the performance of your actions. And lastly, constantly question yourself and adapt to an ever-changing environment.

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