Boss It Like...

How To Boss It Like… David Parkinson, Head of Digital for Africa, Middle East & India at Nissan

By Oliver Smith 15 September 2016
David Parkinson, the head of digital for Nissan across Africa, Middle East and India.

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Gary Turner to Jeremy Osborne and Tracy De Groose, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time. 

This morning we’re talking to David Parkinson, the head of digital for Nissan across Africa, Middle East and India, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

Parkinson has worked at Nissan for over 15 years, rising through the ranks first as an IT manager in 1999 during the early days of the internet, through to running the company’s digital marketing operations across Africa, Middle East and India.

In his spare time Parkinson also has his own YouTube channel where he reviews the latest running shoes, Apple Watches and Fitbits.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Parkinson how he gets it all done

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I get up about 7am most days. With my regions all being on differing time zones I generally wake to emails from Japan, the Middle East and India so I give them a quick scan for anything I need to pick up quickly. 

I’ll then have a quick read of the day’s news through Twitter – easier and faster I find than trawling websites, and finally a quick workout. 

I have been into HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training] workouts for about a year now, so 20 minutes of jumping around generally gets my heart and head started for the day.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

I have tried them all for managing tasks and in the end I always fall back on basic Apple Notes to keep me organised. Sometimes simple is best!

I use Noteshelf on my iPad for taking notes (write with my finger – gets some odd looks in meetings) and recently have been using apps like Google Drive a lot for sharing docs across sites. I really recommend Office Lens for taking pictures of whiteboards and notes to share after a meeting.

On the recommendation of Tim Ferriss I have been trying out the Headspace app for meditation and, at the end of the day, it’s helping me wind down and get a better night’s sleep ready for the next day.

What smartphone do you have?

I’m Apple through and through – it’s all connected together and with messaging, mail and FaceTime on all devices, it makes a lot of sense for me.

My phone at the moment is the iPhone 6S Plus – and, to be honest, it’s too big. I’ll likely drop a size, or maybe even two sizes next round to keep it more practical.

You can see from my home screen I like to keep organised – to a point – I have a lot of unread mails. There just isn’t enough time in the day to get through everything I’m cc’d on – email and office products are the bane of our business lives and I try and move off them as much as I can to calls or face to face.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

I’m based in the UK and my team are in Dubai, but I bounce into London very often – so it really depends.

When working from home I’ll talk to my team daily (over video conference, always face-to-face first), and then several other calls a day with various digital heads in the regions.


In London I’ll meet and interact with a lot more people, lots of peers in the industry, exchanging stories and ideas with agency heads and teams, depending on the tasks at hand.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

So many books – the ones I get to the end of are usually the best – my library is littered with half-read business books – mostly because they’ve said all they really needed to by about halfway through! 

At the moment I am reading Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull – the brains behind Pixar. 

It’s fascinating the way they blend process and creativity and there is a lot to learn. It’s covered in notes! I’m also currently re-reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – the MVP [minimum viable product] process fascinates me and the thinking needed to pivot any idea successful. 

Jeremy Waite has given me a great list to work through as well, when I get the time!

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Be humble. Always. Our industry is littered with egos, and it shows. 

Too many people and companies drink their own kool aid, or have it fed to them so they start to lose whatever edge got them there in the first place. 

I make it a habit to know enough about everything to be dangerous. I teach myself just enough about any job or task so that I can do it and understand it, then I can set a real expert in the right direction.

Take the time to continuously read and learn about new things. I recently decided to learn how to write screenplays. Am I a screenwriter now? No. Do I understand how stories work better? Most definitely.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I encourage work/life balance with all my teams and I TRY and practice what I preach. 

It’s hard with the amount of travel I do. It is important though – life is an 80/20 balance. That’s my favourite equation for everything. 

Work properly 80% of the time so that when you need that 20% to be all-nighters, you and the team are ready and, more importantly, willing.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.