Former Turner VP Embraces Data, 'Radical Transparency' As Narrative Operations Lead

Not many people I know love to read a good SEC S-1 form, which is required in the U.S. as the initial registration form for new securities requirements. But Sara Livingston, the new head of operations at Narrative, admitted to reading the financial reports for fun in her spare time.

"It's phenomenal to have all this information publicly available and transparent, and see the company's growth or decline and learn from it," she said. 

Aside from the S1s, Livingston recently read Principles by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, and realized that transparency is a giant cliché. 

Livingston joined Narrative in late 2018 from Turner, where she held the position of VP, product strategy. There she created an internal advisory and consultancy group working across Turner brands to facilitate shift toward direct-to-consumer digital products and data- and insight-driven decisions. Narrative has yet to announce her appointment.



Data & Programmatic Insider caught up with Livingston to talk about her views on data and transparency. What follows is an excerpt from the conversation.

D&PI:  How do you apply radical transparency at Narrative?

Livingston: Candor and transparency is super important to me as a person, and making sure you’re honest with people and that you come from a place where you really care.

When you think about Ray Dalio and what Bridgewater has done around the company’s operating principals such as radical transparency, meaning everyone in the organization needs to understand what everyone else does -- at Narrative we took that notion of transparency that allies to data and the platform and also apply it internally. Diverse points of thought and people need to thrive.

D&PI: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your career and whom did you receive it from?

Livingston:  I’m been incredibly fortunate in my career. I got to work with Curt Hecht at Weather, (who passed away from lung cancer in 2015). '

The best advice I got from him was the importance of bringing people along and making sure you’re taking the time to explain where you’re going. You’re getting buy-in and fostering strong cross-communication, which drives a sense of urgency. They understand the end goal.

D&PI: What is the best piece of advice you can give?

Livingston:  Lean into challenges. When you see a hard project in a glass ball, lean in and embrace those. The best thing that could happen is you take something impossible and do really well. The worst thing is you fail, but you tried and put in great effort.

Try to find environments where you can thrive, like diversity of thought and diversity of opinion. Find people who will be supportive, so if you do get knocked down you’ll learn more from it.

D&PI: When you were growing up was there a career you wanted -- maybe a sidestep that led you to this opportunity?

Livingston:  Honestly, this is always what I wanted to do. When I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan I stacked my classes together on two days a week, so I could intern the other days of the week. I interned at a local broadcast company and at an ad agency on their digital media team during my senior year. In 2007, when they were understaffed, I got to be a full-on media planner while still in school.

I’ve always asked many questions and got involved. Everything has been around building internal or external analytics-related products to fuel business growth. What we’re building at Narrative is really the convergence of that.

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