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From Swedish Armed Forces to Analytics Ace: The Leadership Journey of PureGym’s Niklas Ek

Mon 26 Feb 2024

In anticipation of Big Data & AI World on 6-7 March at ExCeL London, we spoke with Niklas Ek, the Group Head of Data, Insights and Analytics at PureGym Group.

Niklas shared insights into three pivotal years that significantly shaped his career and his approach to data and leadership.

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Military Discipline and Leadership

Niklas’s journey into the world of data and analytics began in an unconventional setting—the Swedish Armed Forces.

In 2011, fresh out of school, Niklas joined the military. This was a decision inspired by a family tradition of service and a personal quest for self-improvement.

“It was a year I learned a lot about myself and how I work with other people,” Niklas recalls.

His time in the quality control regiment exposed him to the crucial intersection of technology and operational strategy, fostering a problem-solving mindset under high-pressure conditions.

This experience proved transformative, teaching Niklas the essence of effective leadership.

“What it also taught me, looking back, was a lot about thought leadership,” he said.

The military environment, characterised by clear objectives and empowered teams, mirrored the leadership approach Niklas would later adopt in the corporate world.

“As leaders in business, when we do it well, is to be clear on the objectives for teams … giving the objective rather than the task, so people can be agile, responsive, and find the best way towards it,” added Niklas.

University Years and American Football

In 2014, during his university years, Niklas ventured into a new challenge—American football. With no prior experience in the sport, he was initially coaxed into it but soon found a deep appreciation for the teamwork and strategic play it entailed.

The teamwork aspect of American football, particularly the reliance on each team member to perform their role for the collective success of a play, resonated with Niklas and reinforced his belief in the power of collaborative effort and trust within a team.

Data-Driven Impact at Pure Gym

Fast forward to 2022, Niklas took on a role at Pure Gym, where he leveraged his expertise in data insights and analytics to drive significant projects with positive social impacts.

“One of the things we did … was around providing data, prompting people with reminders around coming back to the gym,” Niklas shared.

This initiative aimed at nudging members towards consistent gym habits, showcasing the practical application of data analytics in influencing positive behavioral changes.

Another notable project was the collaboration with the British Heart Foundation to develop the Healthy Hearts program. This program provided users with tailored exercise regimes and nutritional advice, reaching an impressive 175,000 people.

“It is just an incredible amount of impact for data to effect,” Niklas reflects, highlighting the potential of data to drive substantial positive change in public health.

Leadership Philosophy and Future Endeavors

Throughout these experiences, from the disciplined ranks of the military to the strategic gameplay of American football and the data-driven initiatives at Pure Gym, Niklas has cultivated a leadership philosophy centered on setting clear objectives, empowering teams, and fostering an environment conducive to innovation and agility.

As Niklas looks forward to sharing his insights at Big Data & AI World, his journey underscores the diverse paths to leadership and the transformative power of data analytics in both business and social contexts.

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