With the unveiling of this year’s DataIQ 100, it’s a good opportunity to look back on the class of 2016 and consider how much has changed in the last 12 months. It is immediately striking that, out of the previous Top Ten, just five remain in the top echelon, while another has retained a place in the 2017 list.
Of the other four, two are replaced by colleagues from a different part of their organisation. As for the other two, Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner until June last year, stepped down after eight years’ service, while Julia Porter left Guardian News and Media for the challenges of consultancy and non-executive directorships.
Most striking, however, was the decision taken by last year’s number one, Payal Jain, to make a dramatic change in her career direction. “I had decided to do the next thing and take some time out with my first career break,” she told DataIQ late last year.
After 16 years working for Barclays, moving steadily up the career ladder until she reached managing director, strategic analytics, at Barclaycard, this was no easy step. “One thing I realised was that everything I was interested in had come through Barclays, from Women in Data to Yes to Chess [an initiative aimed at getting girls interested in the game],” she said.
Jain had already handed in her notice when DataIQ chose her as the most outstanding practitioner in the data and analytics industry in 2016. Although that decision had already been made, she was not prepared for the impact which the accolade would have.
“Things started to happen,” she recalled. “People started to seek me out, I got emails, texts, LinkedIn messages, all throwing opportunities at me.” The upside for her soon-to-be-former employers was that a lot of those contacts were from data and analytics practitioners wanting to join her team at Barclaycard. Jain has always been very fair in seeing her number one status as reflecting on those she led, just as much as on her own achievements. Her tenure saw the size of that team triple, with three-times as much incremental revenue being generated from the analytics it carried out, a set of facts that tells its own story.
One of those opportunities was to become the chief data officer at another bank, but Jain spotted a dead-end lurking in the definition of CDO which that organisation was adopting. “I knew I would be stuck in data governance for a long time, whereas I felt there was more value to bringing in analytics and helping to support decision-making,” she said.
With her period of non-compete concluded in May 2016, Jain opted for consultancy and adopted the reflective title for her business of DT One. Client engagements soon started to roll in, including a notable 20-hour trip to New York to advise an investment bank which saw her not only in the largest boardroom she had ever seen, but the only woman in a meeting of 50 executives. It is a story she tells with great verve, most recently at an inspiration session for DataIQ Leaders.
Of the remaining 90 practitioners on the 2016 list, 41 return in the 2017 version. Some of those have moved from consultancy into client-side roles, while many have moved upwards in their organisations and some have moved into the top spots as chief data officers or chief analytics officers.
What is striking is that the barrier between Data Titans (end-users) and Data Enablers (vendors and service providers) is much less porous that might be imagined. With the DataIQ 2017 containing 60 client-side practitioners, that is a move which anybody looking to make next year’s Top Ten might want to consider making.