Teach - change - analytics. I’ve taken a roundabout route in my career, but three constants are interests in analytical models, people and change. When I studied Operational Research at university, I found the techniques to approach problems logically fascinating and potentially hugely powerful. But I felt that data wasn’t available enough yet to apply the techniques rapidly. After university, I took three years out to teach English and learn about other cultures in France, China and Yemen. While it might not seem directly-relevant experience, I learned more about diverse ways of thinking about problems through working and studying abroad than any more formal study and am a strong advocate of gap years and career breaks. I started my professional career training as an accountant and working for KPMG’s restructuring practice during the financial crisis before moving into the business modelling team. It was a really interesting way to start understanding change and the levers that drive companies and enable change. My break came with an opportunity to bring these experiences together with a role at JLR to both set up a corporate analytics centre of excellence and also run a programme to develop an analytical culture in the business.
Building an analytics team from scratch is undoubtedly the highlight of my career so far. Being part of a team of two that designed the structure, skills and experience profile, then recruited and finally managed the team coming together was a hugely stretching exercise. The result has been a diverse, award-winning team with a culture I’m proud to be part of that is working on fascinating problems and delivering huge value to Jaguar Land Rover.
Don’t assume the answers already exist. In your first job, it is easy to believe mistakenly that your only role is to learn how things are currently done. The combination of new ideas and a little naïvety can be a powerful combination for positive change.
I know it is a cheat answer, but yes and no. We took a gamble in 2018 and ran an analytics champions programme not knowing what they would do with their training. My personal belief was that passionate people with new problem-solving skills and tools would improve their areas with analytics. This has happened and there are many case studies of analytics projects being completed and resulting in new business actions. The positive surprise was the community that came out of this and how many champions now run forums to train and support others in analytics.
I think the conversation is starting to shift from new tools that make analytics easier, faster and more powerful to data literacy to enable more people to take up these tools. I hope in 2019 this starts to result in some common definitions emerging for data and tech literacy and, off the back, of that targeted training methods emerging to address different aspects of the data literacy problem.
Highly-skilled, motivated people will always have a tendency to like mobile careers and move around often. The only solutions, therefore, to the talent shortage are first to work continuously on improving the team culture and dynamic so that you have the best place to work and people come back having tried working elsewhere. The second solution is to have dedicated analytics development programmes so that eventually talent shortage isn’t a problem. I’m proud to say that, currently, the team I’m in has the best culture of any team I’ve experienced and that JLR’s analytics development programme is award-winning.
The democratisation of analytics technology. Everyone has a field they are interested in and would love to be able to find more about by asking their own questions of data in their area. However, not everyone will be a programmer, so accessible analytics technology has huge potential to empower everyone.