I started my career in operations research (OR) and analytics at British Airways, improving airport and commercial decisions and within six years I had risen to senior consultant. After BA, I spent four years at Debenhams as the OR manager, covering store location, space allocation, ranging optimisation and general analytics.
I then moved to Expedia Group/Hotels.com to build and lead the analytics team of over 60 professionals, rising to vice-president of analytics, and expanding my role from the EMEA region to a global focus. The role encompassed all analytics and data aspects, including multivariate (MVT) testing, business information, data product management, customer analytics and more.
My current role is to create, build and lead a dedicated data science and AI function, owning all aspects of the algorithmic lifecycle. I lead highly-skilled teams of data scientists and the engineers/ product managers of our machine learning platforms, reporting to the brand president and part of the senior leadership team.
Algorithms are a fundamental part of the Expedia Group/Hotels.com strategy, including our main marketplace matching algorithm, optimising content and marketing, using deep learning among hundreds of other use cases.
Wow, this is a tough question, there have been many. If I had to pick one, it would be building out the data science/AI team and strategy at Expedia Group; influencing the whole organisation to move to an AI first approach. Seeing the improvement in customers’ experiences that has come from using AI is immensely rewarding.
In many ways 2019 turned out the way I expected and often exceeded those expectations. Personally, I moved house – which is always an experience. I think the key is to have flexibility into your expectations, under promise and over deliver. Travel and AI/data are rapidly changing and normally your plans at the start of the year turn out different by the end.
I think some of the key themes of 2019 will at a minimum continue and likely increase in pace such as:
The one area I suspect will see a much larger leap is the value placed on data, analytics and AI skills in senior leadership and boardrooms across both industry and government.
Data and tech offer significant benefits in new products and services, scaling out processes and allowing us to have a much more relevant experience especially in ecommerce. The most under-served area (though rapidly growing) is in the healthcare. The power of computer vision, anomaly detection and diagnosing to name a few techniques, on top of e-health data is immense for humanity.
I think the key challenge here is not tech, but people and process alignment. The tech itself has advanced significantly with the flexibility of the cloud or power of new AI algorithms on vast data lakes or streams. The key is how you blend this together with people and process to unlock change.