I’m lucky enough to have had a number of roles over the past 20 years, all of which have involved using data science techniques to solve interesting problems. I started in academia where, as well as teaching doctors the joy of statistics, I used statistical modelling and simulation methods to build a budget forecasting system for a local health authority…the type of thing that would be called machine learning today. I worked at the BBC for a couple of years, using similar methods to predict the demand for technology services, after which I made a move into Wunderman - part of WPP, and one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world. We would pride ourselves on our ability to create great marketing experiences by marrying creative thinking with deep customer insight based on analytics, and I loved the opportunity to use data and analytics to understand people better. After a few years, I moved to dunnhumby, an early leader in customer-centric data science, where I ran the UK’s analytics and insight teams for Tesco and other clients. I later moved to MoneySuperMarket where I became chief data scientist. It was great to be able to build a new team for an online business, where we could use data science to create personalised customer experiences. Two years ago, I joined Aviva and am delighted to be helping one our oldest financial services companies become a 322-year old disruptor. We have now created a global data science practice (Aviva Quantum) working across 16 countries, and I’m responsible for ensuring that we maintain a class-leading capability by continually evolving our technology and data assets, as well as ensuring that we offer data scientists the best training and development opportunities. Building a deep, data-driven understanding of our customers is key to our mission - we want to create products that customers love.
A number of factors, including rapidly evolving technology, have led data to become central to just about every big company’s strategy. It has been great to have been part of an industry as its importance has rocketed.
Done is better than perfect. Also, data science isn’t just about stating the facts…don’t be afraid to have an opinion!
As expected, we had a lot of GDPR-related conversations...but I was pleasantly surprised that these were often about the opportunities created by building better, more trusted relationships with our customers.
I think we’ll see an even greater focus on the ethical issues around the use of data - fairness, transparency, explainability and bias.
We’re focusing on training and development, including formalising data science as an established professional discipline. We also work hard to create a great place for data scientists to work: we have great data, a collaborative environment and the opportunity to contribute to the core strategy of a brand that’s a household name. This has helped us attract some extraordinarily talented people to the team.
We’re still just scratching the surface in terms of the ability to use data to solve important problems and the field is moving faster than ever. It’s an exciting place to be!