Path to power
I joined IBM directly after completing a computing science degree at Glasgow University and spent 22 years there in various roles across the UK. I held a variety of technical and sales positions supporting IBM clients across the UK and spent several years working in the financial sector in London. I had significant opportunities to grow and learn and enjoyed changing roles and leading some significant opportunities. I took on various leadership roles, running various IBM business units in Scotland including hardware, client-facing teams and, latterly, the software business.
I had the opportunity to join The Data Lab as CEO in June 2015 which was a very exciting challenge for me. As an innovation centre funded by the Scottish Funding Council, we are shaping the data science landscape in Scotland, assisting industry and public sector to leverage data in new ways. We have skills and talent programmes to help create the environment for investing in Scotland and we have built a very strong data science community in Scotland and beyond.
I am very fortunate to work as part of a great team at The Data Lab alongside our industry partners and stakeholders.
What was your data highlight of 2016?
My highlight for 2016 was working as part of The Data Lab team and creating impact during 2016. The whole team pulled together to create an organisation which is trusted by industry and public sector to help them leverage data science. We have supported many organisations and the team has stepped up to expand our activities and create new capabilities to support industry needs, including new skills programmes and innovative data science project ideas. It has been great to see the team grow and develop over 2016 and I am looking forward to 2017!
What do you expect 2017 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
I expect the pace of change to continue to increase - the opportunities are expanding. We will continue to see new capabilities, products and services enter the market which leverage data in new innovative and exciting ways.
Data science and AI are no longer terms for just tech-savvy people, but are now widely used and broadly understood, so it is becoming easier to explain what I do at parties!
So - why did you choose data?
Our theme for DataFest 17 states #DataChangesEverything! The use of data is and will continue to have a fundamental impact on our lives and every aspect of them. Isn’t it great to be at the heart of something so core to how the world will evolve in the next 20-plus years? It is the most exciting time to be involved and the breadth of opportunity is huge. I can’t imagine a better place to be to have such a significant impact.
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
Some of the projects we support will change people’s lives. It is exciting to hear about projects from all around the world where data is being leveraged in new ways from helping fight cancer battles to providing better social and healthcare support.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
I wish we could stop people or organisations using data in harmful ways either to individuals, society or other organisations. Data privacy legislation tries to deal with this, but some of the moral questions on how data could and should be leveraged also need to be addressed.
And what has been your toughest lesson?
I think the pace of change is very challenging, but instead of fearing this, I think you just need to start. Your data or organisation or tools will never be perfect, you just need to start, stay agile, re-iterate and get some quick wins.