Helen Mannion

Head of business intelligence

Path to power

I fell into my first career, as a SAS analyst, without much thought, but since then have never looked back. The following 11 years were spent working, largely part-time, managing small teams, coding, developing my analytical skills set and embedding analytics into the business while bringing up three amazing children. I’m not going to pretend it was easy - it has been tough to maintain the right balance and still push forward with my career!

Four years ago, I took the plunge and threw myself into a full-time role as head of business intelligence and data protection at giffgaff. I look after everything from reporting and analytics, data science, data warehouse development, market research and, now, GDPR!

More recently, I have taken a NED position for an educational trust, which provides the perfect opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives and encourage the development of technology and AI in schools.

I get a huge amount of satisfaction from enabling businesses to make smarter decisions and seeing the impact great analysis provides. However, for me, it is so important to get the balance right… I know that in order to do a great job, I have to be happy at home, too. Along the way, many people have said, “you can’t have it all”. However, I don’t agree. Although it’s not easy, it is possible and it has been well worth striving for!

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

My highlight has to be all the talented, supportive and generous people with whom I have had the pleasure to work and collaborate. It continues to amaze me how willing people are to help and how generous people are with their time. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today without the huge amount of support I have received from so many people. It strikes me that the more we all share, the faster the data industry will go from strength to strength.

What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

With the GDPR deadline fast approaching, 2018 will be the start of a more authentic relationship with consumers. It will be fascinating to watch the changes companies make and the response from the ICO.

As ever, technology continues to advance at a rapid pace along with the data embedded within it. Expect to see more voice technology with sophisticated natural language, more intuitive digital experiences with real-time personalisation, and more fintechs emerging from the launch of open banking enabling you to take control of your finances.

So - why did you choose data?

I would love to say I chose it, but really I fell into it. I always wanted to do something mathematical or analytical, but when I got offered my first job, I was rather indifferent to the role. I know they say you are not meant to accept the first offer that comes your way, but I did and, out of all the industries I had imagined working in, transport was not one of them!! Although, looking back, it was the best decision I could have made. My managers where inspirational and here I am, lucky enough to do something I enjoy everyday.

What is the best thing about working in the data industry?

Data is everywhere. It crosses all industries. It is constantly evolving and growing. No matter what path you choose in life, you can guarantee data will play a part. So, whatever you are interested in, be it saving people’s lives, helping design home appliances, working within the car, sport or even beauty industry, you can find a job that hits all your buttons. In short, it’s impossible to lose interest or get bored!

If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?

One…or two? More talented people - and more transparency and authenticity from companies utilising individuals’ data.

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?

Focus on where you want to get to longer term. Today, understanding data is essential for all commercial roles…so even if you don’t want to have a career in the data sector forever, consider how a role in data could help you achieve your end goal.



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