Path to power
I have a remit for the regulation of occupational pensions. We are involved in some of the highest-profile cases of pensions deficit (Carillion, ToysRUs, BHS), plus we regulate work-based pensions and master trusts. It’s a changing policy landscape and we are embedding data more into our operations to driven insights and efficiency.
Previously, I worked for the Civil Service focusing on the best use of data by government. A data evidence base to advise policy making and to ensure the transparency of government decision-making adds huge public value to the UK, but getting the data to the necessary quality to reflect the complexities of an ever-changing UK society is hard.
As a regulator of National Statistics, I embedded high data standards in the UK’s economic statistics portfolio and, in HMRC, I wrote and embedded the Data Strategy across an organisation of 60,000 people on behalf of the permanent secretary. I hold a PhD in Quantitative Psychology, which spurred my interest in data and analysis and led to the search for a meaningful career where data would be at the heart of what I did.
What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?
In HMRC, I wrote and embedded its first data strategy. Not only does this lead one of the government’s most data-rich departments but, because of the influence of HMRC’s data on operations across government, this now impacts and builds momentum in the data agenda across government.
What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
Certainly, increasing trends in data use across the business sector, but also an increasing confidence in how best to embed data in a business (automation, machine learning, use of unstructured data sources) and how to secure the necessary buy-in and culture change to make this a success. There is a focus on building data science skill for the industry, but the next battle will be with coupling this skill with an understanding of business processes and working in complex legacy IT landscape to embed the new.
So - why did you choose data?
I chose science - the process of collecting, managing, cleaning, analysing and interpreting data for a set objective is the basic premise of embedding data in a business. I’m motivated by wanting my work to have a high public value - developing the use of data in government gives me both.
What is the best thing about working in the data industry?
The variety. Not just in how we can use data, but the people who come together to make the industry develop and the skills necessary for a data team to have impact across a business.
If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?
The complexity of the language that we have developed to describe the same process, jobs and technology!
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?
Be a great data person, but know and work on your soft skills too - they’ll carry you far!