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5. Wade Munsie, Chief data officer, Royal Mail Group

Path to power

 

After moving to the UK 20 years ago, I joined BT as a business performance analyst. That was before the term business intelligence existed, let alone data science! I then fumbled through my 20s doing a myriad of reporting-type roles before learning the art of data warehousing. From there, I took a leap of faith and joined the entertainment industry with BI director roles at both Warner Bros and Sony Pictures splitting time between London and Los Angeles. Then, through a random search, I had a chat with Rob Kent (a previous member of the DataIQ 100 Top 10 on several occasions) who convinced me to jump outside my comfort zone and join Royal Mail. While unexpected, the last four years have been amazing. Several transformations have seen us grow from less than 30 to 130. We have built a best-in-class team of data scientists, data engineers and BI developers who are not only highly engaged, but from highly diverse backgrounds, including over 30 countries.

 

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

 

The past 18 months have seen an amazing transformation in what data science means and seeing my team grow into one of the best performing teams in the country has been a pleasure to watch. Leading such an inspirational team and watching them grow in strength has been by far the highlight of my career.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Take time to read your emails before pressing send! But seriously, taking the time to think through ideas and review results before sending them on makes the difference between credible and cavalier.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

Definitely not! After winning several awards in the first half of the year, in the summer we were shaken by the exits of the CEO, CTO and my own boss, the CDO. After getting over the initial shock, I decided I had to step up for the team and am now sitting in the CDO role and helping shape the corporate strategy as the company negotiates through troubled waters. For me personally, I had to ensure that the team got through any change as seamlessly as possible which we’ve managed to do. Oh, yeah, and who knew Facebook was evil?

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

I think that there will be more focus on professionalisation. Companies that invest in people and process will add an extra layer of assurance for customers and consumers alike. Data privacy and ethics will become even more important and I think we’ll see the ICO stamping down on the cowboys. And I got through talking about 2019 without mentioning Brexit!

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

I’ve been luckier than most in this area. We find that by building a great reputation, people want to join you. It becomes less about the pay and more about the people and projects. I think of this as “paying it forward” to people who might one day want to work with you (even if not for you). There are many ways you can do this, be it through running open training events, workshops, supporting charities and bringing through apprentices. We are also working with the IFA to create a new Level 7 apprentice programme in AI to help the whole data industry draw in talent at the right level.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

The cloud is making data science tools and scalability available to everybody, meaning that not only is it cheap but, more than ever, data wrangling and machine learning is available without hardcore coding. This means we can turn problems around faster, cheaper and without technical debt.

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