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6. Nuala Kennedy-Preston, Chief data officer, People's Postcode Lottery

Path to power

 

I’ve had a long and varied career that has spanned all things data-related. It’s been at the heart of every role and challenge that I’ve ever taken on. I’ve progressed through a number of different management positions within the world of data, insight and analysis. I’d proudly describe myself as a data geek with a business head. I get enormous satisfaction from mining an untapped piece of data and transforming it into something valuable and something with integrity. I have always championed data in business, from educating on the importance of data quality, managing and setting requirements for data warehousing and BI tooling, to producing segments, or a better standard of data selection. I truly believe in the power of data and it is so satisfying to share results either to test an hypothesis or produce new actionable insight. Technological advances also mean things never get boring! It’s my love of data that has driven my career. I’m genuinely passionate about it and believe that well-managed data and data outputs are key to major business growth. I joined People’s Postcode Lottery in 2013 and established the insight and data management functions, as well as setting and developing the company retention strategy (data-driven, of course). Five years later, I was appointed chief data officer, responsible for insights as well as data management, quality, governance and strategy.

 

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

 

I’ve been working with People’s Postcode Lottery for five years and have had the opportunity to work with some inspiring people and projects. The highlight for me in particular is the difference the funding generated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery has made and continues to make for people and planet. With 62% of all British postcodes playing and over £382 million already raised for charity, data is central to the success story of People’s Postcode Lottery and its vision of a better world with strong social organisations.

 

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

 

I’ve been very fortunate in my career in that every job I’ve had since graduating university to date has been highly data-driven. To my younger self I would say, have a stronger belief in what you do and help others fully understand what you do. Be enthusiastic and try to be as clear as you can when explaining results, champion data and its value to the business. This will go a long way!

 

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

 

2018 was a very interesting and particularly strong year for us. We spent much effort and time on preparing for the new General Data Protection Regulation, everything from analysing our marketing activity and systems, reviewing our personal information management system to compiling a comprehensive data asset register and ensuring that our data retention processes and schedules were aligned. Certainly it was challenging and rewarding year for us in equal measure.

 

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

 

I’m looking forward to another interesting and exciting year. In particular, I think we’re likely to see further developments in the world of artificial intelligence, specifically deep learning and machine learning. AI has been around a while now and we can really see it driving innovation in companies large and small. We should expect to see increased emphasis in this area on measures designed to increase transparency and to see more work carried out in order to minimise bias by utilising more inclusive datasets in sampling. I’d also expect that we’ll see continued importance placed upon data privacy and protection with further effort being placed on developing transparency models.

 

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

 

We’ve started adopting an approach to provide university students with practical and valuable work experience opportunities, with a view to having long-term data positions recruited from a pool of graduate talent and new hires being trained up and developed within the team at People’s Postcode Lottery. We’ve also built an extensive data network and utilise these connections to assist with employee recruitment and retention in the data sphere.

 

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

 

It’s fantastic to see the value of data being recognised in the boardroom. A data-driven approach helps remove unconscious bias from decision-making. I think that, in the next few years, along with advances in technology and development in algorithmic transparency, we will see more data-driven solutions being created and rolled out. We will continue to see people at the heart of data processing. So, I think the next few years will be very exciting!

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