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Alex Hutchison, programme director, Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF

Alex Hutchison

Path to power

After starting my career in the insurance industry, I then spent 11 years in the finance function of RBS. Initially I worked on system implementations and transformation programmes, but latterly I shifted my focus to data management and governance. Regulatory pressure for banks to demonstrate their understanding and control of the data that drives decision-making is ever increasing. This in turn sparked my interest in data, the technological solutions to support data and data driven decision-making.

 

At the beginning of 2019, I had the opportunity to take a year’s secondment from RBS to The Data Lab. This role allows me to bring my private sector background of project delivery and robust governance into the landscape of the third sector, public sector and academia. The role also allows me to expand my interests in data ethics, innovation and making a difference through actionable insight.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I am most proud of my ability to progress and succeed in my career whilst raising three young children. It has been a bit of a juggle and has taken a lot of trial and error to get the balance right, but it really works now. The greatest learning is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution; we are all individuals with different sets of circumstances. I have been lucky enough to work for companies that allow the flexibility required to make it work and allow me to excel in my roles.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

There are two inspirational leaders at The Data Lab. Firstly, our CEO, Gillian Docherty, who has the utmost respect from her whole team. Secondly, our head of business development Jude McCorry, whose can-do attitude is commendably infectious.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

2019 has been an absolute highlight in my career to date. Taking the step out of the comfort zone of RBS and opening my eyes to new sectors, new networks and new ways of working has been truly enlightening. I have learnt so much in setting up the Data for Children Collaborative and I am delighted that there is still so much more to learn. It has been a challenging and rewarding year in equal measure and I would not have it any other way.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

I expect 2020 will see more debates and conversations around how the industry can keep up with itself. That is to say, the pace of change and onward march of data being so pivotal in citizens’ lives is not currently being met with a framework of trust, ethics and regulation to ensure that all involved parties are operating in the right way. This is a much-discussed topic, but I hope this year can see the start of action in this regard, rather than just discussion.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

There is a massive opportunity to use data and technology for good. The potential uses for novel data-sets to provide evidential insight that leads to action and real-world impact are almost endless. If the data and analytics industry dedicated a tiny proportion of its time to look at how it could use its data and its techniques towards solving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, together we could make a huge impact. The challenge lies in accessing the right data, for the right reasons, in the right way.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge organisations face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

Any organisational transformation can be challenging to implement, but a digital transformation comes with its own nuanced set of challenges. From a technical standpoint, it is difficult for the tooling available on the market to keep pace with the data that it is intended to manage. On top of this, organisations need to ensure their people are engaged in developing new ways of working and in developing their technical capabilities. This must be through good leadership with senior managers who are bought into, and understand, the drivers behind the transformation.

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