I’ve spent 20 years working with data in the charity sector. I started as a database administrator, cutting my teeth at Cancer Research UK and became more interested in the data itself than the systems that housed it, so I moved into data governance. While I was at Cancer Research UK, I’d worked on a big CRM change project and I joined Unicef UK as it was considering a similar project. I was able to bring my knowledge and experience to firstly create a case for change and then deliver on key project outcomes. I now head up a team with responsibility for Unicef UK’s data, ensuring we have the data, systems and processes we need to fundraise and increase our influence effectively, managing data as a strategic asset.
2018 was the busiest and most rewarding of my career. I led on Unicef UK’s GDPR project and working with highly-capable colleagues completed a huge amount of work in a short time. What I’d viewed with a certain amount of dread in 2017 became a rewarding initiative that has catalysed our thinking and approach to data and data management.
Network, ask the stupid questions (there are no stupid questions), keep learning
It was a lot of hard work, which is what I was expecting, and I was pleased to see perceptions of GDPR changing from it being seen as a threat to an opportunity. I was expecting to see a more developed awareness of the data-value exchange and the trade of personal information for utility. I think that despite the high profile cases in 2018, this remains abstruse to the man and woman in the street and that’s surprised me.
Challenging. We can expect to see the first GDPR adjudications from our and other national supervisory authorities and these will set some precedent on interpretations of the legislation that may require swift changes. The data scandals of 2018 have put parts of our industry in a negative light and there is work to do resetting public perceptions. Data does a huge amount of good, underpins modern society and twenty-first century life - without it, almost all everything would grind to a halt. I’m not sure that’s well enough understood by the general public who are used to hearing when things go wrong and not when data does things right.
As a charity, we can’t compete on salary and we’re not always investing in the latest technology and offering interesting kit to play with. To attract talent and skills we rely to an extent on the fact that, by working at an organisation like Unicef UK, people are making a significant difference to the world we live in. Plus Unicef UK is a fantastic place to work - I work with driven, hard-working, talented colleagues, we have a strong collaborative culture and together we achieve amazing things for the world’s children.
I love the fact the GDPR has rights at its heart. I’m hopeful that, as organisations apply this well to their work, then a lot of the aspects of good data practice fall into place, bringing benefits to both data subjects and organisations.