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Caroline Bellamy, Chief data officer, Ordnance Survey

Path to power

 

My path into this wonderful industry began in a slightly strange way - account management at an advertising agency. I was determined to bring strategic thinking and fact-based decisioning into the ad world of the early 90s - fun, laudable, but rather misplaced. It did forge in me a lifelong passion for keeping the customer at the heart of what we do and reinforced my passion for data-based decisions and actions. Serendipity landed me a role with the newly formed dunnhumby - no greater place or greater people to inspire and to learn the ropes from right at the start of the data-based technology, decisioning and marketing industry. Over the next 20-plus years, I enjoyed various leadership and increasingly transformational roles in the UK and internationally. I have worked in almost all business areas demonstrating the power of data to drive real commercial value and to optimise ways of working both business and technical. I went from consulting at dunnhumby to client-side in retail (Sainsbury’s), utilities, customer data and brand acquisitions (Centrica Group, The AA, Goldfish, British Gas, OneTel), Vodafone (UK, group and Germany), most recently joining Ordnance Survey. I am proud to have worked across industries and functions driving the data agenda - it’s my passion.

 

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

 

Defining the strategic vision, establishing teams from a zero base and seeing colleagues grow and drive the data agenda and deliver on the mission. Delivering real, tangible, bottom line value and technical capability. I am also particularly proud of the work I have done championing and driving the diversity and inclusion agenda - at all levels - right to board-level.

 

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

 

Take the chance to do some diverse roles and diverse companies/industries - it will build a real depth in your people and technical learning experience. Do not see your career as a vertical ladder - rather a journey to go on. Trust your judgements and decision – “spidey instinct” will serve you well. Learn to move on from disappointments and frustrations and do not hold yourself or others personally responsible.

 

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

 

I made a significant decision to step out of pure corporate worlds and into the wider public sector (not a full civil servant, rather a public servant). Wow, what a different world! What a new set of challenges! On reaching out across the public sector leadership community, I have found myself working with and inspired by tremendous colleagues and fellow travellers - together we will make a difference for Great Britain (and it is needed).

 

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

 

A year that sees an uplift in the balance in diversity of all types. One where although AI and machine learning will make real advances for outcomes that make a difference to people and improve lives. I also hope for a year in which we do not forget the human and why we do what we do.

 

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

 

Seeking and hoping for the best in people. Looking at different sources for talent - it’s not all about the PhD in Computer Science. Getting the word out there about how fantastic this data industry is, especially important in our public sector. I also try to be a role model (especially to the female audience) - both professionally and personally - a realistic role model achieving at senior level and that all-important balance of tough and tender and work-life. I do not always achieve it though!

 

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

 

The data of location is really coming to the fore (most recent at CES in Las Vegas where almost all advances and innovations included some aspect of location), so the application of location/geo-spatial data is what I am most optimistic about. So exciting and must be at the heart of what we do. For me right now, it must be about enabling government and its agencies to make better decisions and actions that improve life for us all here in GB.
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