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Cornelia Schaurecker, big data and AI director, Vodafone Group

Cornelia Schaurecker

Path to power

I’ve always been passionate about all things data and digital, choosing to study in this area before it was fashionable.

 

I worked in digital and IT roles at Audi, before co-founding the Volkswagen Data:Lab, building a data-driven innovation hotspot for all the group brands. I then moved to the BMW Group’s EMEA IT organisation, leading on GDPR, cyber-security and all digital priorities for the region, as well as building a data science and machine learning capability that embedded design thinking, agile practice and rapid prototyping.

 

I’ve have now moved to telecoms and am leading Vodafone’s global big data and AI team as we implement our “AI everywhere” strategy. Our international team of 300 data scientists, agile product owners and data engineers securely use the power of our data and the latest cloud computing platforms to leverage big data and AI insights across the business. Among our 100-plus use cases, we’re using deep learning to optimise the customer experience, and using data powered decision-making including optimising our retail footprint. This is supported by investment into in-house data science and our cloud migration across markets, in order to deliver data products faster and at scale.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I’m proud of what my small, high performing teams of smart individuals have achieved with bright ideas and a passion for data. It is also lovely to be a female role model and being able to help young people achieve a big data and AI career regardless of gender.

 

Secondly, we are working on using big data for social good. For example, analysing non-personal telecom network data could prove to be extremely useful to target treatment for infectious diseases. Vodafone would like to support even more initiatives in this area.

 

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

Meg Whitman, ex-eBay/HP CEO, who visited the VW Data:Lab in jeans, sneakers and with a backpack. She listened, asked, and we discussed about how AI and automotive data can be leveraged for use cases like smart cities. An inspirational female role model, living and breathing the “no hierarchies, no boundaries” credo.

 

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

No - when the year started, I didn’t anticipate moving from the car industry to telecoms. I’ve been really energised by the move and the exciting opportunities for transformation with data and AI, digital and agile working practices.

 

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

2020 will be yet another exciting year. Like previous years, we’ll have even more data, better tools, improved techniques and new talent entering our industry. And we’ll need a continued focus on creating value at scale for customers, employees and the business. For the analytics industry, this means driving data-powered innovation and automation at pace and scale, creating meaningful impact for companies, public bodies and society in general.

 

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

I am particularly excited by the opportunities for leveraging AI for social good, especially in healthcare. We are seeing how the industry is making great strides in diagnostic medicine and in drug discovery and development, with the goal of personalised treatment. I think what we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg and it’s an area where I think AI can be truly transformational for the good of society.

 

Also, not to forget, tiny AI and differential privacy will provide us with enormous opportunities for value creation.

 

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

We are currently driving one of the largest cloud migrations in Europe. It’s great that we are bringing all of our organisation’s data together into a cloud-based data ocean – called Vodafone Neuron - with flexibility around storage, computing and tooling. At the same time, we have the pre-existing approaches to generating value from the data – to enable all parts of the organisation to access, understand and use the full breadth of data in standardised and innovative ways.

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