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Diana Akanho, senior insight manager, Tech Nation

Diana Akanho

Path to power

My background is in mathematics and statistics, and I gained an affinity towards statistics and insights, as I love problem solving. I am naturally curious and analytical; in particular, I like to use data to make predictions and inferences.

 

In my second year of university, I was introduced to statistical modelling to understand the ways in which mathematical and statistical methods were used to model data and how it related to solving problems we face today.

 

There are two roles I have had where I have grown the most personally and intellectually. Firstly, at media agency Mindshare, where I had the opportunity to work on several clients, pitch, present and take ownership of data projects from start to finish.

 

Secondly, at Signal AI, which had a focus on using machine learning and testing a range of research methods to produce the best output for analysing text data.

 

However, the main thing I have learned is to be appreciative and to count my blessings daily, as it can all change. Also, collaboration is important as I have done good work on my own, but my best work with others.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

My proudest achievement to date is helping the Women in Data community. I was part of the collection of the 20 Women in Data and Tech awardees of 2018/2019.

 

This platform has opened more opportunities and has allowed me to inspire, encourage and empower the younger generation. Women in Data is a not for profit organisation and an initiative created to inspire the next generation of women within the data and tech fields and to increase gender parity within these types of technical roles and jobs. The ability to help more people and be an advocate for STEM is rewarding.

 

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

I don’t have a role model per se; however, my faith guides me, and I am fortunate to have people close to me who are working on cool things as well inspiring me to do better. My strong support network of my family and friends are always challenging me, so in turn they help me to grow and learn.

 

I think in life some people like the easy route of being told what they want to hear – but it never actually helps in the long run.

 

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

I thank God I had a healthy and successful year. In terms of my achievements, it turned out much better than I expected. I have learned and grown, which I always want to be doing. The support and opportunities I received have been great and I look forward to 2020.

 

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

As we’ve entered the new decade, I suppose there will be a lot of changes in the way we work, with data playing an even more dominant role.

 

I think there will be a lot more companies adopting cloud solutions for their data and technology, while artificial intelligence is also likely to grow. In 2019, there was $2.2 billion invested in AI, compared to $1.2 billion in 2018. So, I’d expect to see this increase in 2020, with more of a prominence on practical aspects of AI within businesses.

 

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

Technology has had a huge influence on various sectors from retail - where we have seen the growth of ecommerce - to the financial sector, which is being disrupted with the rise of fintech and challenger banks.

 

I think the biggest opportunity will be for the companies that are leveraging technology and changing the way consumers engage or interact. We’ve seen this in the rise of digital-only banks such as Monzo and Starling. But I also think more attention will be paid to the governance and ethics of data.

 

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

Educating the senior stakeholders, particularly within organisations where employees have been there for a long time and have the “if it is not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. While it may not be broken, the model is being broken up, which in turn disrupts traditional types of service.

 

I also believe we should be engaging all organisations to have a basic level of data literacy, to ensure everyone at least feels confident enough to use data to support their arguments and to make data informed decisions.

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