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David Hayes, chief data officer, Open University

David Hayes

Path to power

Originally qualifying as an accountant on the Anglian Water graduate scheme, I moved first into the telecoms industry with WorldCom, then onto banking with Santander UK, and recently into higher education at the Open University.

 

An analyst at heart, my journey into data started when I took a key role in the data integration and migration processes that moved the data from Abbey, Alliance & Leicester, and Bradford & Bingley into Santander’s core platform, and data has been my home ever since.

 

After leading a number of data teams, I become CDO at Santander UK, where I was asked to create a new data services function, consolidating all of the key data capabilities of the bank and developing a data strategy for the future. This last year I was then in the right place at the right time to take a big step towards a career in a sector that has always been close to my heart by becoming the first CDO at the Open University.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I’m really proud to be able to say that I was there at the start of the data journey at Santander UK, creating the data teams that took the bank through major transformations in the years following the big acquisitions, and establishing a culture and a team ethic that was really well respected across the bank. I have no regrets at all, but it was really hard to leave some of the great people behind because I was really proud of the team we had created together.

 

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

My father. Some things have just stayed with me since I was a kid. Recognising that to improve you have to work hard, that it’s ok not to know how to do something, ok to ask for help, and ok to say I have got something wrong.

 

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

Not at all, but definitely for the better. I went on an emotional journey through 2019, leaving a company after 18 years of service that I have great respect for, that had given me great opportunities and that had kick-started my journey into data. Moving from Santander to the Open University has launched a new chapter in my career and has opened a whole new world of opportunities to use data to do things that I hope will really make a positive contribution to society and individual student’s lives.

 

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

I think there will be much more of the same in terms of growth in the sector, and while this will be good for all in the data profession, I hope we will continue to see more encouragement for data professionals to prove the value they add to the organisations they work for.

 

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

Genuine personalisation or individualisation of services based on what businesses know about customers from information they willingly share, because they trust that that information will be used to help and benefit them.

 

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

Technology to unlock and make easily available data about data. Metadata is one of the least sexy things to put on the data agenda, but, without information about the data, the idea of truly scaling up, or speeding up processes using any kind of automation is fanciful. The older and larger the organisation, the harder this challenge is and the more imperative it is to help that organisation to move quickly with data in the future.

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