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Edwina Dunn, Chief executive officer, Starcount

Path to power

 

I started my career at CACI, a pioneering software consultancy that taught entrepreneurial leadership skills. I became the company’s youngest vice president and discovered my passion for data and technology. I met Clive Humby there and, in 1989, we founded dunnhumby together.
In 1995, we launched Tesco Clubcard. We engaged millions of customers as individuals for the first time and helped Tesco to double its market share. It was the first mass customisation using big data. We took it to retailers globally over the next ten years. By the time we sold dunnhumby in 2011, I was leading an organisation of 1,500 people, reaching 350 million customers in 25 countries, worth over $2 billion.
In 2014, I felt compelled to continue my journey and passion for data. Our new science and technology platform proves that passions (you are what you love) predict what you buy. We analyse over 50 billion connections every day to predict next best offer.
My other passion is all about encouraging women and STEM careers. I chaired the Your Life campaign and created the Future Finder career app. I founded The Female Lead, a charity that inspires young women to see more role models.

 

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

 

Firstly, on presenting our initial Clubcard trial findings to the Tesco Board, the Chairman, Lord MacLaurin, said we knew more about his customers after three months than he did after 30 years. We knew that we were working on something transformational - an unforgettable moment. 
More recently, hitting the milestone of 7,000 schools being gifted “The Female Lead”, featuring 60 inspiring women from across the world. The feedback from schools on how well “The Female Lead” is received and knowing the difference this can make in raising girls’ self belief and stated aspirations. We are now targeting universities and colleges.

 

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

 

Go for it! Not enough people realise that being fluent in the language of data unlocks a wealth of (well-paid!) career opportunities. We need more young people - especially women - to consider a career in this field. Both my organisations have been 50% female. There really is no reason for gender bias.I see this year as a proving/testing year around what is permitted and what is non-compliant in GDPR, privacy, security and ethics and I welcome being part of that review and set of recommendations. Our work at Starcount in measuring and tracking billions of consumer passions and motivations will help organisations to become more relevant and timely. And the data is compliant. Our innovation in this field can help companies compete with and resist the dominance of Amazon and other digital natives creating massive consumer data lakes.

 

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

 

I think this has been a year of slow progress and hesitant brands right across the market. I have been newly appointed to the board of the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The dangers revealed in Facebook and the introduction of GDPR has been a game-changer. Many seemingly untouchable digital businesses are now under the microscope and need to rethink their entire targeting model.

 

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

 

I was recently recognised as one of 2018’s 50 inspiring women in technology by the FT. Being a role model helps others. Women are woefully unrepresented in data and technology, with the problem compounded by a lack of visible role models. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see! It is a situation I am determined to change and The Female Lead recently published a “20 in data and technology” second series in collaboration with Women in Data.

 

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

 

The new legislation and the demand for sharing and creating open data, including Government, will drive more discipline, innovation and creativity. This will demand and stimulate the development and application of new analytics, storytelling and technology, putting the UK at the forefront of the global industry.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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