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Joe Nathan, VP of data and analytics, RS Components

Path to power

 

I graduated with a Statistics and Economics degree with no real view of what I wanted to do in life (no different to most students, I guess). So, before I could explore my options, I landed a fixed one-year role working as a statistics officer in the Civil Service. Hungry for a more fast-paced environment, I moved into financial services and re-insurance, building all kinds of models, most notably one that drives the quotes for car and household insurance to this day. Apologies to those who get high quotes!
Then, nearly four years later, a dream data analyst job at The Economist surfaced - a magazine I religiously read at university and to this day. That may explain why I stayed there for 14 years, doing everything data could offer - data science, reporting, campaigning, engineering, data quality, governance, strategy. Then, in 2014, I jumped at an opportunity to join Andy Day at News UK building a new department of data talent, with my role specifically around data management. I’m proud to have built a world-class team and my achievements there. In 2017, I moved to a fascinating company called Electrocomponents, leading the charge on transforming the business to be data-driven and to exploit data.

 

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

 

Joining Electrocomponents and being part of a fascinating transformation and journey the company is going on. From a data perspective, the opportunities are mouth-watering.

 

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

 

Really to appreciate the data industry, you need to live and breathe it. Play around with data, manipulate it, store it in a database, organise it, standardise it. Create reports, run analyses, play with (data) technology. Once you have lived and breathed data, plan. Plan what you want to do with data, like a relevant use case, and then it becomes about measuring and executing the plan.

 

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

 

To me, 2018 was a little flat. It started off with GDPR panic which very quickly fizzled out and then there was very little in terms of revolutionary data technology or methodologies.

 

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

 

Probably a good barometer is seeing what Amazon has to offer, whether it’s Amazon Go or new products/services within AWS. I’d love to see data being used for the good with some real breakthroughs, either within medical research or crime prevention.

 

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

 

I wish there was a magic formula on this, but there isn’t. Finding and/or nurturing talent is one thing, retaining is another. It’s so hard. At RS Components, we’ve created a fantastic working environment, it’s relaxed, non-suffocating and moving away from a corporate culture. We are all humans and if we are happy, we perform at our best. We encourage innovation and collaboration. We stand strong on integrity, aspiration and accountability. Lastly, we want people who are passionate. These are the values that we hope will attract talent.

 

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

 

It has to be AI. We’re not there yet, but the opportunities are both phenomenal and also a little daunting on how it will change the world.

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