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Martin Squires, Director of data, insight and analytics, HomeServe

Path to power

 

I’ve never been one of those people who have a meticulous master plan for where they want to be in five years. I tend to just think about what excites and interests me and go after doing it. That was pretty much how I got into this stuff 25 years ago, working as an economist/planner at a building society and it wanted volunteers to work on a customer data/segmentation project. Sounded more fun than economics. From there, I’ve been lucky that what I’ve found interesting seems to have been solving questions that people needed answers for.

 

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

 

Making the DataIQ 100, of course! : -)

 

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

 

Be a one-handed analyst. I think it was President Truman who once said, “give me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, 'on one hand…,' then, 'but on the other…’" and I think this is a curse that still limits how analysts are seen in organisations. Analysts are the people closest to the data, they should always have an opinion and be ready, willing and able to voice it.

 

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

 

Twelve months ago, I think GDPR was such a focus. It’s now business as usual and, touch wood, the wheels don’t seem to have come off. I guess the moral is that if you do the right thing for customers, then you’re probably well on the way to doing the right thing legally as well.

 

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

 

I think the external/macro environment is so up in the air it’s harder than ever to try and answer this sort of question. To slightly misquote George Box, all forecasts are wrong, but some are useful. I think the great thing for data and analysis in 2019 is that the more volatile the environment is then the more people need quality analysis and insights. You can steer by your gut on still waters, but stormy seas are a different matter.

 

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

 

At HomeServe, we’ve just launched a data science apprenticeship scheme aimed at attracting bright young things either direct from university or from inside our own organisation and training them up across a range of computer science, statistics and consulting skills. The scheme includes working with teams in customer data, BI and IT and is hopefully a great opportunity for young talent. I’m massively excited about its potential really to move us forward and grow the skills we need without having to buy them in from the external market.

 

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

 

Influenced by my years at Boots, I think the potential for analytics to transform healthcare over the next ten years is massive. There is great work being done to understand things like the potential of commercial data sets for predicting early incidence of cancer, for example. Hopefully, we’ll see data and analytics making a massive positive contribution to people’s well-being.

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