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Meera Naik, Head of data transformation, Barnardo's

Path to power

 

I grew up being interested in data, whether that be football results or dad’s golfing scores. After I joined Comic Relief, I realised that data management and analysis was my passion. During my time there, I enjoyed business analysis of our data flows to improve quality and efficiency and reported on our multi-million pound campaigns, helping teams to maximise revenue and increase awareness of our work. I was also lucky enough to travel and undertake live analysis for Red Nose Day USA. I managed the creation of a single supporter view before taking the job of head of data where I worked on strategy and make-up of the team during an organisational restructure. Now at Barnardo’s, I have created a data landscape of our systems, working with services on GDPR and NHS toolkit compliance, and concentrating on the opportunities and ethical considerations around external data sharing and predictive analytics. I would never have imagined where data would take me, but working with different data sets and different stakeholders in the charity sector has been very rewarding and seeing the changes in the industry has been fascinating and I am very excited to be part of what happens next.

 

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

 

There have been many, but doing live reporting on Chris Moyles’ attempt to break the record for the longest show in BBC Radio 1’s history was a highlight as I was able to tell him that he hit a million pounds just as he broke the record. He went on to raise over £2.8 million. From a data perspective, the creation of a single supporter view at Comic Relief was a challenging, but rewarding achievement.

 

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

 

Speak to people in the industry, keep reading, think about where you want to be and always think anything is possible.

 

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

 

From a personal point of view, it was always going to be a big year due to moving jobs and getting married which was amazing. Work-wise, I knew the work would be varied and it was all incredibly interesting. Industry-wise, it felt like a turning point with regards to the sharp increase in scrutiny on data especially with stories such as Cambridge Analytica.

 

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

 

It feels like reporting on data breach incidents and scrutiny on organisations are only going to increase and we will continue to see the use of predictive analytics and AI in various industries. However, I think there will be more focus on the ethical considerations around the usage of these techniques and how data is used. It will also be interesting to see how the ePrivacy Regulations progress and also how GDPR related incidents are treated.

 

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

 

From my experience, there is always hidden talent within an organisation and giving people opportunities to showcase their talent is one way of helping with progression. However, to complement that, bringing in talent from different environments, ensuring diversity, will help to challenge the status quo. With skills, it is important not just to concentrate on technical skills, but also have training in emotional intelligence to enhance ways of working and relationship management. Finally, working with other organisations to see how they undertake work can be helpful and mentoring is something that has beneficial impact as well.

 

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

 

For me, it is the increase of focus on why we are using data. With the new regulations and increase in awareness, people’s understanding is improving and there is more of an effort to ensure we are collecting data for the right purposes.

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