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Ryan den Rooijen, Global director of data services, Dyson

Path to power

 

I started with web development in secondary school and delivered several commercial data applications. After my BSc in Biotechnology, I worked on a number of digital start-ups. Fascinated by the rise of social media, I studied for an MSc at the Oxford Internet Institute where my thesis looked at language analysis of Twitter data to understand offline behaviour. Next, I joined Google where I worked in a number of roles, including insights and analytics for its largest advertisers. I'm currently at Dyson, where our team is building the company's next-generation analytical capabilities. We want to help our employees make the best possible decisions, from manufacturing through to customer experiences.

 

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

 

I'm coming up to my two-year anniversary at Dyson and, reflecting on what I have learned during this period, I would say this has been the highlight! It is the first time that I have been intimately involved with an analytical transformation journey and it has been a great experience. After all, working for digital companies is fun, but they are not always representative of the real world.

 

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

 

Admit when you do not know the answer! So much of our education was aimed at completing exams and essays that showcased our knowledge that it can be hard to let that attitude go. However, with the complexity of our field, it is liberating to admit when you need someone else's help.

 

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

 

Big picture, I think last year went as expected. However, I have learned that it is difficult to predict things in detail. Some tasks took months longer than originally expected, while other major initiatives took weeks instead of months. What I have taken away from this is to make sure that our 2019 plan focuses on the missions we want to accomplish, instead of planning all of the tasks in detail.

 

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

 

You would be hard pressed to find an organisation that has not woken up to the fact that data and analytics is a critical capability they need to develop. Instead, the discussion is now focused on how they can scale these and use them to drive positive impact consistently across the organisation. I expect topics like data ops and data quality to feature heavily at conferences this year!

 

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

 

Considering talent shortages will not be resolved soon, we aim to take the long view. Foremost, we strive to build a great, people-focused culture so that we can attract, develop and retain the best talent in our team. Secondly, our team is also based in Singapore, Shanghai and Chicago, which allows us to tap into talent pools beyond the UK. Finally, we leverage partners where possible on complex projects as a means of increasing our team's bandwidth and knowledge base.

 

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

 

I am excited about the work being done on algorithmic transparency and explainable AI. Understanding builds trust and drives adoption. With the amount of value that there is to be unlocked, we are all responsible for increasing digital and analytical literacy in the world around us.

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