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Sandra Stanley, Head of customer knowledge UK and Ireland, dunnhumby

Path to power

 

I joined dunnhumby, one of the early pioneers of data science, as a graduate analyst nearly 20 years ago. I have had amazing opportunities to grow my career here as the business went through explosive growth. As an analyst, I created some of our most famous approaches and models using grocery data and applied these across many sectors including e-commerce, telecoms and banking. My career at dunnhumby has included many roles. The ones that stand out for me were when Tesco faced tough times and I was able to use data to play a pivotal role. In 2008, I led the Tesco customer team at dunnhumby helping Tesco outperform the market in a recession with new discounter competition. In 2011, I returned from maternity leave to work with the group Clubcard director to create a change programme putting customers back at the heart of Tesco. Since 2016, I have been leading the UK data science, analysis and research community of 70-plus experts. My focus is on bringing a complete modernisation of our approach to analytics, elevating data science from within a research team to the centre of the analysis function and the core of the business.

 

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

 

As an advocate of using data and analytics to bring benefits for consumers, my highlight must be all the times I have seen my work come to action in a Tesco store for customers. My proudest being when I worked with the Tesco Clubcard director to persuade the board to inject a £100 million investment into Clubcard and launch a whole new proposition for customers called Clubcard Boost. I could finally explain to my parents what I did!

 

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

 

Your success depends on you. Don’t rely on others to advocate for you, get out there and tell people what you have done and what you are capable of. Continued consumer apathy to privacy and security was the surprise for me in 2018. GDPR was such a big focus for organisations, but ultimately something that most consumers didn’t really care about. And, although there was the Facebook/Cambridge Analytical scandal, nothing has really changed. Most consumers are still prepared to give their data to any app that asks for it and terms and conditions are still too long and wordy.

 

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

 

I expect quality of talent to remain a significant challenge in 2019. In the last few years, we have seen demand increase significantly for analysts and data scientists, but with that, they stay in jobs for less time and demand higher salaries. I think companies are starting to wise-up to the fact that knowing how to build machine learning models or neural networks is not enough. They need people who can get to the root of the problem and evaluate solutions based on how they will work in the commercial world. This takes time and experience.

 

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

 

This has always been a challenge for dunnhumby as it is fundamental for us to have a great analyst/data skills base. We have three main strategies that continue to work for us: 1. We have always had amazing success recruiting new graduates, providing training, mentors and stretch assignments to become some of the best professionals in the industry. 2. We opened an office in India ten years ago to grow the talent pool that we can tap into. This office continues to expand and we have found some amazing data science talent. 3. We invest in training, both formal learning and on the job.

 

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

 

I am interested to see the evolution of smart homes and how analytics can be used to turn the data from these devices into something that is genuinely helpful to households. It will be interesting how owners will react to the use of data generated in their own home.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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