Louise Lunn, Vice President, Global Analytics Delivery at FICO.  She’s an excellent candidate who is responsible for FICO’s Global Analytics Delivery organisation.

Based in the UK, Louise oversees teams of data scientists worldwide who develop custom analytics solutions and exploratory analytics projects for the world’s top banks, as well as retailers, telecommunications firms, insurance companies and other businesses. Louise was previously shortlisted for Women in Credit Awards, in the Team Leader of the Year – Data, Risk & Analytics category. She is one of 20 women featured in FICO’s award-winning video on the importance of diversity in analytics.

How would you describe a typical day as a Global Vice President of Analytics?

I would describe every day as demanding and rewarding in different measures; I follow the sun.  Based in the UK, I start my day with my team and colleagues in Asia Pacific, moving through India, and Europe and finishing my day with my American colleagues.  The role requires me to blend my technical expertise, strategic thinking and leadership skills, whilst overseeing the analytics operations.  Collaboration plays a key part in my typical day, working with colleagues globally across FICO as we leverage data to drive business success for our clients.  It’s rewarding to see the different ways our clients embrace analytics and the journey they are on to drive transformation in their business.

What are the key responsibilities and priorities that you handle in your role?

I lead FICO’s Global Analytics Delivery organisation. I oversee teams of data scientists worldwide who develop custom analytics solutions and exploratory analytics projects for the world’s top banks, as well as retailers, telecommunications firms, insurance companies and other businesses. My teams solve business problems using the latest technologies in data mining, machine learning, statistical modelling, pattern recognition, and performance inference.  Our mission is to help our customers drive smarter, better, faster decisions.

How do you ensure effective communication and collaboration with teams across different regions and time zones?

Effective communication in a global setting requires flexibility, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to various working styles and time zone constraints.  Clearly defining roles and responsibilities within the team helps minimise confusion and duplication of efforts, especially when team members are working across different time zones.  Digital collaboration tools play a major role; we leverage video conferencing, shared workspace and messaging platforms to facilitate real-time communication and collaboration. It helps us stay connected regardless of the physical location.

I can’t live without my scheduling tool. I’m mindful of time zone differences when scheduling meetings and try to rotate meeting times to accommodate different regions’ working hours, so no one is consistently inconvenienced by meetings outside their regular work hours.

I take the time to build personal relationships with team members across different regions, understanding how cultural differences might impact communication styles and working practices.   This help fosters trust and understanding making virtual collaboration more effective.

What strategies do you employ to drive innovation and continuous improvement in the analytics function globally?

Driving innovation and continuous improvement in the analytics function globally requires a combination of strategic planning, fostering a culture of innovation, and leveraging the latest technologies.  Driving innovation is an ongoing effort that requires commitment from leadership, a supportive environment, and a willingness to adapt to changing technologies and market dynamics.  One example of how we have achieved this is via a Hackathon / Innovation Challenge –  We established a Hackathon committee to organise and coordinate the entire event, and select the format, the problem statements, learning objectives and prizes!  The committee provided 3 problem statements (real-life client challenges) and worked on the basis of 3 teams per statement for a total of 9 teams.  Captains were appointed for each of the 9 teams and individuals could decide which of the teams they wanted to join.  The organising committee had the right to overrule team composition, in case of bias or clusters of too many experienced individuals in one team.  The event stretched over a number of weeks, resulting in a series of presentations from the teams to the committee for judging. The criteria for judging were business value, impact on our clients, ease of development and adoption. There was a winner for each problem statement and the whole experience created a great buzz around the team.

These events take a considerable amount of time and planning but the collaboration between the analytics teams and other departments leads to the discovery of new insights and opportunities for improvement, along with innovative solutions making the investment well worthwhile.

We organise cross-functional brainstorming sessions and workshops to generate solutions to common challenges we are experiencing; this encourages a mindset for learning and growth, sharing stories of successes and failures that led to valuable insights and improvements.

Can you share an example of a challenging situation or project you’ve encountered in your role, and how you successfully navigated it to achieve desired outcomes?

In my previous roles, I had primarily focused on the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. Transitioning into a truly global role came with its set of challenges, particularly in fostering cross-team collaboration and alignment.  Previously, these regions had operated independently, working in silos.  Introducing changes without clear communication could generate uncertainty and apprehension among teams.

Effective communication was a major factor in achieving this alignment. A deliberate approach was adopted, incorporating structured planning, all the while maintaining transparency.

One example is establishing the Talent Development Council, with each region having an ambassador who attends regional and council meetings for the purpose of developing a presence in the community and assisting in the forecast of future needs in the global team.  These ambassadors collaborate with stakeholders for the purpose of building effective two-way communication and enhancing relationships throughout the region.  In conjunction with the council, they are responsible for the implementation and solicitation of feedback from each region for the purpose of improving communication, skills and career development programs within FICO for the global team. This council also contributed to and maintains the governance of the Knowledge Centre, our knowledge management solution.  Knowledge management is the process of creating, curating, sharing, using and managing knowledge across the global group.  It is the one-stop shop giving full transparency across regions for analytics assets, process guides, skill development resources and much more.

The goal was to ensure that everyone was well-informed about forthcoming changes and decisions that could impact their work.  This transparency and information-sharing were fundamental in cultivating a unified team culture with shared goals and objectives.  The intent was to make every team member feel integral to the collective global journey.

By orchestrating communication across the global teams, collaboration and problem-solving were notably improved.  This was an outcome of leveraging the expertise of each team and embracing a holistic approach to addressing comparable projects and challenges.  Our experiences were exchanged, allowing for efficiencies to be gained as we collectively examined situations through a global lens, always considering the broader perspective.

How do you prioritise diversity and inclusion within your analytics teams, and what specific steps are taken to ensure diverse perspectives are incorporated in decision-making processes?

Recognising that we need diversity in innovation and teams is the first step in removing bias and ensuring different perspectives are considered.  We can hope to mitigate those biases by including people with different thoughts and approaches—across race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and economic conditions—to challenge our own thinking and views.

This starts at the hiring stage, where we have our Anti-Bias Checklist. We take the time to create a job description that is diversity-friendly, concise, and reflects only the critical hard and soft skills needed during the selection phase of hiring.  We focus on skills, experiences, and potential rather than solely on traditional qualifications.  This helps us attract candidates from diverse backgrounds, and we look to recruit from underrepresented groups in analytics.  We practice blind resume review, where we focus solely on the experience on the resume before having a chance to draw biased conclusions from extraneous information like clubs, previous employers, gender, etc.  Our hiring managers and interviewers are trained to recognise and mitigate biases through structured interviews and assessment rubrics to ensure a fair evaluation.

Once on board, training and education plays a major role. We offer training sessions on diversity and inclusion for all team members.  This raises awareness, challenges biases, and promotes understanding.  We also conduct regular workforce engagement surveys to take the “pulse” of our people and gather their insights.

We practice inclusive decision-making, actively seeking input from team members with diverse perspectives.  Through our Talent Development Council, we encourage healthy debates and discussions to ensure that decisions are thoroughly examined from different angles.

We strive for diversity in leadership positions, as diverse leadership sets an example and influences the team’s culture.  We set great examples representing our global employees through employee resource groups: Women@FICO, FICO Cares, FICO Global Diversity and Out at FICO.  The members of these working groups are active champions for their specialist area and have clear roles.  By accomplishing diversity on our teams, we make better decisions as people are better at spotting bias.  We celebrate cultural and diversity-related events within the team to promote understanding and appreciation of different backgrounds.  Fostering diversity and inclusion is an ongoing effort that requires a continuous commitment from every employee.

In what ways do diversity and inclusion contribute to creating unbiased predictions and mitigating potential biases in analytics outcomes?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important considerations in many fields, including data science. A diverse team can bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences to problem-solving and decision-making, which can lead to more innovative and effective solutions. In addition, having a team that is representative of the diverse communities and populations that a company or organisation serves can be important for building trust and ensuring that the needs and concerns of those communities are taken into account.  T

As an example, the analytics team worked with the largest microfinance bank in both Peru and Latin America.  Mibanco’s goal was to expand access to credit for the unbanked or credit invisible using FICO Platform and analytics.  Lenders want to expand their market to include more new borrowers, but this segment of applicants poses a significant challenge to a lender’s ability to assess character, credit risk and verify the credit destination.  These loans are often life-changing, allowing individuals to build businesses, access housing, education and bringing them into the financial system.

Encouraging diversity in the field of data science and in the tech industry more broadly can also help to address issues of underrepresentation and discrimination that have historically affected certain groups, including women.  A key ability required to be successful in analytics, and which demonstrates the need for diversity in the field, is intellectual curiosity. AI needs people who will challenge and change how things are done. And this is best achieved with a mix of vantage points. A group of people from the same demographic, who were brought up in similar ways, and attended a select group of universities, will ask the same questions and approach problems from the same angle. A diverse group will see the many ways to solve the problem and work together to find the best solution, whether it is a hybrid of multiple opinions or a single viewpoint.  While progress has been made in increasing the representation of women in these fields, there is still a significant gender imbalance in many tech companies and organisations. Promoting diversity and inclusion can help to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees and can also contribute to the overall success and competitiveness of a company or organisation.

It is important to note that the value of diversity is not limited to any specific group or demographic. A diverse team can bring a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives that can enrich the problem-solving process and lead to better outcomes. In the field of data science, as in other fields, it is important to strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to foster a more inclusive and innovative work environment and to better serve the needs of all stakeholders.

Diverse teams are more attuned to the ethical implications of analytics outcomes. They can identify and address potential ethical concerns, ensuring that decisions made based on analytics are fair and just.  A data scientist has to assume that every dataset has bias coded into it, and part of their job is to remove that bias so that the models they build will be both more accurate and fairer.  I also believe that diverse teams are important to ensure models are built without unconscious bias, as a diversity of viewpoints brings new perspectives.

Data Science is an exciting and important field to work in. Some of the world’s biggest problems will be fixed by AI. This is a succinct way of illustrating the need for diversity in AI. To solve the world’s big problems, the team must reflect the world and not a select group of it.

In summary, diversity and inclusion contribute to unbiased predictions and the mitigation of potential biases by providing a broader range of perspectives, enabling early detection of biases, fostering ethical considerations, and promoting a collaborative and accountable approach to analytics. By valuing diversity and actively including underrepresented voices, analytics teams can create more accurate, fair, and trustworthy insights and outcomes.

Have you seen an uptick in the number of women applying for roles within data teams?

I have not experienced an uptick in women applying for roles in data science; the percentage of female candidates we tend to see is approximately 30% of applications.

Women are underrepresented in a lot of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) fields. While the difference in numbers is larger in engineering, we still need to get more women into data science and I believe this begins with education and raising awareness of this at an early age, followed by employers fostering more inclusive work environments.

We need to start conversations about the qualifications required to work in STEM-based positions. Women need to look at these courses but then also consider incorporating aspects of programming skills, statistics, big data technologies, and architecture framework.  Highlighting successful women in data science and analytics through conferences, articles, and speaking engagements can inspire more women to consider and apply for roles in these fields.

It’s important to note that while progress has been made, gender diversity remains an ongoing challenge in the tech and data fields.  Increasing the representation of women in data teams requires continuous efforts, including addressing unconscious bias, providing mentorship and career development opportunities, and creating workplaces that are truly inclusive.

At FICO we regularly review our recruiting and selection practices to enhance our ability to attract and include diverse candidates in our qualified applicant pools. Our practices include adopting a formal service level agreement approach to set clear expectations with hiring managers about the time required to assemble diverse qualified applicant pools.  Since implementing this approach, the percentage of roles filled by women has increased significantly over the last several years.

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