Yasmeen Ahmad holds a PhD in Data Management, Mining and Visualisation, has published several papers internationally and has experience of speaking at International conferences.

She has recently been recognised as a top100 data and analytics leader by DataIQ.

1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Had I planned a career, I would most likely be in another location today, possibly interacting with people from a field unknown to me and carrying out a list of tasks using knowledge and experience gained through a different career progression.

Planning my career is not a task I have knowingly ignored, it is a task I have always found challenging. With the exciting marketplace, disruptive trends and rapid progression in science and technology, there is an abundance of opportunity that I could not have dreamed of even a year ago. When I studied at University, the data science field did not exist. It was not yet a concept, let alone a set of courses that could be studied.

I am fortunate to say that the roles I have undertaken in with my career have been positions that were new by design and in multiple cases, roles that have were created to fulfill a new requirement that never existed before. The unknown has made my career exciting.

2. Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them

Challenges are a part of everyday life. When working in a rapidly changing and advancing field, it is inevitable that there will be challenges to overcome. I have had to overcome obstacles throughout my career, from becoming the first Data Scientist recruited into Teradata, to building a team from scratch, to more recently defining a strategic vision, developing new go-to-market strategies and implementing new operational models. Every step of the way, I feel fortunate to have had new challenges that I observe as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Vital to overcoming these challenges has been strong leadership and mentoring. It has been key to seek out individuals who could support me through the ups and downs, providing their external perspective and experience.

3. What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be brave. You will never be ready for your first leadership position, you will be challenged by new and complex situations you have not dealt with before. In many cases there will be no right answer, you will be required to make difficult choices but the key is remaining authentic and true to your values.

Avoid the trap of becoming just a manager, organising and co-ordinating teams. Go beyond management to leading with a vision. To be a success, you must complete tactical tasks and activities everyday, but to become a strong leader you must set yourself additional goals that help you be strategic for long-term impact.

4. When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

The candidate with most passion, motivation and drive. This candidate will go above and beyond what they have been asked to do and bring their own drive to the role.

Passionate candidates are always challenging themselves to continuously learn and grow. They do not work the conventional week. They spend time thinking beyond the tasks they are assigned to and find novel ways to add value. These are the people who not only have a positive impact on the business but they also have a strong influence on the team, lifting and inspiring others and setting a high standard of execution.

5. How do you manage your own boss?

Interaction with my manager is key to my success. During my career I have chosen to work for people who inspire me. These are the people I know will push me to better myself and I will learn a great deal from.

I am very open and honest with my manager, ensuring I discuss the key challenges I am facing, what I am trying to develop in my team and practice area, as well as discussing the upcoming risks. By ensuring that I share these details with my manager, I am able to leverage their experience and advice.

In most cases, my manager has had years more experience, understands the politics of the organisation and is adept at people management. I can leverage this insight to perform better.

My manager can not help me, if I do not ask. Furthermore, a constant and consistent dialogue means my manager can help guide and course correct, ensuring the activities I do align with the global aims of the organisation.

6. On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I like to get up early – I can get more work done with an early start than I can often complete all day once the calls and meetings start. The morning gives me time to gather my thoughts and do my most creative work.

My days are not usual, my career has involved a lot of travel. On average I am on the road five days a week: flights and train journeys, a team across different timezones, a multitude of global customers to work in partnership with.

This means there is no typical end of the day. However, I do like to make sure I get some me-time to take a walk in a new city, go to the gym, wind down from a hectic day.

7. What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

If you are working towards the strategic goals of your organisation, pushing the boundaries beyond what the business is doing today, then you are guaranteed to raise your profile.

Working with my team, I like to highlight the successes we are creating and where we are being innovative to do so. I highlight people who should be a role model to others. Hence, strive to be that role model.

8. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring comes in many different shapes and forms, both formally and informally. I have benefitted from both.

Do not simply look for mentors in your field of work, look beyond to people who can inspire, help advise you through the difficult challenges and have a genuine interest in helping you do well.

My mentors have helped guided me, often giving their unbiased, external perspective on situations that provides clarity in complex situations.

9. Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker

There is something to be learned from every new person you meet and networking provides you the opportunity to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds with a wealth of experience.

It can be daunting to introduce yourself to new people, hence prepare upfront for networking events. Understand the audience you will be meeting and think about a few conversation starters and questions you can you use to initiate conversation.

Listen to what others have to say and do not dominate the conversation. Listening is a key skill to understand what people are passionate about. If you can engage people on their passions, you will connect and create a memorable conversation.

Remember to follow up. A successful networking event will include meeting many individuals who may be able to help you in the future, but networking is just the start. Follow up with people, reminding them of who you are and letting them know you are available and keen to engage further.

10. What does the future hold for you?

It is one of the most exciting times to be involved in data and analytics. There is a huge amount of potential and untapped opportunity. I am looking forward to an exciting future. I do not know where I will be or what I might be doing in the coming years, but I know that if I follow my passion and continue to be creative and innovative I will be somewhere unexpected beyond what I can imagine today.