female data scientist, woman leading team

Why women should consider analytics as a career path

female data scientist, woman leading team

Louise Lunn, Vice President, Global Analytics Delivery, FICO discusses why building a career in analytics will lead to purposeful engagement, meaning and motivation.

There has never been a better time for women to be part of the technology industry.

Powered by advancements in computing and AI, there are now huge opportunities to solve interesting problems at a global scale. This opportunity, combined with the momentum to build a diverse workforce, makes it a truly exciting time to be part of the analytics industry. In fact, the data scientist has been called “the sexiest job of the 21st century” by Harvard Business Review.

The coronavirus outbreak caused widespread concern and economic hardship for consumers, businesses, and communities across the globe. It also accelerated digital transformation, the use of open banking data and the adoption of AI in financial services.  The focus within the financial services industry switched to digital transformation programmes. The use of data and analytics by businesses was also expanded to improve understanding of customer circumstances through both good and bad times, with the aim of winning loyalty and achieving profitability.

Data science teams play a fundamental role, responding to the critical need for banking systems to make excellent decisions in an automated fashion. For example, banking scams have been climbing during the pandemic, due to the growth in real-time payments from debit accounts. FICO data analysts used AI and machine learning to develop analytic models that specifically focus on identifying abnormal payment transactions in real time, to help curb fraud.

Creating a positive experience and prioritising customer experience and personalisation is so important in the current climate and analytics teams are fundamental to this function to ensure relevant and non-conflicting offers, treatments and messages are sent. And the growth of data means the door is pushed even wider for those looking for a career path in this field.

The job functions that build an analytics team vary from data scientist, data architect, data analyst, to data engineer. Within these roles you’ll find a whole host of specialties, such as:

  • The Algorithm Guru – understands the variety of choices for the breadth of tasks
  • The Architect –ensures that the infrastructure can manage large-scale datasets and ensure things run fast!  Strong computer science and software knowledge.
  • The Data Modeler – building the models
  • The Deep Diver – analyse the data/models to extract key insights
  • The Storyteller  – is needed to articulate the insights (from the cutting-edge analysis)
  • The Cat Herder – keeps everyone together and on track with where they should be

For anyone thinking about data science as a career route, the opportunities are immense. These roles are an offshoot of several traditional technical roles, including business domain expertise, mathematicians, scientists, statisticians, and computer professionals.  All these different jobs fit into the disciplines of a data scientist.

With large-scale data within organisations and growth within analytics teams, there are so many elements that make working in analytics feel purposeful. I feel grateful to be in a position to attract and retain the stars of the future in analytics and software. I enjoy giving people the opportunity to grow and develop, and then watching them go on to achieve great things. My role allows me to cultivate engagement, meaning, and motivation with my team and clients as we solve problems through data and analytics.

Within FICO we have an excellent support network through groups such as [email protected] – a community available to women at all levels, designed to enable structured information/experience sharing, education, and professional networks.  Led by a steering committee of women leaders representing our various business units and geographies, it gives us many opportunities to get involved and further our network globally.

The key thing for women looking to take the first step into analytics or for those looking to develop their roles is to try working in different areas within the field and seize any opportunity to acquire a new skill or programming language.  Stay determined, work hard and never be afraid to voice your opinion. FICO creates an environment that fosters learning, improvement, and success, and I’ve always appreciated that!

Louise LunnAbout the author

Louise Lunn leads FICO’s created Global Analytics Delivery organization. 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.   

female data scientist, woman leading team

Making a difference in the world: navigating a career in data and analytics

By Sophie Hiscock, Graduate Consulting Analyst at TrueCue

female data scientist, woman leading teamWhile the technology industry is forward thinking in terms of its efforts to support the ‘new normal’ – becoming a force for good in many ways at this time – it still has a way to go in terms of actively encouraging women to explore a career in technology.

Recent research by PwC, carried out across A-Level and university students, found that only 27% of female students would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, with the main reason being the lack of information, advice and role models for women.

To help bridge the gender diversity gap, it is critical – particularly at a time when students are considering their future – that misconceptions around women working in technology are resolved.

In light of this, I want to share my personal experience of working in technology, how I navigated a path in the data analytics industry as a Philosophy and Economics graduate and ultimately how analytics enable us to make a positive difference to the world.

Entering the technology industry

Studying Philosophy and Economics at university inspired me to pursue a career in data and analytics as both subjects demand rigorous thinking and the ability to apply theory to real-world problems, skills that are central to anyone who works with data in business contexts.

That being said, the technology industry is increasingly diverse in terms of the academic and professional backgrounds of employees. If you do not have academic experience that specifically relates to technology, do not worry. As long as you have an interest in analytics and an aptitude for numbers, you will quickly be able to grow in this sector. A formal background in Maths and Data Science is helpful, but these skills can easily be learnt independently.

Attending bootcamps and online courses can be a great way of understanding whether the technology industry is for you. When I was at university, I enrolled in a programme called ‘Code First Girls’ – a bootcamp taught by women with careers in technology, offering free coding lessons in Python among other languages. Many of the female teachers I came across did not come from STEM backgrounds and speaking to them helped me realise the range of work available to me.

In this way, having female role models is another critical factor in increasing the number of women looking to get into technology. I was lucky to have met some amazing women throughout my university courses and internships. If you are stuck for people to answer your questions at this socially distanced time, I would suggest reaching out to industry experts via platforms such as LinkedIn or LeanFurther which connects young women with professionals in different industries.

Looking beyond the stereotypes

There are vast misconceptions about what working in technology actually involves. When I first started at TrueCue I quickly learnt that working in data is not always about the technical side, being able to communicate well both with the client directly and through visualisations is central.

This balance is reflected in what I do on a daily basis. For example, a typical project for me will begin with requirements gathering, data scoping, data preparation and analysis and will culminate in a visual presentation of the data through a series of dashboards that clients can interact with. Having both the sensitivity and technological experience to fully understand and help the client are key components of working in data and analytics.

Since my time at TrueCue I have worked on many ‘tech for good’ projects, including one with a company operating in the pharmaceutical industry. On this project, I designed an app to help doctors and nurses working in different healthcare facilities to plan for the uptake of a particular drug. This app ensured doctors would be able to plan out resourcing, while taking into account the rate at which patients tend to miss appointments. Speaking directly with stakeholders working in hospitals helped me appreciate how – beyond improving business performance – the work I was doing could improve people’s lives.

Breaking down the barriers

The technology industry is constantly finding new ways to improve people’s lives and with companies becoming increasingly outspoken about the need for greater diversity, we should look forward to more improvements in the future.

To become “Women in Data”, girls and young women must be provided with more information about the amazing work available to them and already done by women in the tech industry. On top of this, a variety of resources are publicly available that everyone, regardless of their academic background, can take advantage of to improve their skillsets and open up more career opportunities.

Technology is open to everyone, no matter their gender, skin colour or background and we must do all we can to elevate this message. To play our part in this at TrueCue we are running a campaign to provide hands-on experience, advice and resources to women considering careers in the industry. Our first event will be a Hackathon on a COVID-19 dataset where participants will have the chance to grow their skills and meet others interested in analytics – please stay tuned to our social media channels for further information.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

Women in Data

Women in Data

The aim of Women in Data UK is to ensure diversity in Analytics by encouraging females to shine and progress in their careers.

We are convinced that gender parity would generate competitive advantage to UK businesses by mobilising a wealth of historically untapped talent. Women in Data UK provides a community setting in which delegates can network and share ideas.

The strong relationships formed at Women in Data UK events have created an increasingly powerful group from which female data practitioners gain support and advice.

Find out more

Inspirational Woman I Wendy Jephson, Co-Founder and Chief Behavioural Scientist at Sybenetix

I am a Co-Founder and Chief Behavioural Scientist at Sybenetix. Originally I trained in London as a lawyer, went in-house into business early on and was on the board at Eli Lilly & Company Ltd before leaving to retrain as a business-focussed behavioural scientist. At Sybenetix my role is to help with the design of our Enterprise Behavioural Analytics software that analyses the behaviours of financial decision makers and provides tools to both improve the performance for those decisions makers and enable compliance officers to manage misconduct more effectively.

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

When I was 12 I loved watching Crown Court - that combined with a love of debating (possibly more accurate to say arguing) with my brother, and the fact I thought they earnt a lot of money, settled me on a career as a lawyer.  The plan from there was obvious; law degree; law school and Articles in a law firm. I started as a trainee solicitor in my London law firm, with becoming a partner a firm expectation. Wendy Jephson

Two years later having been seconded to Xerox during the traineeship (a right place right time moment), I was offered a job in-house in their Central & Eastern European Team. I duly signed up to the Final Salary Pension scheme and thought I'd be making my way up the ladder there for many years. Two years later I moved to Eli Lilly & Company Limited.  I again signed up to the Pension scheme, but thought 'let's see where this takes me’.

Seven years later in a fascinating industry and multi-layered job I found I had a new interest emerging in behavioural science.  Sparked from an idea from my brother - a fund manager - that analysing financial decision making and using behavioural science to enhance it was a real area of opportunity, I went back to university to retrain.   That interest has grown into a passion over more years than I expected it to take, but when I left Lilly I did tell the Board I was leaving to do the job I am doing today, so there was an outline plan in that sense if the details of how I've gotten from A to B have taken a number of twists and turns.

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

Challenges come in many shapes and guises - from within the work itself to the culture of your organisation to outside of work.  My biggest challenges have come from losing family members much too soon. Events like that though shape what's important and how you will deal with them inside and outside of work, so for me there is learning to be had in everything.

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

I remember someone saying to me that when you move into leadership positions with the top teams you get to peak behind the curtain - meaning you see the leadership gods are still just normal people just like the rest of us, usually they just have more of the picture.  It's a core skill to be able to maintain the ability to relate to both leadership team and those you are leading.  You have to find your own way of doing that, but again watch how others do it and notice the impact it has.

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

As a behavioural scientist I can honestly say that no two candidates will be identical even if they have the same qualifications on paper.  They will have differences in how they approach problems, team mates, clients and so on. These can all be tested systematically provided you have analysed the role they will be doing, distilled the knowledge skills and abilities that will be required as well as the cultural fit with the organisation.  Taking a multi-layered approach means you are far more likely to find great people who will fit your role, but for whom the role and organisation will also best fit.

  1. How do you manage your own boss?

As part of the senior management team I don't have one in the formal sense.  The approach that works for me though is to remain open and continue to ask questions to ensure I'm informed and understand the issues.  This helps me know when to challenge and when things are outside my areas of expertise.  I also try to keep as much humour in the relationship as possible

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

 Usually both ends are on the train although the beginning is always with coffee!  It's a great opportunity to think - I use it try to make sense of the latest challenges and to see where dots join and diverge.

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

Be interested and take opportunities to learn more whenever and wherever they arise - especially when it's outside your usual role's parameters.  Speak to people you don't normally speak to; go to talks because they're on - there are always little nuggets in everything you hear and see, and it means you have a broader ability to speak to people across organisations and industries.

  1. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

The first and only coach I've had actually really set me on the path I'm on.  I'd been given a coaching package as part of the senior team program - we dealt with the career planning piece in session one and had five sessions left.  In those sessions he really introduced me to behavioural science and the impact it can have in organisations.   I've not had 'official’ mentors, but again I learn from everyone I get the opportunity to work with both within my organisation and outside it.

  1. Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is incredibly important.  There have been studies showing how connected people are in our world and you never know when opportunities will arise.  Just a few weeks ago I was in Hong Kong with a CEO from an Australian company who gasped as he saw one of his great friends from the UK on the slide about our advisory panels!

Three tips would be:

  1. Go for it! Go up to the speakers at events and ask them questions.
  2. Join in group discussions and listen for the opportunities to connect.
  3. Follow up with people you've met for subsequent discussions to keep the relationships alive.
  4. What does the future hold for you?

The future of Sybenetix is incredibly exciting. We are breaking new ground in behavioural analytics, really bringing the knowledge from academia into the messy real-world workplace.  I am working with an amazing team of very talented people in an industry full of very smart people who are actually really driven to improve standards - so the future looks very exciting indeed.