After the successful launch of this series, I took the opportunity to reflect on exactly what it was I was hoping to extract from these amazing women who were so giving of themselves and their time for these interviews. I wanted to create an inspirational series that started a conversation with amazing, female leaders in the scary and sometimes misunderstood world of ‘data’ – but I didn’t want the conversation to focus on our jobs.
My vision for this series is to take away the “job” part of ourselves and really look firstly at the why – and then the how – of what we do. At the end of the day, we’re all just people – albeit fairly spectacular people who happen to be female working in a male dominated field – but I believe that by showcasing that these incredible, successful, ceiling-smashing women are also human (shock horror!) that we might be able to inspire future generations to dive in to this mysterious data-driven-world of ours.
Enough about me. You can’t be what you can’t see. So let me introduce you to Elyssia Clark – a simply sensational woman I’ve had the privilege of working with, and learning from, as she gracefully and confidently led her team through the development and implementation of a Tableau project which would become an industry-first.
These days I can satisfy that curiosity by using data to quantify, explore and address complex business problems. Analytics presents enormous opportunity to look back, understand the present, and predict the future.
How and where do you find inspiration?
I’m regularly in awe of what others achieve with the power of creativity, bravery and hard work. Even greater are achievements which are collaborative – especially in the face of adversity. When I think of inspirational women, J.K Rowling pops into mind, and her famous quote “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
What advice would you give to another woman looking to succeed in this field?
Firstly, try to work with people who recognise the value of data, and who are willing to accept unexpected outcomes. People often ask why I’ve stayed at Mercer for so long – the answer is simple. I’m fortunate to work with brilliant people who are comfortable putting aside their own biases – they’ll listen and act on the story the data is telling – even when it might be contrary to what was expected or hoped for.
Secondly, know your audience. It took me a long time to realise that not everyone cares about the detailed steps of my analysis like I did! In fact, by being too detailed, I was losing impact. This is where tools like Tableau are great because they simplify the complex and can easily tailor insights to different audiences.
Finally, never stop learning. There’s a constant stream of new technology, software, data sources – all opening the door to new opportunities. Learning doesn’t necessarily mean more degrees – it can be workshops, conferences, training through specialist on-site providers or self-paced education via MOOCs. Recently I’ve undertaken several MOOCs in topics ranging from digital analytics, data science, textual analytics, infographics, and human centred design. I could work at my own pace, it was cost effective and most importantly, it opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about data and how it can be used to improve people’s lives.
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