Data talk: Recapping the London Tech Leaders panel

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Jessica, Director of Engineering – Data

The London Tech Leaders events are always a good opportunity to meet up with like-minded people and hear different perspectives on challenging questions, and it’s always interesting to hear the range of opinions that come from the mix of participants.

One of the event’s more recent panels focused on diversity ­– how it benefits an organisation and how you could (and should) recruit a diverse team.

I was invited to join their next panel where they would be tackling all things ‘data.’ The panel was made up of business and technology leaders who deal primarily with data in their day-to-day roles, and this mix meant that we heard quite different answers to the same questions. With David Crawford, the CTO of Naked wines acting as our compere for the evening, this data-focused panel included:

  • James Davies – Chief Innovation Officer, Royal Free London NHS Trust
  • Sam Shah – Chief Medical Strategy Officer, Numan
  • Ian Hopper – Transformation Director, Cats Protection
  • Joe Hartshorn – Head of Data Platform, Zego
  • And myself!

The format for these panels is always the same; networking, introductions, focused discussions on the topics, questions from the floor, and finally – a chance to connect with the panellists.

The topics and their questions provoked some interesting answers and opinions from the panel, but here’s a taste of my personal thoughts which I shared at the time:

“Our people, our customers, and product/service quality have always been talked about as the pillars for a company’s success. It seems data is now a pillar – why does it deserve to be?”

Today, whether you realise it or not, data is at the heart of everything we do. It helps drive our purchases, our habits, our medical research – it deeply underpins our lives, and because of his, it 100% deserves to be a pillar of a company’s success. We see that in the marketplace today, whether for good or bad reasons, the really successful companies are the ones who have realised the value of data and are actively leveraging it.

“Data privacy – how far should we go to protect customer data, and is the balance of responsibility for this currently fair for businesses?”

Data privacy is a big issue, and there have been a lot of instances in recent history where breaches and leaks have occurred. As we’re the custodians of our customers’ data and they ultimately trust us to keep it safe, we have a huge responsibility and quite rightly so. The need to keep this data safe is essential, not only for our brand image, but also for the financial liability that can be directed at a company in the case of a breach. There are also lots of unscrupulous people out there who would love to sell or misuse your data, so the balance of responsibility has to sit heavily on our shoulders.

“Data-driven decision making – how far do we relinquish control? Should we trust data to make the decision or do we need to apply other factors?”

For me the key to data-driven decision making is all about finding a balance. Nobody likes talking to a chatbot, but intelligence-driven prompts can help to ensure a minimum level of assistance from customer service teams and provide relevant upsells while allowing the agent’s personality to shine through. Ultimately, for now, data-driven decision making is based upon learnt behaviour and programmed triggers. This works reasonably well until you hit an edge case or new event, therefore there always needs to be a human element to help shape the correct response.

“Data science – reality or fiction? Or ‘How I learned to trust an algorithm.’”

I’ve worked with a few with Data Science teams and have seen how vital and very often essential their work can be to marketing the product. But as with the data-driven decision making, there needs to be sufficient controls and feedback in their work to ensure that it remains relevant and continues to provide value. Without continuous evolution and retraining, the output can quickly become irrelevant or even dangerously wrong.


I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the London Tech Leaders panel, and look forward to attending again soon, either as another panellist or for some great networking opportunities. Find out more about the event here:

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