Meet Isobel Daley, Data Scientist at 6point6. We had the opportunity to sit down with Isobel ahead of the women excelling in data event she is hosting alongside Paloma Rebuelta this month. In this interview, we get to know Isobel better as she shares insights into her experience in data.
Isobel, how did you get into data?
In common with many data scientists, my path into data has been non-linear. I left university with a degree in economics, but I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do. So, just like many other students, I accepted a job on a graduate scheme at a major technology consulting firm. For the 2 years that followed, I worked as an analyst on a business intelligence project for one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. This gave me an excellent opportunity to understand the complexities of managing and gathering insight from huge volumes of data. I’m not sure I realised it at the time, but this formative experience planted the seed that would later contribute to my decision to become a data scientist.
In 2012, I left this role. It had provided an excellent introduction to the field of data, but I was craving a new challenge. I was eager to become better connected with the commercial world and learn how to run a business. I spent the subsequent 6 years specialising in business leadership. First, as Managing Director of a small business and then running a UK subsidiary of a leading provider of laboratory analysis. Whilst neither role was in data per se, I was able to gain many transferable skills that have proven invaluable in the work I do today. The experiences and situations I was exposed to allowed me to hone my commercial acumen, better understand client challenges and build skills in stakeholder management and communication.
However, I missed the intellectual challenge of working with data. I was also increasingly aware that the growth in the volume of data produced globally was not matched by data knowledge. Many businesses lacked the skills needed to leverage data value. In 2019, I made a life-changing decision, I quit my job and began to re-train as a data scientist. Thereafter, I spent 6 months on an intensive data science boot camp before joining the data team at 6point6 in March 2020. I haven’t looked back since.
Where did your passion for data stem from?
I think it all began whilst studying economics at university. I discovered a love of applied maths, probability and statistics. It was satisfying to test hypotheses using real-world data. After graduation, driven by the need to get a job as quickly as possible, I didn’t consider that this interest and skills could be developed into a career. Discovering data science has allowed me to return to my roots and combine my passion for data with my experience in business.
What trends do you predict in data this year?
I am expecting to see an increasing focus on data quality this year. We can do so many exciting things with data, but often resources are spent addressing fundamental issues with its quality. However, businesses are becoming more proactive at objectively measuring the quality of their data and taking steps to improve this issue (e.g. through better data collection procedures or automating remediation).
Through the proliferation of AutoML tools, I also hope that 2022 will be a year where data science becomes accessible to small businesses. There is so much opportunity for those looking to leverage value from their data.
What advice would you give to a woman starting out in data?
The data industry is filled with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. It’s great because it keeps life interesting and leads to the creation of teams with broad skill sets. Many people have done an unrelated degree or have experience working in a different sector. If you are interested in data, do not be afraid to pursue it, regardless of your background. There are lots of ways to get started!