Embracing the unknown
Had I planned my career path, I would most likely be in another location today, interacting with people from a field unknown to me and carrying out a list of tasks using knowledge and experience from another learning path.
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 as an undergraduate, 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 my career have been positions that were new by design and in multiple cases, roles that were created to fulfill a new requirement that did not exist before. The unknown has made my career exciting.
Challenges create opportunities
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 UK&I, 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 faced these challenges that I perceive are 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 would support me through the ups and downs, providing their external perspective and experience.
Don’t be afraid to aim high
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 coordinating teams. Go beyond management to leading with a vision. To be a success, you must complete tactical tasks and activities every day, however to become a strong leader you must set yourself additional goals that help you become more strategic for long-term impact.
Passion goes a long way
If I were to decide between two equally qualified candidates for a role, the candidate with most passion, motivation and drive would be the winner. This candidate is more likely to 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 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.
Honesty is the best policy
Ongoing, consistent interaction with my management has always served me well. 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 teach me a great deal.
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 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 organization and is adept at people management. I can leverage this insight to perform better.
My manager cannot help me, if I do not ask. Furthermore, a constant and consistent dialogue provides my manager with the required context to help guide and course correct, ensuring the activities I carry out are aligned with the global aims of the organisation.
Find your ideal workflow
I’m an early morning person – I get more work done with an early start than I can often complete all day once the calls and meetings start. The morning provides 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 5 days a week: flights and train journeys, a team across different time zones, a multitude of global customers to work in partnership with. This results in no typical end of the day. However, I 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.
Yasmeen Ahmad – Business Analytics Leader and Partner Practice at Teradata
Over the years, I have worked with many businesses to identify challenges and understand business context, providing an analytical perspective for achieving solutions. This has meant using new, or untapped, sources of data coupled with innovative analytics to enhance competitiveness. Techniques have included event-based analytics, predictive modelling, natural language processing, time-series analysis, and attribution strategy development. My work takes me to all parts of the globe, covering a wide range of industries including finance, retail, utilities, and telecommunications. I speak regularly at international conferences and events. After an undergraduate in computing, I took a tangent into the world of Life Sciences, completing my PhD in Data Management, Mining, and Visualisation, at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression. Following this, I worked as a data scientist, building analytical pipelines for complex, multi-dimensional data types. Along the way, I’ve provided leadership, training, and guidance, for many analytical teams, creating actionable insights and business outcomes through the development of analytical use cases. I have also lectured on Masters programmes for BI and Data Science. I grew up in Scotland, and love the great outdoors. Consequently, I’m an avid hiker (the Scottish Munros are perfect) and sea kayaker. Oh yes, and a keen traveller, too.