We had the opportunity to interview Hannelie Lotz, Data Lead - Strategic Portfolio Management at Old Mutual Group Finance one of the speakers at Women in Digital & Data Cape Town running on 21 November 2018.
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
My role encompasses envisioning the future and then develop and execute on the associated Data Architecture and Business Intelligence Strategies for Old Mutual Group Finance while overseeing and directing the day to day Data Capability Operations.
Typical day for me always starts off with getting a coffee from my favourite coffee shop. It’s important to start the day right😊
I normally check in with my team first thing in the morning. Most of my day is filled with meetings around data governance and data consulting on initiatives or with my team around items inflight or backlog planning.
What are some of the biggest challenges that women who want to venture into the world of data analytics/data science face today?
I don’t think that there are necessarily bigger challenges for woman in data than there are in any other industry. I think it is finding a space where you can add value. If you are passionate and skilled in data, there are opportunities abound whether you are male or female.
The one thing however that is interesting to me is that there is a significant gender gap between woman and men in technology and data science. The question to answer I guess would be is it because of lack of interest or are the other influencing cultural factors that that is causing this gap?
Data analytics/data science is perceived as a male-dominated field. What steps should be taken to attract more women to the field?
I think the only thing would be to ensure that woman are aware of the opportunities in the data field. I also think the message we give to girls are important, you can be anything you want to be.
I therefor wouldn’t waste time with stereotype thinking, it really comes down to doing something that you have a passion and if you excel in data there will be opportunities.
Can you pinpoint one moment or person that was instrumental in your decision to pick this career path?
I studied accounting, but somehow I was always the odd one out. Instead of spending my time learning accounting standards I always applied the principle: If there is a rule then it can be automated.
I think the person that helped me take this thinking to the next level in my career has been Dudley Drummond Hay (Senior Solutions Architect at EOH). Through his sharing of knowledge, I have truly found my passion in Data and a competency that just resonates with me.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career in data analytics/data science?
Before you do anything else, make sure you understand data modelling.
Ultimately data modelling should represent your business process.
Data is literally the key to success!
Do you think that data can help build a more diverse and equal workplace? How so?
Data doesn’t discriminate, so by default it creates opportunities for a diverse workspace.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the data industry?
I think in today’s information economy being knowledgeable in data automatically gives you a seat at the table. I love having the opportunity to challenge the norm, to innovate and ultimately change the way people think.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
I think mentorship is a great way to promote diversity in the workplace.
A great hiring strategy to improve diversity is to have employees involved in hiring new talent and give referrals.
I also think there is a lot of merit in utilising lean teams to integrate new team members. Especially in an agile setting where teams need to work cross functionally.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in data/data science? What do you wish you had known?
That there are so many different career paths in data. Find the one that you are passionate about and make it work for you.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in data analytics/data science?
Promoting the different careers paths that exist in data and look at making it tangible with job shadow opportunities.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
I like reading articles. So find a couple of website that writes about topics that you are interest and that looks at the latest trends in the industry. I enjoy reading the Harvard Business Review articles.
When I started out in data a website that answered a lot of questions I had was www.powerpivotpro.com.
Fun fact about you?
I love waterskiing.