Natalie Jakomis, as the group head of data at GoCompare, is responsible for data engineering, data intelligence and data science. She is also charged with getting every part of the business to be more effective with data “so that data becomes part of everyone’s responsibility”.
Jakomis also leads a number of strategic and tactical projects, including implementing and embedding a live data strategy, and identifying business opportunities uncovered by data.
She has been in this role since October 2018, having spent almost five years prior to that at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water. Getting this position – one of the high points in her career – gave her an enormous sense of achievement. She said: “Landing this is an important highlight. GoCompare is an inspiring, far-sighted and leading-edge business with a huge respected brand and profile. I’m excited to be able to drive business outcomes and successfully progress a shared vision through better use of data and technology.”
“Commercial organisations will adopt data strategies far more quickly.”
Despite Welsh Water and GoCompare being very different businesses, Jakomis can see some similarities between the two. She found them both to be customer-centric, focused on providing the customer with a positive experience. She also felt that they both operate for the short term while planning for the long term. However, she said there is a world of difference in how the businesses perceive themselves. “The general consensus was that Welsh Water is an asset business and not a data and technology business. A commercial organisation like GoCompare will adopt and implement new innovative data and technology strategies and platforms far more quickly and effectively, as data and technology is at the core of the business,” she said.
For Jakomis, projects are most successful when the work of the data team is aligned to business value. Because of this, she sees metrics as key to recording the effectiveness and efficiency of the team and the projects through different stages of the data science lifecycle. For her it is also imperative to include other people from different areas of the business, have the right project sponsor and get buy-in from the business to be able to try new things.
“Having a relentless drive to keep trying and trying again, and learning from everything that doesn’t work is equally as important. Consequently, organisational culture is also critical to the success of data projects,” she said.
“Put yourself forward by believing in your abilities.”
The third highlight of Jakomis’ career was her inclusion in the Twenty In Data 2018 list compiled by Women in Data UK and The Female Lead, a shortlist which celebrates the achievements of female role models in data and analytics. Incidentally, upon learning of her nomination Jakomis was reluctant to take part and questioned whether she should attend the announcement ceremony in November 2018. It was the encouragement of a woman on her team, who reminded her that she always encourages others to celebrate their achievements, that pushed her to accept the accolade.
“Be comfortable about being uncomfortable.”
She has three pieces of advice to anyone who needs a little nudge to accept the praise they deserve. The first is to simply put yourself forward by believing in your abilities and demonstrating your value and worth. The second is to offer to help out colleagues with problem solving as it is “an effective way to show your capability and skills, and others get to see what you can do first hand.” And finally, to speak up and own one’s accomplishments, though it may mean being comfortable about being uncomfortable.
“When you are able to hold your own, it shows others that you understand your worth and are sure of your achievements, which will help you prosper.”
Natalie Jakomis is featured in Twenty in Data 2018, a collaboration between Women in Data UK and The Female Lead.