At Morgan McKinley, we are passionate about supporting women in Data Analytics and Technology. Natalie Ganderton takes part in our latest blog series to share her success stories, career-defining moments and what advice she would give to another female looking to pursue a similar career.
Profile: Natalie is the Emerging Technology Lead for Qantas. She has an Engineering Science backgroud, and specialises in optimisation and predictive modelling. Before landing at Qantas, she was forecasting revenue at Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, and optimising emergency service response times in the UK & NZ.
What are the key habits that you feel make you successful?
I think one of the most useful things that I do is that I’m constantly looking for dots to join. I’m always on the look-out for how something fits into the overall picture, aligns to a strategy, how it compliments/builds on what others are doing, and how lessons can be shared and taken forward. Maybe it indicates a certain level of laziness, but I am not interested in re-inventing wheels! I want to spend my time usefully in breaking new ground or saving others the trouble of repeating work so they can make new progress towards strategic goals.
I also spend a lot of time out in nature to counter all the time spent at a computer – it’s very difficult to hold on to work stress in your mind when you’re fully focused on pinning it down a mountain bike trail, or hiking or jogging through a beautiful place! I think that balance helps to keep my brain sharp and fresh for work.
What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received in your career and how did it help you?
The most valuable piece of advice I have received was around applying for jobs, and not needing to be able to tick every skill on the laundry list in a job description in order to feel confident applying. In fact, a friend of mine pointed out that if you could already do everything required of the job, then it would get boring pretty quickly and offer no opportunities for development! Instead, approaching it with a view to knowing exactly what skill development would be required, and whether that aligns with the skills I want to develop, and how I would go about developing those skills helps me to be less intimidated and see applying for jobs much more in terms of “would this job give me what I need next in my career?” rather than worrying if I will be good enough for a job.
What's the most challenging situation you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
So many challenges! I tend to try to work through disappointments, failures and other such challenges as constructively as possible as soon as I can, and as part of that process I come out with a different outlook on the situation – I will have made note of the learnings (and there are so many learnings on offer when things start to go wrong!), looked at how I performed for things within my control, and made my peace with the situation. It can be hard at the time, but I’m sure I’ve had many situations over the years that felt like the most challenging situation I’ve ever faced at that point – the fact that nothing jumps out at me either means that constructively reviewing things at the time and putting them in perspective works and helps to move on, or that I haven’t faced it yet…
How do you approach making a difficult decision?
I take a fairly methodical approach to decision making. I try to gather as much information as possible about the decision, all parties involved and possible impacts; I try to map out what all the options are, and the benefits/consequences of each, then I make a decision based on as much information as I can. But there is no foolproof method! Sometimes, you get it wrong. I think being able to quickly see and acknowledge when things are going wrong, take advice or constructive criticism as a learning opportunity and correct course as early as possible helps to take some of the pressure off of the decision making event horizon itself, and helps you move on quickly in the event that things don’t go to plan.
What do you believe will be the most in-demand skills over the next 10 years within Data Analytics and Technology and why?
Within analytics, I think the next 10 years will be all about “augmented intelligence”, rather than automation, and to that end, the most critical skills are going to be good, old-fashioned problem-solving and communication. While many aspects of the analytics workflow will be simplified with improved tools and platforms, the ability to generate real value falls back on fundamentally human skills. Problem-solving, because you can build all the models you want but if you aren’t asking the right question you’re not going to get a useful answer! The ability to fully understand and formulate the business problem or challenge will be a major asset. Communicating how to effectively understand and use the outputs of a model means literally the difference between generating or saving millions of dollars and throwing another failed model on the trash heap.
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