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Antje Bustamante, Director of Data and Analytics, Zoopla

Describe your career to date

I started my data career as an analyst about 20 years ago after finishing my studies of information science. I was, and still am, massively passionate about how data can change society and help solve real world problems, which has also led me to stay within marketplaces and particularly the property industry throughout my career. Building products that help making the right buying or selling decisions of your home is heavily driven by data and people want to feel they made the right choice. Being part of that was and still is very motivating and uplifting in my jobs.

 

I was selected into one of the first talent programmes of my employer about 15 years ago and moved into leadership roles soon after that. I built an award winning team at Scout24 that was leading on data transformation and left that company in 2019 to a great successor that I had built up to take on the head of data role back then. I moved to London and joined Zoopla just three months before the Covid pandemic struck. With that I encountered new leadership challenges as I joined to build a data team (consisting of data engineers, scientists and analysts) and a best in class data tech stack that would enable business growth and open new revenue lines through data monetisation.

 

I am very proud of the team and what we have achieved in such a short period of time. After all, my career has also been successful through the people in my team and their impact and development. I am a trained career coach and mentor of underrepresented groups inside and outside of Zoopla. I want to use my voice to help women in tech to be successful and help break the glass ceiling.

What stage has your organisation reached on its data maturity journey?

On a scale from 1 to 5 we are a solid 3. We did invest into infrastructure and getting the basics right in the past years. We have hired new skills such as ML Ops and analytics engineers and use a very modern tech stack. The next level is to truly leverage these foundations as we move away from fixing the basics into using data and data science to build products. We have also seen an increase in data skills outside of the data team, which was driven by different data literacy initiatives. Yet, in terms of how product and tech could leverage particularly data science, we still have some room here in terms of maturity.

 

Tell us about the data and analytics resources you are responsible for

I am leading about 40 people and report into the CTO. The team consists of analytics, data science and data engineering functions. Some of these people sit in rather central functions, and others are embedded into product teams. We are responsible for all things data across all teams in Zoopla, and support finance, commercial, pricing, P&T and marketing but would also underline that data is a team sport. Most of our work is project based, which also involves different functions. Collaboration is key, never isolate your data teams.

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your organisation and on the industry as a whole?

Staffing and retaining great talent will be a challenge, and it will be much more than in the years before the pandemic. Data engineers in particular are so very rare in the market and more and more companies seem to realise that they need to invest in their infrastructure so we all fish in a very small pool. To be able to deliver on data monetisation you need to build great data products, and data engineers are an essential foundation and enabler for that.

 

Another challenge I would call out is data ethics. How do we make sure that the human bias and the trained models by those humans will not cause disadvantages for users of a website? We have access to so much more detailed data about consumers that it will be essential to also set up rules and behaviours about how we use that information. We will need almost something like a data ethics board to give it the importance it deserves.

Have you set out a vision for data? If so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organisation or just the data function?

We launched a data strategy at the beginning of 2022. It was highly driven by the revenue growth and the product strategy that were set out before the launch of the data strategy. It touches on the data platform, people and skills, data governance, and data monetisation. It was put together in a very broad cross functional team effort and is aiming at solving business and product issues and at increasing profit and revenue, while at the same time we want to embrace aspects of the data mesh concept and leverage data science and ML Ops more.

 

Have you been able to fix the data foundations of your organisation, particularly with regard to data quality?

One of the biggest challenges at Zoopla was their data infrastructure three years ago. Accessibility, availability, trust, documentation and the ease of using data was painful. We have invested heavily in that infrastructure, switched off the old data warehouse and built a new cloud based data layer, that is very well documented but also governed. We are able to provide one source of truth for reporting and analytics and have also improved data quality through a thorough data catalogue.

 

An investment in a data engineering function has also helped massively to focus on getting the basics right to now earn the fruit of that work and be able to use that data to build consumer engaging products and make our customers more successful.

Antje Bustamante
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)