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  • Christina Finlay, Director of Data and Analytics, Nest Corporation (Pensions)

Christina Finlay, Director of Data and Analytics, Nest Corporation (Pensions)

What has been your path to power?

 

I started my data journey as a consultant in Asia, helping organisations make sense of their customers and data to build their brands – from banks merging their assets in the Philippines to shampoo brands growing their customer base in China. I did a lot of social research, building empathy for consumers throughout Asia and helping FMCG companies to find opportunities to innovate. I think my curiosity about people and my empathy for others has been key in the “path to power”.

 

In the last six or seven years, I’ve immersed myself completely in the data world, helping organisations use their data efficiently and effectively to drive performance. I always start with listening, building on what I learned as a consultant in Asia. To me, success in data starts with understanding people, getting into their shoes to see opportunities and what they really need, and then aligning a future vision. Once you’ve done that, it makes the hard work to collect and analyse the data much less challenging as everyone sees how it will help them do their work better.

What impact has the pandemic had on the role of data in your company/organisation?

 

Cross-organisation collaboration has to be so much more deliberate. The pandemic has meant more proactive outreach for us, making sure that people are building data into their plans. It’s easier for everyone to keep data top of mind when you bump into people in hallways or kitchens – now it’s harder to continually check in with colleagues or to remember who should be consulted or who might need an interesting piece of insight. We all have to work harder to build and maintain relationships.

Does data now have a seat at the table during strategic discussions? If not, what will it take to get it there?

 

Yes, data is absolutely at the table – from conversations about how we collect the right data to putting in the technology to manage it, to how we get the best value from it to make decisions. There is a strong desire to embed data literacy as a part of enabling the culture and behaviours that will future-proof Nest – leadership sees data as integral.

 

What are your key areas of focus for data and analytics in 2022?

 

Governance, literacy and technology – it’s a big year ahead, with a lot of change. We’ve been talking in my team about how we are the type of people who seek out and thrive on challenges, and this year is full of really big, meaty challenges. 2022, bring it on.

 

Tell us what leadership means to you in the context of your role as a senior data leader.

 

Data leadership is really just leadership. It’s more about people and getting the best out of them than anything else – it’s a given that you need to know about data and what it can do!

 

Leadership for me is ensuring that everyone in the organisation knows the outcome that we’re working towards, and that everyone knows the role they play in helping us get there. Then, it’s about creating a team environment in which people can fulfil their potential and do their jobs well. It’s about building a foundation of trust, ensuring people see opportunities for collaboration, and getting them to work together to achieve shared outcomes.

What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in this role?

  • Seeing the future – and aligning everyone to outcomes.
  • Leadership – it’s a skill that I practice.
  • Perspective – stepping back and seeing the big picture to be able to prioritise.
  • Empathy – standing in others’ shoes to understand what it must feel like, then doing something about it.
  • Adaptability– willing to duck and weave, trying new things to get to the outcomes.
  • Persistence – picking a few, but not all, battles and doing everything to win them, despite setbacks.
  • Empowerment – delegating, then mentoring and coaching others to creatively solve problems.

How did you develop – and continue to develop – these skills or attributes?

I think that of the skills above, the two most important are perspective and empathy, and both require conscious practice! Perspective is about continually stepping outside of what you are doing right now and asking the question “how does this fit into the big picture of what the organisation wants to do?” Practice prioritisation – not just of your own work, but yours in comparison to other functions. Recognise that your work is not always the most important, and that sometimes the most important thing you can do is to support someone else’s work, or adapt your own to make someone else’s more impactful. That also helps you to build your empathy – thinking of others’ needs before your own, which is probably the most critical skill for leadership.

Is the data tech you have keeping pace with your goals and requirements? Are your providers leading or lagging behind your demands?

We are an outsource organisation, and our partners are responsible for our technology – they are absolutely leading on our demands and delivering to outcomes. We’re moving to a new outsource partner next year, so we’re currently building out our technology platforms to get ready for that shift.

Christina Finlay
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2020 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)