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Hannah Lee, Data Scientist, Zurich Insurance

Describe your career to date 

After finishing my A-Levels, I started looking for higher-level apprenticeships that had an element of maths to them. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and apprenticeships seemed like a great alternative to university. 

 

I started at Zurich in 2017 as an actuarial apprentice in the pricing department. This role focused on reporting and dashboarding to deliver insight and monitor our underwriting portfolio. It was a great introduction to the world of insurance and Zurich’s different business areas. I developed a keen interest in data, deriving insight, and creating efficient solutions to problems. 

 

I was then given the opportunity to join the data science team, which seemed like a jump in terms of skill-set but I was keen to learn. I was immediately given the opportunity to work on highly technical projects with real business value, which was great for my development and sense of accountability. 

 

I have now been at Zurich for over five years, currently a data scientist and technical lead on various projects across the business, including the development and deployment of machine learning models which support automation and innovation within the business.

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

My team is responsible for producing data science solutions for the UK business. We are a team of 12 data scientists, machine learning engineers and data science consultants. We develop machine learning and AI models to derive value from data and solve business problems using a scientific approach and utilising advanced technology such as Apache Spark and cloud computing. 

 

As well as the technical development and implementation of data science solutions, we are responsible for scoping and ideating potential new data science initiatives to drive innovation and simplification across the business.

 

Tell us about any ambitions you have in terms of becoming a data leader

I am eager to eventually become a data leader and drive business value using data. I think it’s so important for decision-makers to fully understand data and its capabilities, so I would love to be in a position where I can use my experience to instil a culture of innovation and support data-driven decision-making.

What key skills or attributes do you consider will be essential to your success in this role?

Strong business acumen and knowledge of the data landscape would be essential to the success of this role, with the ability to strategically drive data initiatives to ensure decisions are led by data. Adaptability is another key skill – the data industry involves continuous advancement of technology, skills, and business requirements. And, of course, data storytelling and the ability to communicate complex concepts to non-technical audiences is essential.

 

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

I have always used opportunities to continually learn and develop. I am coming to the end of a data science degree apprenticeship which involves a combination of studying at university and learning on the job. The degree provides strong coverage of data science fundamentals, including advanced analytics, computer science, and maths and statistics. 

 

However, being able to apply and learn in a practical environment has been key to my development. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a supportive team with a variety of skills who have helped me grow as a data scientist.

And what about the skills of your data teams and of your business stakeholders? How are you supporting their data literacy? 

A level of data literacy is essential across the entire organisation. My team has run a number of training sessions on data quality and the importance of correctly inputting data, as well as the value of data and gaining insight.

 

I am currently putting together a data science academy at Zurich to upskill individuals across the business with data science knowledge and skills. This ranges from knowledge sessions on the fundamentals of data science to practically engaging in data science projects within their business areas. It is very important that the business fully understands the capabilities of data science and how it can be used, so they are able to identify potential use cases and drive innovation in their areas.

 

On the other hand, it is extremely important that data teams are in touch with the needs of the business to ensure all initiatives are delivering real business value. Data scientists and other data professionals should develop a strong understanding of how the business operates and maintain strong relationships with stakeholders to ensure data solutions are optimised and to enable innovation.

 

How do you keep pace or stay in touch with your peer group? Do you see it as important to have an active professional network? 

An active professional network is important for personal and professional development, providing opportunities to expand your skill-set and connect with others who can offer advice and mentorship. I use opportunities to attend external events and conferences when possible. It can be extremely reassuring to discover that so many other individuals and organisations face similar challenges and having the opportunity to discuss these and get ideas on how to overcome them can be very beneficial. I have also participated in some of Zurich’s internal programmes to support professional development and networking. These are great ways to meet individuals from different backgrounds to gain insight into different experiences.

Hannah Lee
has been included in:
  • Future Leaders 2023 (EMEA)