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Rebecca Fitzgerald

Rebecca Fitzgerald, Director of Data, Yorkshire Building Society

Describe your career to date 
As Director of Data at Yorkshire Building, I have a strong background in driving data outcomes aligned to business value. Through a variety of roles in technology and software delivery, and a compliance, risk and analytics background this provides a solid passion for empowering better decisions through optimised data and services. My mandate spans across all areas of Data from Data Governance, Risk and control, across to Data Change & Engagement, with everything in between including Data Architecture, Engineering and Insights. My main focus is forging a data enabling strategy and investments, aligned to business outcomes by removing boundaries and bottlenecks and showcasing the importance of data as an asset. Creating a culture where people care about data, with transparency and accelerants to make better decisions, my team is unlocking multi-million-pound benefits in our flagship data-enablers initiatives, to guide the business on its data-driven journey.
 
My career started in customer services roles, supporting everyday customer needs. From there, I moved into risk and compliance roles specialising in financial crime intelligence and financial services regulation, leading to a functional lead role supporting many projects, including mergers and acquisitions. This naturally developed into project, programme, and portfolio management delivering multi-million-pound transformations, including large systems and data migrations alongside highly regulated compliance changes. Following a passion for information and technology leadership, I went on to manage a 250-plus workforce in technology delivery, accountable for business analysis, software engineering, testing, change, and release, including management of strategic delivery and software partners. I was fundamental in driving forward the organisational approach for agile with implementation of modern-day engineering practices, including DevOps and reliability, supporting the next generation of digital services. I moved into my current role as Director of Data, seeking to transform the value of data and capability across the organisation. With a mandate covering data governance – including general data protection regulation, through to end-user data utilisation – I focus on creating sustainable services and high performing teams who are fulfilled in their roles. 
 
Throughout my career, I have maintained a focus on people and culture, showcased through my extensive, engaged network spanning multiple industries and diverse communities; and the lifelong friendships created along the way. My mentorship and coaching support various individuals, from early careers through to senior leaders, helping to shift the dial on women in tech and leadership. 
 
I support various groups, amplifying the voices of minorities and diverse characteristics of today’s society. My work to establish and grow an accessibility network within the workplace, focusing on physical disabilities and health conditions, alongside neurodiversity, aims to support individuals to be themselves, and for others to appreciate how they can create the right conditions. I am looking forward to representing in DataIQ (D&I Group) to share insights and help to make a difference across a wider stakeholder group. 
 
As Non-Exec Director of the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, I am committed to driving forward positive impacts on local communities and influencing better infrastructure to support business and economic growth. My role as Vice President for Bradford allows me to engage with executive leaders across the district and help to drive investments ’Up North’ as my DataIQ associates have heard me say, looking to recognise talent and capabilities outside of the capital. 

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organisation?
Our data strategy is built around capability shifts, with data literacy at its heart, and delivery through three key mechanisms: a data academy, data leadership, and data partnerships. 
 
Driving forward a data academy approach, we continue to develop capability paths to support a variety of data personas across the organisation, from data entry roles through to specialist data science. Investing in our existing colleagues and attracting new talent, we have established data literacy, data fellowship, and data science apprenticeships, alongside communities of practices to share knowledge and experience in all areas of data. 
 
Utilising best practice skills frameworks, we are supporting an enterprise-wide assessment of our data and analytics capabilities, with a view to create workforce plans to improve skills with great buy-in and support from the executive team.
 
Our data leadership programmes are supporting our data directorate as the centre of enablement. We want to ensure our data leaders are equipped with the right skills to support the wider organisation uplift in data literacy. With a significant focus on driving value with data, we are investing in our data leaders, from Data Quality Leads and Metadata Managers through to Data Engineers and Insight Managers, who need to be resilient and relentless in role modelling better decision making with data. We also wrap our arms around a 70-plus network of data stewards and a matrix spread of trailblazers in our federated data roles.
 
Finally, through establishing a dedicated data change and engagement team, we are building effective relationships with business domains. This is helping us to understand the data sources and techniques they apply to drive better utilisation and enable us to transform our data products. 
 
Each data enablers initiative has a business-readiness focus to uplift data literacy skills, including the senior leaders. This area also seeks to inspire curiosity and innovative thinking with data, hosting events to showcase modern techniques, and tooling with case studies.
 

 

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? 
Our new enterprise data strategy reaches across our entire organisation, setting out a vision for data optimisation to power better decisions. This is aligned to, and in service of, delivering our strategic ambitions. The vision is anchored around four imperatives: define, accelerate, trust and advance, led out by our data function but applied across all business areas, and supported by an effective value focused framework to track, and measure data maturity.
 
Our vision will drive data into the fabric of our organisation, simplifying and accelerating through technology and tooling, powered by people and skills to increase our intelligence with data and make better decisions. 
 
Our Data Director quotes the movie Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, and this is how it feels in the world of data. It has no start and no end, but if you accept a level of chaos, you can organise in a way users drive value from it. For too long data has been seen as complex, inaccessible, and slow. We seek to shift this culture to an organisation that collectively cares about data and understands the need to have effective data management. 
 
From there we can improve accuracy and continue our modernisation to make data more accessible and available, at the fingertips of business users who generate insights and make great decisions.

Rebecca Fitzgerald
Rebecca Fitzgerald
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)