Philippa Henning – Understanding the people behind the data

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As a highly adaptable and well-travelled member of the team, Philippa brings a wealth of knowledge and empathy to CALUMO’s BI and CPM consultancy. She’s a problem solver, a life-long learner, and, among other things, a big fan of Peru.

Where did your career start, Philippa?

After graduating with a Business Information Technology degree in the UK, I started my career at Travelodge. I was a Revenue Events Analyst and soon got the opportunity to work on a new Business Intelligence (BI) project, which is how I got my first taste for BI. BI really fit my skill set, combining a love of data with my knack for analysis. After that I worked for a consultancy firm, building BI solutions for the retail sector. My customers included Links of London, Oxfam and Hobbycraft. Here, I mainly worked alongside merchandisers to help them understand and make use of their data. I was then offered a job with Ted Baker to integrate a new BI system alongside a Microsoft ERP upgrade.

The retail and merchandising industry has many constantly changing micro-data points to aggregate and analyse, like stock level and sales. Many of the brands I worked for didn’t have the processes or systems to manage that data.

I loved the high-pressure environment and needing to react quickly to demand. My customers needed that real-time data, every day. It meant I had to be efficient and adaptable, but luckily those are two skills I pride myself in.

What do you do with your spare time to keep fresh?

This is probably a common answer, but I love to travel with my spare time and in-between jobs. For years my partner and I would take on contract work, then take two months off and do some travelling around Europe. I also lived in South Africa for a couple of years. Getting away allows me to reset. You can get so wrapped up in a high-pressure environment and seeing new cultures gives you a fresh perspective.

Peru is a place that I think everyone should go to. I did the Inca Trail in 2009, which was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was really hard hiking at that high-altitude, but I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself physically. Seeing all the people get off the bus at the top made me even more proud of my achievement.

You can get really stressed in a work environment, but then you meet people from other countries, and you realise that there’s more to life than that.

When did you make the move to CALUMO?

I arrived in Australia and started a job with CALUMO in 2016 to give myself exposure to corporate performance management (CPM) and a new challenge. From the first day I was thrown in the deep end, working for amazing customers like Allens Linklaters and SmartGroup. I like how varied the work is, there is always something new to challenge me.

Working for CALUMO is fantastic. It’s a family-friendly business and so has been incredibly accommodating as I’ve been raising my own family. On top of this, everyone in CALUMO is brilliant, bringing their own expertise and you can just learn so much from every person. I’m always learning at CALUMO, and I’m certainly never bored.

What skills have allowed you to excel in the CPM space?

I am pragmatic in my approach to problem solving. I always start from first principles to get the full picture. Approaching projects that way affords me the best chance to give the customer what they need sooner, rather than completing tasks in multiple iterations. Often customers think only of the immediate problem at hand, rather than the root cause. Building a holistic view of the company allows customers to create mental links to understand their organisation better. Because they’re so close to the issue, this method can also help them uncover something they haven’t thought about.

When you cut corners, you may have to come back and do more. I don’t build half-baked solutions that aren’t fit-for-purpose.

Times are changing, but unfortunately, BI and CPM are still male-dominated industries. What role has gender played in your career?

Ever since uni, I’ve always been in the minority as a woman. There were only 10 women in my degree out of 100, and there’s only ever been one other woman in my past teams. I guess, sometimes it makes you feel like you have to prove yourself a bit more.

Thankfully, we’re seeing this trend shift the other way in data science. I think this is even more important as AI and machine learning come more into play. We need to be creating systems that are truly representative of the full spectrum of humanity, not skewed to a male perspective.

I think that women have a lot to offer in the data and analytics industry. I’ve found my people skills and ability to empathically relate to my customers have been crucial to getting results. When consulting in this space, understanding the people behind the data and communicating in their language is key to success. I’ve always been able to communicate complex concepts in plain English, not tech-y language. This helps me get the most from my time with customers.

If you’re a woman reading this and thinking about getting into data science, analytics or CPM, then I couldn’t recommend it more. If you are an organised people-person with an aptitude for data, then consider applying for a role at CALUMO.

If you’d like to work with us and consultants like Philippa, then reach out to CALUMO on: +61 2 8985 7777 (AUS), 214-387-6030 (USA) or info@calumo.com.