Lisa Bennett's story
"The people you meet and interact with are so important. My network was key to getting me to where I am now."
I graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Maths and immediately joined the Government Operational Research Service. It was a fascinating first job using analytics in policing and crime. I loved being able to bring the data to life in a forensic and very real-world context.
After a number of years I decided that I wanted to apply my skills and experience in a more commercial context and so applied to Sainsbury’s for an analytical role – only to initially be rejected because of my lack of retail experience. Being reasonably tenacious, that rejection didn’t stop me trying again and, using my network of friends and colleagues, eventually landed an analytical role in the Marketing team. Ten years later, and five different roles on, I am still here!
It’s an amazingly complex business with a huge amount of variety and, as a consequence, I have been fortunate enough to apply my skills to roles in Marketing, Property, Online and Trading. The consistent theme to all the jobs I have had has been in the application of data to make better informed decisions for the business and our customers.
In my current role as Head of Analytics within the Data & Analytics Centre of Excellence, I lead a team of really smart analysts to help solve a huge variety of business problems. Working with a diverse range of stakeholders, one day we can be trying to understand how a new counter in our supermarkets is performing, the next working out how to optimise the number of trolleys we have in each of our stores and the day after trying to understand how we best manage our online home deliveries.
We are always looking for ways to really drive better, analytically-led, decision making across the business which means I work hard to keep abreast of new tools and techniques and spend a significant amount of time building our stakeholder network.
But ultimately, my team and I are here to make informed decisions and recommendations that are based on data, insights and fact, not emotion. At the same time it's about collaboration, about taking what the stakeholder wants to achieve and figuring out how we can use data and analytics to do it better and make decisions that make a difference.
Retail is definitely fast-paced and the future here is an exciting one. With the advances in data and the ability to instrument and measure anything, the analytics industry is being transformed, which in turn is transforming our business. Sainsbury's is investing heavily in our area, which is going to create a massive change over the next 12 to 18 months. Our senior management teams are talking about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and they are excited about the positive changes analytics can bring to Sainsbury’s. I’m excited to be a part of this change.
At the moment I'm one of just a few female senior leaders within Data & Analytics at Sainsbury's, as it's still quite a male focused industry. But we're working to make sure we attract as diverse a community of Data & Analytics experts as possible. There's nothing stopping us doing so and women's networks are an important part of this. Throughout my career, networking and using more formal networks have definitely helped me both progress and learn. The best advice I could give would be to make sure you make the most of those around you.