Travis Perkins plc is committed to becoming an industry leading employer of diverse teams, where everyone feels they can belong. We want everyone to be at their best and it’s our ambition that everyone within our Group feels safe, welcome and confident to be their authentic selves. We see the Women in Data Partnership as a great way for our fantastic female data talent to thrive in an inclusive environment and develop into future leaders, helping remove barriers to entry and progression in STEM careers by identifying and developing high-potential talent through mentoring and degree-level apprenticeships.
Travis Perkins plc, which is the largest supplier of building materials and equipment, whose ambition is to be the leading partner to the construction industry, is supporting women across the company to access careers in data through two apprenticeship programmes.
Two apprenticeship programmes – the Data Fellowship and the Advanced Data Fellowship – were launched in November 2021, with the Data Literacy Programme starting in January 2022, to improve colleagues’ data and analytical skills and create routes to careers in data. The programmes cover Python and SQL programming, as well as areas such as data ethics, visual analytics, predictive modelling and data security.
100 colleagues from across the Group, ranging from commercial and finance to marketing and supply chain, are enrolled on the programme, and there are plans to extend the programmes further to ensure data skills are accessible to all.
Among the first cohorts, 39% of participants are women. That represents a significantly higher proportion than in the wider sector: currently, only 18% of today’s data science roles are occupied by women and 11% of data teams don’t have any women in them at all, resulting in a bias built into data-directed insights and analyses that end up influencing critical business decisions.
As Group Data and Insight Director, Rob Barbour is focused on data enablement through technology and data empowerment through training, education and apprenticeships.
Robert Barbour, Group Data and Insights Director at Travis Perkins PLC, said: “Our Data Apprenticeship Programme has 100 colleagues enrolled of whom 2 in 5 are female. I am very proud of our ‘TP PLC Women in Data Network’ and the amazing work that they do, such as celebrating recently for International Women’s Day with a virtual event, the day’s theme was “Break The Bias”. We will continue to create an inclusive environment where everyone belongs, feels safe and comfortable about who they are, is valued for their contribution and can perform at their best; our inclusivity motto is ‘You Be You, It Makes Us Us’.
“Our company’s purpose is to build better communities and enrich lives as we support our customers to build, repair and maintain the many places, buildings and infrastructure that touch all of our lives every day.”
Travis Perkins’ Data Programmes are delivered by Multiverse, a quality apprenticeship programme provider that recently was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Belinda Baxter is a Data Analyst at Toolstation – part of the Travis Perkins Group. She started at Toolstation working as a Data Analyst in the customer service unit, and is developing her responsibilities and skills set with the support of Multiverse’s degree-level Advanced Data Fellowship.
“I was making an effort to understand new tools and data understanding without the apprenticeship – but the apprenticeship programme has enabled me to fill in the gaps. I’ve gone from having the basics to being at an intermediate level – and now I have the credentials to work towards a role as a data engineer. It’s very empowering.”
“I have a really supportive manager and there are great allies within the Travis Perkins Group that are supporting women to thrive in data. Everyone has been so encouraging and supportive of me and the other women in the programme. You always have to earn your place in an industry like this, but having others that recognise your potential and invest in you is so important.”
“What’s great about the Multiverse apprenticeship is how clear it is. The programme covers everything you need to know in a straightforward and accessible way. My coach is absolutely fantastic – she’s a cheerleader, and I get the benefit of her experience. She’s a great resource for me.”
“Before I started this programme, I built a dashboard for our staff in frontline roles and their managers. I made it in Google Sheets, and it enabled everyone to access their metrics and monitor their performance and efficiency. As we’ve scaled, that has needed to be retired. Thanks to this apprenticeship, I now have the skills and knowledge to scale the dashboard too: which is helping to keep all of us on track.”
“It’s so helpful knowing things like the names of data – what’s discrete, or ordinal; understanding the GDPR implications; knowing how to protect data; SQL and Looker. I can bring all of that knowledge together into the projects I’m actively working on, like the Key Performance Indicator dashboard. It really gives you independence.”
“This pandemic has shifted a lot of people’s thought process about things. A lot of people are questioning whether their job is right for them, or even their industry. But a career in data is a fantastic way to get that job security – and it’s an area that’s growing fast and becoming more of a desirable choice.”
Expertise: Data Scientist, Customer Data SME
Education: BSc in Mathematics Operational Research and Statistics (Cardiff University)
After graduating from Cardiff University with a BSc in Mathematics Operational Research and Statistics, Vaida joined Travis Perkins Plc in 2011. Through a number of roles within Marketing, IT and Finance, Vaida built a wealth of knowledge and technical expertise and became a Customer Data SME supporting key projects and strategic initiatives.
When Vaida went on maternity leave a couple of years later, she had mixed emotions; excited for her expanding family but at the same time apprehensive about her professional future. “Would I have a role to come back to, what would that be? Will I be able to keep up with the latest data and technology developments? Will the management support still be there?” Her return from maternity was followed by furlough during the pandemic, heightening her anxiety and concern for her job security more than ever. In order to handle this stressful time, she decided to use the furlough time in a positive way, focusing her time on gaining confidence by refreshing and learning new technical skills such as SQL, Python, GCP, AI/ML etc. She spent this time defining how she wanted her career to progress.
Upon returning to work, Vaida became a part of the newly-formed Data Office Team, reporting into Data & Insights Director and Women in Data ally, Rob Barbour. Rob and the leadership team were keen to create an environment of collaboration, innovation, empowerment, and equal opportunities along with promoting diversity across our teams and they started by building the foundations: working with businesses across Travis Perkins Plc they created a Group Data Strategy.
Rob’s positive attitude, support, mentorship and being a Women in Data ally were the key drivers for answering Vaida’s concerns regarding the future of her role. As a result, she recently celebrated a 10-year anniversary at Travis Perkins Plc. Vaida is now supporting the implementation of the Hub & Spoke Data Strategy by leading data science initiatives across the Group. She is also enrolled in the Data Apprenticeship, looking to complete her Advanced Data Fellowship Level 6 Apprenticeship by 2024.
Working with Rob and Women in Data, Vaida is looking to inspire more women into the data industry and to create a more inclusive working environment. Large organizations, such as Travis Perkins Plc, can support the world of analytics and data science by ensuring that data-driven, customer-centric strategic initiatives are supported by inclusive leadership, trust and understanding.
The Data Landscape is changing at a rapid pace and requires data to be treated as an asset rather than a commodity. Organisations that do not consider data a strategic imperative will be overtaken by their competition. Data is growing at an exponential rate due to the rapid growth of online users, communications, tech and social media which has resulted in the adoption and growth of cloud-based technologies such as GCP, AWS etc. Machine learning and AI will become part of the everyday company operations and augment decision making for our colleagues. The need for digital and data skills across all levels is vital. The industry is currently facing a skills shortage in data so ensuring a focus on diversity of both talent and thought, as well as embracing data apprenticeships/literacy, are becoming essential actions to address the skills gap. With the growing demand for the democratization of actionable data; Data Privacy and Cyber Security will need to be at the forefront of every organisation’s mind. Therefore it’s very important that the culture of organisations adopt a data conscience and ensure they have the right balance between their defensive and offensive data strategy objectives.
Travis Perkins plc is the UK’s leading supplier of materials and equipment to the building, construction and home improvement markets, and operates market leading businesses, including Travis Perkins Builders’ Merchants, Toolstation and a number of specialists in the civils, plumbing, heating and insulation markets, such as Keyline, BSS and CCF. With annual revenues of £5bn, the Group employs 16,000 colleagues across the UK, but also in France and Benelux through Toolstation. The company has a proud heritage that spans over 200 years.