Welcome to our operations career interview.
Anita Fernqvist – a Women in Data Ambassador 2020 is a UK Chief Data Officer and Director of Operations for Zurich Insurance.
Choosing an Operations career
I chose technology as I had done some work experience and grew to realise how much it was possible to change things for the better with technology. Much later I fell into data by accident. Someone asked me to help them manage a team for a short while. The short while became a few months, and in turn that has become an exciting and amazing career!
The increasing amounts of flexibility that companies now offer excites me. The working world used to be very rigid, with very strict start and finish times. This made it hard to build in hobbies or think about having a family. Now the world has changed. I can manage my hours around my life. This means I work hard and I also can manage my time to spend time with my boys, travel, volunteer for charities. For women wanting a career and one day wanting to also be a mother, or even pursue an interest outside of work, the changes mean that both are infinitely possible. Additionally, the world has really woken up to the fact that we need to do more to encourage a balance of men and women across all careers. This means that there is a huge amount of opportunity as a female wanting a career.
Operations career paths
There is a whole mix of routes that people have joined the teams I work in – apprenticeships, degrees, work experience, change of careers partway through their working lives. Additionally, I know so many women building fascinating careers as entrepreneurs. Once you have a skillset some people may prefer to work in a company, and others may prefer to work for themselves. As long as you have the drive and the passion, the opportunities are endless!
Top operations career advice
Explore the different subjects and jobs that are out there and see what takes your fancy. Don’t be afraid to ask to meet people, or shadow them in their jobs and get an idea for what is out there. Role models are important. However, often they don’t realise they are role models. So, you might need to take a deep breath and have the courage to tap them on the shoulder and find out more.
Additionally, don’t limit yourself. You are capable of anything you want to be. If I could go back and talk to my younger self who was worried she would never be any good at maths, she would never believe she was capable of being the Chief Data Officer of a large company. It takes time to find yourself, and everyone matures at different rates. You are not defined by who you were at school, it means very little when you get out into the real world.