NewVIc alumna student talks about life after finishing her Level 3 course, getting awarded the most influential person in data for the last five years and recognised as the top 20 women in data and tech for 2023.

Meet NewVIc alumna Kinnari Ladha as she reflects on her career as a chief data officer for IAG Loyalty. She is one of the most influential person in data for the last five years as part of the top 100 leaders in data and analytics.

Recently she has been recognised in the top 20 Women in Data and Tech for 2023 for her success, innovation, leadership and courage and has worked globally across various industries, including telco, retail, automotive, insurance, media, healthcare and travel.

Kinnari completed an Advanced GNVQ in information technology and an AS level in further maths. She progressed on to an undergraduate degree at Kingston University to do a BSc (hons) in computing and mathematics. We caught up with Kinnari to find out a little more on her journey so far.

Newham Recorder: NewVIc alumna Kinnari Ladha, now chief data officer for IAG LoyaltyNewVIc alumna Kinnari Ladha, now chief data officer for IAG Loyalty (Image: NewVIc)

What made you choose NewVIc?

The course – I wanted to study computer science and couldn’t find a college near me that did it as an A Level subject, so I decided to take the Advanced GNVQ even though I had the GCSE grades to do A Levels.

I decided to supplement my GNVQ with an AS Level in further maths so that I had the same number of points as doing three A levels to ensure I could get into university.

Tell us about your journey from NewVIc to where you are now?

I left NewVIc over 20 years ago now and my career has been an exciting journey within the world of data and analytics. I have always been bit of a numbers geek from an early age so decided to study maths and computing – always wanted to move away and experience adventure so decided to apply for universities that required me to leave home.

Fresh out of university, I began my corporate journey as a hands-on practitioner as a data analyst, and then over the years I have climbed the corporate ladder taking on a variety of senior leadership roles delivering and leading transformation change for customers through data driven strategies. I’ve had the pleasure of working globally across various industries including telco, retail, automotive, insurance, media, healthcare, and travel within both consultancy and client side.

Tell us about your experience as a female working in a male dominated industry?

Newham Recorder: ‘Skilled data professionals are some of the most sought-after jobs in the world’ - Kinnari Ladha‘Skilled data professionals are some of the most sought-after jobs in the world’ - Kinnari Ladha (Image: NewKIc)

I saw some stats recently about the gender split within the data and tech industry and I was shocked the evidence showed that in every four data roles only one is woman. When I was early in my career I found there was equal gender split amongst my peers, however, I noticed a change as my career progressed. I was almost always the minority being the only woman around the table. Out of all the great managers I’ve had in the last 20 years only one has been a woman. I also noticed there was never someone that looked like me at the senior management level that I could look up to as a role model.

However, that didn’t phase me as I was always very passionate and ambitious and with that I was naturally confident which helped me succeed in a male dominated industry.

I reached out and got myself a mentor when I got my first board level role and then later in my career decided I needed to get a leadership coach to help me elevate and grow in my role as a senior executive.

When did you decide you wanted to work in data?

It sort of happened by accident – I did a degree that had a one year work placement in the third year of my course and I ended up getting a job as a junior analyst working for the Home Office. This is where I entered the world of coding and it basically all started from there, as soon as I graduated I took a role as an analyst and kept learning and progressing my career.

Later I realised I wanted to move away from being hands on as I loved talking and found my strength and moved towards more senior management and leadership roles.

Being someone from an ethnic minority background and east London, did that hold you back?

No not really. I think it actually drove me more, I wanted to achieve something and I saw how hard my parents worked as first generation British Asians.

I think it helped being from a hard-working background where you had to work for everything and the ability to mix with so many diverse cultures is a skill that has helped me so much in my career.

What are your fond memories of NewVIc?

Meeting new people, friends from different backgrounds. My confidence grew from a shy girl into someone who had ambition, and drive to experience and try new things.

How can I forget The Link – amazing memories of the link, it was always like walking the catwalk!

What is your advice for students considering NewVIc and pursuing a career in data?

Let me start by saying if you are thinking about starting a career in data then you’ve definitely made the right choice - there has never been a better time than now!

Skilled data professionals are some of the most sought-after jobs in the world. Because the demand is so strong, and the supply of people who can truly do this job well is so limited, professionals can command huge salaries and excellent perks, even at the entry-level.

Lastly, it’s fun and exciting, there are so many different types of roles based on what you enjoy and skills are – there are excellent career prospects.

We are creating more and more data every day, and as everything becomes digital native practically every industry needs professionals in data in their organisation.

So, you could specialise in a particular field and work across multiple industries, or you can grow your career in an industry your passionate about like travel – some people have been here at IAG over 20 years!

What would be your response be, to a young person who said ‘careers in data and IT aren’t for someone from a background like me’?

The importance of gender parity and diversity in an industry that seeks to understand and influence the lives of millions of people cannot be overstated. When male analysts and scientists outnumber females 4 to 1, it calls into question the validity of consumer insights, mainly whether underlying assumptions used to generate insights or build models, takes into account the experiences of over half the population.

There is a moral and societal obligation to ensure that the world of data has proportional representation;

  • Apple watch – designed by a man and didn’t take into consideration female differences.
  • Seat belts – designed for a man’s size.
  • Sophia the robot – her dimensions were designed by a man, and they could not find clothes from any retailer to fit her.

How did you find the teaching at NewVIc? Did it prepare you for your next educational steps?

I was the one of two girls in the class – at first I found it hard to settle in but loved the subject so ignored the fact that I as the minority. Soon, as my confidence grew in my ability, I knew I was much smarter than most of the boys in my class.

It certainly did prepare me for my next educational step as it drove me to study the subject further at university, my tutor was very supportive and helped me understand what subjects to take and universities to apply for. I think meeting people from different backgrounds also helped me move away and gave me the motivation to push myself out of my comfort zone and I decided to apply to universities where I would have move away from home.

How would you describe yourself before you came to NewVIc?

I was shy and quiet; I wasn’t a confident person in my social skills when I arrived at NewVIc and that completely changed by the time I left.

The people that I met and the friends that I made really helped me come out of my shell and when I tell people now that I was a shy girl at school, they don’t believe me.

Who is the most inspiring person you have evet met?

There is no one person I would call out. I’ve been very lucky to have collaborated and worked with several formidable senior female leaders who have inspired me, specifically around how I can counterbalance my work commitments and aspirations to advance my career with a healthy life outside of work.

They have been influential and motivated me in the choices I have made in my career, teaching me valuable lessons centred on leadership, engagement, work ethic, adaptability, empathy and most importantly being true to my personal values.

What is next for you in your future?

I am not sure what I’ll be doing in the future as the world of tech and data is evolving fast but currently, I am focused on using my recognition as the top 20 women in data to act as a role model to encourage the next generation who are thinking about careers in this industry and start inspiring the them to consider STEM subjects at schools, colleges and university.

With my 20 years’ experience in this industry there is a growing passion to play my part and do my bit to support and grow the diversification and inspire women in data and share my experiences as a successful leader in this male dominated industry.