Careers

Head of Analytics at Transport for London

Is a career in analytics right for me?

If you can look at old problems with fresh eyes and dig deep into details to unearth new and valuable information, you could make a great analyst. Computer knowhow is a must, along with some maths skills to turn figures (like the number of station entries and exits over time) into information that tells a story, that shows what’s working really well and shows where things can be improved. When you think about it, starting a career is like going to spy school... and climbing up the career ladder to become head of analytics is like being M in James Bond.

Perks and challenges of being a Head of Analytics

Perks:

  • You’ve made it far in your career by being great at what you do. You’ll have that personal satisfaction and a salary to match
  • You often get to make exciting discoveries by looking at data and turning it into something people can use to make life better
  • You get proof of the great work you’re doing, which is very rewarding. When changes are made based on your discoveries and decisions, you’ll see the numbers go through the roof – and you’ll be able to see real-life improvements in Transport for London stations, products and services too!
  • Analytics is a fascinating career path for anyone who likes the idea of finding stuff out and doing something potentially life-changing with the information.
  • You can get to work on really interesting projects from when they’re the seed of an idea up to when they go live and take the world by storm. As an example, TfL head of analytics Lauren Sager Weinstein got to see London transport enter a whole new phase with contactless payments!

Challenges:

  • Sometimes you’ll have to be assertive (explain your decisions with calm confidence so people can see why you’ve made them). This kind of confidence can be built up with time and experience.

Useful skills

The following skills are very useful:

  • Problem solving – using your technical knowledge, you’ll need to understand what Transport for London’s goals are and then study the data to see where improvements can be made. Sometimes there may not be an obvious answer, so your logical thinking and detective skills will go a long way to finding a solution! Your curiosity will help you find the story behind the numbers.
  • Leadership skills - this role is all about making decisions, so you need the confidence to make great decisions based on data and evidence. Data on its own doesn’t mean much until a decision is made on how to use it. As the head of analytics you’ll be leading a department, so it’s up to you to give direction and guidance to analysts. You help everyone work as a finely-tuned team so people understand what their goals are and how to go about their tasks. You have a responsibility to get results – and it’s a challenge you’re ready to take on!
  • Communication skills - you’ll be able to explain your ideas and plans in a way that everyone understands, as they may not have the same technical knowledge as you. You’ll be communicating not only with people in your department but with people all across Transport for London, so turning data into a language everyone understands is one of your key strengths.
  • Technical skills – You’ll need to be comfortable with computer systems, computer software and numbers in order to extract and analyse the data. General tools of the analytics trade include SAS, SPSS, R and SQL.

People who work in this role say that the following skills and qualities are useful:

  • Stakeholder management and engagement
  • Project planning and delivery (especially in transportation)
  • Strategy
  • Analytics
  • Change management
  • Customer experience
  • Public policy

What qualifications do you need to be a Head of Analytics?

When you become a head of analytics, the skills and experience you can bring to the role are more important than your qualifications.

However, there are different education routes you can take for a career in analytics. For example, you can get started with an apprenticeship: Transport for London offer all kinds of apprenticeships for you to explore, including information management and project planning to name just two. Check with Transport for London for full details, but you’ll generally be asked to have five good passing grades in GCSEs or their equivalents including English and maths (and potentially science or ICT) for an apprenticeship that’s highly relevant to this career.

You can also take the university route and study for a degree. There are all kinds of degree courses relevant to the role, including ones related to big data, data analysis, mathematics, statistical analysis and business-related degrees. With a career in analytics you can choose to focus on the science side or the business side, so take a look at the courses out there (and their modules) to see which might be a good fit for your main interests.

An early start in this career might involve becoming a data analyst – if you take a look at skills and education requirements, you’ll see that you’re often asked to be educated up to degree/HND level in a relevant subject (and you may need software skills in things like SPSS or R).

What is the workplace of a Head of Analytics like?

You’ll often be office-based. However, when construction is taking place you’ll get the opportunity to go on site.

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