Lucy Butler – Financial Times: Reflecting on Challenges

Where do you work and your role title?
Financial Times – Director of Analytics

Get To Know Me
Favourite ice-cream flavour: Rum & Raisin!

Wrap up in the shortest sentence possible what your role means.

I lead a team of analysts, data scientists and data engineers helping the Financial Times understand customer behaviour and make better decisions.

What is the interesting / challenging part of your work?

It’s all interesting! I’m very lucky. Highlights are –
(1) Team leadership – my team are truly amazing and impress me every day, and it’s a pleasure to see them grow
(2) We get to wrestle with a range of fascinating business problems
(3) And finally, I love getting my hands dirty in the data – I’m a not-so-closet nerd at heart!

What attracted you to choose a STEM field? How do you find navigating your career path as a woman in tech?

Originally, I studied biology – so a slightly different part of the tech world. I came into the analytics world from strategy consulting.

Although my mind works in a pretty logical way, my first role as part of “digital” felt very overwhelming – there was so much terminology I didn’t understand, that at first I felt like I’d made a terrible mistake. But, I quickly realised this was just a language I had to learn and that the concepts were perfectly accessible as long as I didn’t feel put off!

Personally, I haven’t actively noticed my gender being an issue – but biology and analytics are a little more female friendly than some STEM subjects, and of course it’s hard to know what my experience would have been if I’d been a man!

What is your biggest achievement that you are most proud of? How do you track and express your achievements in the workplace and beyond?

I feel incredibly proud as I watch my team grow and learn. That isn’t my achievement – it is theirs, but feeling that I’ve contributed to their growth, and created a supportive environment for them to do great things – is incredibly inspiring!

I’m also proud of the journey I’ve been on at a personal level, where I feel intrinsically motivated by the work I do and no longer view my achievements as an expression of my own sense of self worth in the same way as I might have done earlier in my career.

Now, I am happy about what we have accomplished – rather than because I personally did a great job. It sounds like a small difference, but it makes a big difference in my attitude to collaboration, where I no longer feel any desire to mentally log my own personal contributions to the team effort.

Who are your mentors or role models that helped you either directly or indirectly?

I’ve had some amazing mentors and sponsors. I’ve been lucky enough to work for some fantastic bosses.

I’ve come to the conclusion that having a good boss is one of the most important things to look for in a role

I’ve also had both formal and informal mentors who have utterly amazed me with their support. I’ll always be grateful to one particular colleague who helped me get on my feet when I first started working in analytics (with zero experience in the field!) and helped me to get my confidence back when I’d been going through a particularly challenging experience, and to put things in perspective at a time when I’d seriously been considering giving up and changing my career path.

How do you think women can be game-changers in time of crisis?

It’s a stereotype that women tend to be more empathetic and people focussed – but I think it’s true that more women often feel comfortable focussing on the human side of things, and in a time of crisis often the emotional response is the most challenging.

I think anyone can be a game changer if they put their mind to it

During the COVID-19 crisis, people have understandably felt very anxious and distracted. Everyone has been affected by the virus one way or another, and it is critical for us all to be mutually supportive at this sort of time and help each other process these feelings. For those of us who have not had the virus and who still have jobs we might feel like we are over-reacting, and that might make us reluctant to address the emotional impact.

I think women bring a level of expressiveness to the conversation, which really helps people feel more comfortable in voicing their feelings rather than letting themselves feel overwhelmed while battling to hide their anxiety.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? Are there any technology resources that you would recommend?

Presently, I’m studying an MBA and it is pretty much all I can fit in as extra personal development effort outside my day job. On the job, I’m continually observing how others behave and looking for tips and tricks to shamelessly steal when I see people I admire doing things well!

I try to process and reflect on any challenges I have in the moment – and I like discussing these with my boss to help me think through how I could approach situations differently.

It’s your day off. What do you do to relax?

I listen to and play music 🎶 – and at the moment I’m also studying an MBA as I just mentioned so I don’t get many days off, as my weekends tend to be filled with study! 📚

What advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

Enjoy yourself! And don’t worry, it will all be ok in the end… 💫

When I was 21, I had a mini-crisis because I didn’t know what I wanted to “do with my life“. As I grew a little older, I’ve realised it’s not about “doing something with my life” – it’s about enjoying the process of living.

There are no medals at the end, and you never “arrive” at a fully formed life. It’s all a journey, and the most interesting part of it is how you tackle the coming months and years, not where you’ll be in 10 or 20 years’ time.

What makes you RARE?

Wow, that’s quite a question. I think we are all rare aren’t we? We all have different nuances to our personalities, and contribute different things, and that’s what makes life interesting! 😉

Want to know more about Lucy? Connect with her on LinkedIn

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