Edit under the hood: Andy Aldersley and Sean Longthorpe
Meet a couple of the clever people behind our intelligent data pillar – our team at the helm of turning data into profit.
Senior Data Scientist Andy Aldersley and Senior Insights Analyst Sean Longthorpe discussed the work their team does, the value intelligent data brings, and the best biscuit to have with a cup of tea.
Q. Tell us a bit about your role at Edit.
Andy: We’re split into two main areas of what we’re trying to do: helping clients understand their customers and predicting their customers’ behaviour. As the data science team, we’re working on problems that broadly fall into either of those two categories.
We take customer data – that can be anything from personal data to behavioural data to engagement data – and we’re trying to turn that into insight that the business can leverage to create a better customer experience.
What’s unique about the data science team is we’ve got the skills to interface between the tech guys, who are responsible for the infrastructure and how data is collected and managed, and the strategic guys who are figuring out what a customer journey should look like or how a product launch or initiative should be rolled out. We provide support and the link between those parts of the business.
So, it’s a really broad skillset you need to have to be a data scientist. You need to be technically-minded and people-minded. You need to be able to talk about data to non-data specialists. You need to find insights and convert them into something actionable.
Sean: I’d say the key part of being a data scientist is definitely that communication side with non-data scientists. The kind of stakeholders you’d be dealing with might not know about data at all.
You’re boiling the data down to its core constituents to be able to say “this type of customer has the propensity to convert on this product”. That stakeholder doesn’t need to know all the faff you’ve gone around to get it to that point. It’s just that you’ve got to build that relationship so that they trust this is an accurate model.
Q. What can you tell us about your recent Microsoft Azure Data Scientist Associate accreditation?
Andy: Microsoft have produced some really high-end data science and machine learning tools that open up very exciting possibilities for doing more with our clients’ data. With the Azure Data Scientist Associate accreditation, we’re demonstrating that we have the expertise in our team to use the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform at a high level.
In itself, that’s great, as it brings a whole new dimension to the suite of technologies we’re able to deploy and ensures we’re staying at the cutting-edge of data science practice.
In the context of Edit’s Microsoft partnership, it’s an incredibly strong offering. It means we now have the possibility to plug sophisticated data science tools directly into the broader ecosystem of Microsoft services that are available for collecting, managing, and utilising customer data.
Q. What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Sean: Most recently, I’d say the biggest achievement I’ve had is the level of trust that Tesco Bank have in me. That sort of thing where it’s built more on the relationship side rather than the actual work that I’m doing. It’s obviously backed up by my technical capabilities and the work that I’m delivering but it feels like there is also a genuine two-way trust between us and the client. That’s also testament to the work that the wider Edit team have been doing with Tesco Bank.
Andy: From my perspective – I was working in academic research before – it’s coming into a commercial organisation, being able to apply my skills in a new area, and being given that trust and level of responsibility to show what I can do. It’s really rewarding to move from one domain to another and feel like you’re able to make an important contribution to the business.
Q. The industry Edit operates in is fast-moving and highly competitive. What do you think makes the business stand out?
Andy: When you place us in the context of the organisation, data is at the heart of what we do as a business.
I think having a culture throughout the business where data is valued – and the importance of good data, good insight, and good practices around how you use that data – means that the work that we do has a much more significant impact throughout the whole organisation.
Sean: I’d also say that what helps with that sort of culture is we don’t try and restrict ourselves with the work that we can do. For example, we don’t just do logistic regression for propensity modelling. We try and solve the problem that is in-hand with whichever technique we think is best rather than just putting ourselves in a box.
Andy: We’ve got enough experience and expertise in our team that we are really flexible and highly adaptable. We don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.
Q. Other than your phone, what’s one item you couldn’t live without?
Andy: My bike.
Sean: I’m going to go with Football Manager.
Q. What is your favourite biscuit to have with your tea or coffee?
Sean: All-butter shortbread. Not for dipping in, as much as they have good integrity for a dip.
Andy: I would say a chocolate Hobnob, mainly for the nostalgia factor because we used to have them at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid.
Q. And finally…which celebrity would you most like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Andy: Are there any celebrity lift engineers?
I’m going to say Keanu Reeves. He’s such a good guy and he’s had quite an interesting life. I think he shies away from a lot of celebrity culture and I’ve got a lot of respect for that.
Sean: I’ve got two options. I’ve got Rasputin as one because who wouldn’t want to be in a lift with Rasputin at some point? If it’s going to break down, I think I’d get along with Richard Herring quite well.
Want to know what Edit’s data science team would do for your business? Get in touch.