Nollie Maoto, Executive Head: Business Intelligence, Analytics, Planning and Monitoring at FNB South Africa, shares her proudest achievements of 2021 and strategic goals for 2022
Would you please start by telling us a bit about your greatest achievements over the past 12-24 months?
There were two. One of them was winning the Strategic African Women In Leadership Trailblazers Award last year, as the fourth overall winner of the awards. I got it for outstanding leadership with regards to female-centered transformation, inclusion and trying to reduce the gender pay gap.
I’m extremely passionate about closing the gender gap, especially in the tech industry and, more importantly, in the data industry. So, it helps to be recognized for those efforts.
Women have been disenfranchised for a long time, when it comes to our salaries and being promoted to senior data positions. I think it’s time to stop referencing people’s old pay slips when they start a new position, because that perpetuates the cycle of being underpaid. You should be paid based on years of experience, the industry standard and, more importantly, the role and responsibilities of what you’ll be doing in the job.
The other achievement was my first conference speaker engagement, which was at DataCon Africa 2020. It opened doors for me. I’ve been invited to speak at many other conferences, including the Open Data Science Conference in Europe. I spoke on reducing the pay gap in the data science industry. The talk was aired in 60 countries.
How has the data and analytics in your organization evolved in 2021? What new challenges is this giving rise to and how are you working to overcome the challenges?
My functional area (business intelligence, analytics, planning and monitoring) used to be part of the FNB Contact Center and is now ConnectMe, and we had around 2,000 agents. When the pandemic struck and agents needed to work from home, we still had to ensure that productivity remained consistent. We were able to use data and analytics to manage the agents productivity and customer experience.
One of the things we did was create a geolocation dashboard to actually track where all the agents live and, with load shedding in mind, we linked the dashboard to City Power (Johannesburg’s municipal power utility). So when we know that your area is scheduled for a power cut, we tell you in advance so you can come work from the office in order to limit the disruption to agents productivity. We also used analytics to monitor things such as background noises and dead air in agent calls with customers and system outages and/or downtime.
COVID-19 also pushed the bank’s Mobility 2023 strategy forward. We were already planning a hybrid work model for our bank employees. Part of the project will ensure that when you’re working at home, the bank supplies you with the necessary tools to perform your work efficiently and effectively, such as monitors, headphones, modems or fiber and an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) battery to make sure employees are always connected, especially during load shedding or any other power interruptions.
What advice would you give an aspiring data and analytics leader to help them prepare for the role?
The technical and visualization skills required for this role go without saying, and I cannot stress the importance of the soft skills, especially presentation skills, storytelling skills and communication skills. Communication is one of, if not the most important aspect of the job. So, please make sure that you grow and hone this skill.
With that being said, if you take nothing else from this piece: Build a portfolio, ideally in GitHub or a similar platform, that showcases your data and analytics skills. It is my firm belief that this is the differentiator between any application and an application that actually gets attention. The goal of the portfolio is to bring your CV (resume) alive. It separates you from the hundreds of other applicants for your senior data and analytics leadership positions. Your portfolio is where you showcase your work. The same portfolio can be used by your mentor or sponsor to speak about you in rooms that you know nothing about or are not in yet as evidence of your abilities and skills.
Additionally, tenacity and persistence; nothing beats it. Even if your talent isn’t there yet, you can always develop it to what it will eventually be. But people who are persistent and tenacious and driven and have a really clear, defined goal of what they want? Nothing compares to that. Not giving up is really huge.
Lastly, there’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea or take a chance. Just take the moment. Don’t let thoughts like ‘I don’t feel like I’m ready’ or ‘I hope I don’t sound stupid’ get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good.
What will your key priorities be in 2022?
My first priority is to restructure my team. We need to become more optimized. I’m trying to create mini teams within the team so we can focus on more than our projects, and start becoming problem solvers.
We’ve always been request-takers. But I want us to be solution-providers. We have the data for it and we should be going to our stakeholders and showing them what the data is saying. We will be doing this by implementing decision intelligence in the team to help with the operationalization of our ConnectMe platforms for real business decisions. Decision intelligence is the discipline of turning information into better decisions at any scale.