Head of Analytics at Transport for London

What is a Head of Analytics?

Are you fascinated by discovering hidden truths and what lies behind the obvious? Do you like the idea of being a spy without any of the danger? Are you curious by nature, and keen to get stuck into a role where you can make both discoveries and decisions to make changes for the better?

You get to enjoy all of this with an analytics career, and as a head of analytics you’ll be at the top of your game. Analytics is all about the study of data in order to make improvements. Data can be thought of as simply another word for information, and knowledge is power – the power to change things for the better!

As a head of analytics for Transport for London, it’s your job to look at all the customer data from ticketing and data systems and put it together to get new insights. Thanks to your work, Transport for London can understand how customers are travelling across the network and make their journeys an even better experience.

What does a Head of Analytics do?

The data you analyse can come from all sorts of places, depending on what you do. For example, if you worked on the analytics for a website, you’d be interested in who is visiting the site, where they’re coming from and what they do when they get there. This would help you make decisions about what content to create and how to make sure the people who’ll love it most will see it.

As a head of analytics at Transport for London, you’ll oversee everything that goes on when it comes to gathering information about how people are using London’s transport so that an even better service can be given. But what kind of information can you collect?

You’ll be working a lot with big data, and the clue is in the name – ‘big data’ is the name given to large data sets that reveal patterns and trends. You’ll look at all the customer data and information from ticketing and data systems and put it together so everyone can understand how customers are travelling across the network.

For example, you might look at Oyster and contactless entries and exits to see where the busiest stations are on the network, what the most popular journey patterns are, and how long journeys take over different times of the day. You can also look at what happens when something changes on the network, like a closure or major event.

DID YOU KNOW? The computer systems and speed available have changed massively – Transport for London analysts can now run things in ten minutes that would have taken days to do before!

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.

How to become a Head of Analytics

Studying maths and science-related subjects at school will help you a lot in any analytics career. Not only will they stand out on your CV, they’ll also give you the foundation skills and knowledge you’ll need to learn and grow in to become a head of analytics. It’s a great idea to explore your knowledge of business in school and beyond too, as this will help with the business, planning and decision-making aspects of the role.

There’s more than one route into a career in analytics. You can take the university route to gain specialised knowledge, for example.

When you’re thinking about training, consider if you want to take the data scientist route (working with statistics, software systems and computer algorithms) or the business route (driving decisions in the business world). They’re not mutually exclusive, but when you’re researching degrees it may help you to choose when considering degrees in subjects like big data, data analysis and business-related degrees. Check over the course modules to see if a business-related degree includes a data science side, or a data-related degree includes a business module.

You can also take the apprenticeship route to build up a career in this field. Transport for London offer a host of apprenticeships for you to explore. The information management apprenticeship and project planner apprenticeship are just two examples from all kinds of exciting career routes. 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.

Early jobs in an analytics career can include becoming a research analyst, or perhaps an assistant in a planning or public policy department – that’s how Transport for London’s head of analytics Lauren Sager Weinstein started on her path.

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