Iqbal Kaur is a senior analytics leader and the co-founder of Zylotech.
Shilpa Jain: From an MBA in Finance & Marketing to a career in analytics, how did the shift in thought process happen?
Iqbal Kaur: Logical thinking and data interpretation have always been my strong suit. The exposure to programming during my MBA made me realize how logical the programming languages are. In addition, all my roles (prior to analytics) required me to analyze data to make business decisions. So, when I had the opportunity, early on in my career, to branch out to an actual data scientist role, it was easy for me to make the transition and I really enjoyed learning the new skill set.
SJ: As the co-founder of Zylotech, could you elaborate what this organization does?
IK: Zylotech is a self-learning customer intelligence platform that keeps our client’s customer data live and enriched for 1:1 personalization & revenue acceleration. Our trusted customer intelligence automates the continuous flow of identity, intent & insights on a bottom-up basis while keeping the data clean & actionable resulting in un-precedented revenue lift.
- Core features of the ZyloTech advanced customer analytics platform include:
- Dynamic Data Engine leverages machine learning algorithms trained on vast sets of complex customer data to automatically identify, unify, cleanse and enrich customer data to make it consumable.
- Embedded Analytics Engine leverages a comprehensive analytics recipe, from micro-segment views to advance predictive analytics, to continuously analyze hundreds and thousands of data points and uncover each existing customer’s DNA and intent.
- Self-service User Interface (UI) provides marketers with a 360-degree customer playbook on their desktop to maintain control of customer insights and cohorts, deploy timely, effective promotions, and trigger actions to their chosen omni-channel marketing automation, email marketing and business intelligence (BI) tool.
- APIs and Connectors connect to any customer data rapidly, wherever it lives, whatever it looks like and however much it changes. Similarly leverage it in your favourite tool to avoid any rip and replace cycle.
SJ: What does predictive analytics and customer success mean?
IK: Predictive Analytics unlocks the value hidden in the customer data captured by an organization and identifies the factors that drive various outcomes. Having a more accurate predictor of customer behavior can dramatically improve the productivity and effectiveness of the Customer Success team. More accurate predictions mean less “false alarms” and more timely alerts for situations that can result in lost business or lost customers. The net result of employing predictive analytics is that Customer Success teams spend more time where they can make an impact on growing the business.
The dynamic nature of predictive analytics today because of advances in machine learning also means that it can automatically adapt to changes in overall customer behavior. As product offerings change, client base evolves or the macroeconomic landscape shifts – customers may act differently.
Predictive analytics is a powerful technology whose use in sales and marketing platforms is growing rapidly. Predictive analytics solutions incorporating machine learning let companies operationalize the output by building it into business processes where it can provide significant benefits.
SJ: What is your advice to our young women desirous of pursuing a career in predictive analytics?
IK: Women make up half the population, yet the lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) is well documented, and those figures can be discouraging and so is in overall corporate leadership. I witnessed the same in corporate jobs that I held early on in my career and then with my analytics job, the trend continued. The company where I started my analytics career in 2001, did not have a female analytics leader ever. And, whenever I would speak at the analytics conferences, I used to find very few fellow women speakers.
But keep in mind that analytics is beyond mathematics or statistics – areas where historically men have greater contribution. Women’s ability to connect more across left and right brain hemispheres, makes them better at generating ideas/solutions using the right side of the brain and analyzing them using the left side of the brain through math and statistics.
Given the fact now that analytics is a key fabric of any organization across department and functions, it provides a great entry point for women to enter the corporate leadership from that route. No doubt, every viable organization is craving for fresh blood of thinkers who are more data driven with enough emotional intelligence to strike a balance in this age of automation.
As a co-founder at Zylotech, while also living up to the culture as an MIT spin out, we have maintained a high level of gender parity, equal pay and empowerment to women as much as male counterparts. Our overall female headcount is 45%, much higher than the industry average. With women’s powerful analytic skills, it is no surprise that women are strategically positioned to help meet the current & future talent gap, just as Zylotech is doing, to best address Customer Analytics for our clients.
SJ: How should they qualify themselves academically?
IK: Over the years a few developments have had a significant impact on analytics roles & hence the skills. One – intense focus on making analytics more accessible to masses through intuitive user journeys. Two – computing power has increased a trillion-fold and three -we are now storing data in zettabytes. (1ZB = 1 billion TB).
These changes imply that at one end we have more engineers innovating, day in and day out, to make the technology cheaper, smarter and faster for us to store and analyse huge quantities of data extremely fast. At the other end, we have designers trying to make the whole experience of using this output easy and intuitive which requires a strong domain expertise.
Hence in my opinion, we would see two kinds of talent doing very well in analytics world – people with extremely strong programming & technical skills so that they can build analytics languages & write algorithms and people with strong business domain expertise to build smart user-interface solutions.
This means that women need to opt for STEM subjects at secondary school and university levels.
SJ: Did you face any gender disparity on the path to achieving your goal?
IK: I was fortunate enough to be brought up by parents who did not believe that I was any less just because I was a girl. In my household, my father would make the morning tea and my mother was the primary bread winner. I was as adept at fixing a fuse or hammering a nail as I was at cooking dinner.
So, when it came to work environment, I never felt that I lacked anything to make my place in the then male-dominated analytics world. This belief reflected in my behavior and as a result it also reflected in the responses & reactions of the people around me.
On top of that, thanks to GE Women Network, I got to meet and spend time with many strong leaders like Pat Friar and Margaret Keane and Anju Talwar. Their pearls of wisdom on how to get your seat at the table, helped me a lot in my professional journey.
SJ: As our primary cause is aiming to make young women financially independent, why is being financially independent important to you?
IK: In a world where everything from bread to clothes to the roof over our heads is purchased by money, financial independence is the only way to live one’s life on their own terms. Here are five reasons I believe the financial independence is extremely important:
- While money can’t buy happiness — it can buy more control. Whether it is hiring more help for daily chores (so that we can focus on our career) or enjoying a meal with the loved ones – we make the decisions on what is right for us.
- Self-accomplishment and autonomy are great for our confidence. As we feel more financial freedom and self-pride, we improve in other areas of our life, such as the quality of relationships, and ability to live up to our full potential.
- Room to dream: We may feel inspired to expand our world and experiences by being able to try different and new things that we may not have had the financial ability to attempt otherwise.
- Increased fulfillment: Financial security makes one bolder and more courageous. It helps clear the path to pivot our lifestyles in a healthy, secure manner like changing career stream.
- Financial independence also puts us in a better position to help others
Question: One person, fictional/real and dead/alive that you want to have dinner with
Question: A book on your career field that you would recommend to our readers
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t by Nate Silver
Question: 3 things on your bucket list
Spend time in the Amazon Rainforest
Visit Antarctica as part of an expedition
Climb a 7000 m peak in Himalayas
Interviewed By: Shilpa Jain
Executive Director, Indusion Consulting Services (ex-banker, now a head-hunter)