Helen Crooks

Chief Data Officer - Lloyd's of London

What is your role at work?

Lloyds of London is the commercial insurance market that operates out of the City of London and my day-to-day role involves looking after all the data that passes through the market.

 

How has a setback or obstacle shaped you?  

If you’re working in an industry like data and tech where things are challenging, there will always be obstacles. Even with the support of lots of friends I’ve made along the way, there will always be personal challenges and you just have to pick yourself up and carry on.

How do you feel about doing things differently?

I’ve always been explorative, not just in my career but my personal life too. I come from a farming background – with wellies and chickens, and I was the first person in my family to go to university. In my teenage years it was always a case of trying different things. It’s not about being brave, it’s about understanding there is a whole world outside of your locality.

How important is to have other passions in your life?

I was one of three girls which meant for me there was no gender boundary and our dad encouraged us to try sailing or fishing – and we just did it all. I like to do lots outside of work, I’ve had a glider pilot’s licence, I’m a qualified skipper and I’m currently spending time racing cars in something called Rallycross. When you’re working with data and tech all the time there’s a real tendency to get sucked into the technical problems. Doing things outside of your job brings you back to reality and makes you think about why you’re doing it.

I’ve made a successful career from doing things in a different way and not following the herd.
What does ambition mean to you?

I like recognising what’s been achieved and what you’ve had to do to get there. I never set out to be a Chief Data Officer and my advice to anyone would be to gain a breadth of experience – that’s so important in the future world of data.

Are role models important to you?

Yes, and in the data and technology field we’re missing out from both a human perspective and from a business and commercial perspective. We don’t have as many strong female leads as we should have. It’s about having someone to look up to, plus if you haven’t got female input into something you’re developing, you’re missing out half the population! Having a female lead in a data and tech role really does help, because it shows the younger generation that tech stuff isn’t just focused on one half of society.

 

How do you feel about your success?

I’ve made a successful career from doing things in a bit of a different way and not following the herd. The route that I’ve taken didn’t exist when I started so I’ve had to create my own route. You can always look for ways that makes sense to you and you don’t have to listen to anybody else. Take advice by all means, but you don’t have to follow a prescriptive route.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

I’d say to be active as much as you can. It helps take your mind off work and there are lots of physical benefits too. You also meet so many different types of people and that keeps you fresh and stops you from being institutionalised.

How do you lean on others to gain strength?

It’s so important to have people around you, and not just women either. Have people around you that understand the challenges that you’re going through – and I’m not talking about the technical challenges, but people who understand what makes you tick and know what you need in order to work through those problems.

Can you tell us about the significant object that you’ve chosen?

My object is a compass. The reason I’ve chosen it is that it represents the idea that you should always look for lots of different directions and you shouldn’t be scared to change direction because it will guide you. It also relates to exploration – a compass can always help you explore.