Helen Louwrens

Director of Intelligence - Care Quality Commission

How did you get into data and technology, and why?

I’ve always loved maths and numbers – I’m quite a logical person so I excelled at the more analytic subjects at school. I pursued this at university and studied Economics and Statistics. I had an interview at a supermarket for an analyst job in their insight unit. I got really excited by the questions they asked me. ‘How would you write an equation for the amount of time someone’s shopping basket takes to go through the till?’ For me, that was a really interesting applied maths problem and I wanted to find out more.

What motivates you on a daily basis – what gets you up in the morning?

Being able to do different things in different types of roles and not necessarily be restricted by a certain path.

How has a setback or obstacle shaped you?  

Early on in my career as an analyst I was offered a promotion that I crazily turned down because I didn’t feel that I was good enough. I was working with some really inspirational people though that made me realise the only thing holding me back was my own self-belief, so I powered forward and actually got promoted very quickly – two or three times in the space of two years. The learning is that your own self-belief is the only limitation on what you can achieve.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

I’d tell my teenage self that it’s ok to be a bit different – that it’s ok to follow your own path and not to just do what’s expected of you.

Your own self-belief is the only limitation on what you can achieve.
Who inspires you?

I recently heard Serena Williams talk at a press conference about how she was the greatest tennis player that ever lived. She wasn’t arrogant, just confident in her ability. As someone who doesn’t like to celebrate success, that was inspiring for me.

Are role models important to you?

Very important. When I started out, there were very few female role models in the industry that were recognisable. It’s important for young people coming into the profession to see people like them in roles, at all different stages of careers, so they can understand what they can achieve.

What advice would you give to girls and young women interested in a career in data and technology?

Make sure that you focus on work that really inspires you. There’s the technical aspect of the work but also the organisation and the context in which you’re doing that work. Working for a purpose that really inspires you is very important.

What does ambition mean to you?

My career path hasn’t been driven by trying to get to a certain place, it’s been driven by wanting to do really interesting work, solve interesting challenges and help organisations do interesting things.

What is the toughest lesson that you’ve had to learn?

One of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my career was to make the decision to leave a job that I loved. I worked at an organisation for 15 years – I started there as a graduate analyst and I worked my way up to the UK leadership team. I knew if I was going to progress in my career I had to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new.

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

I’ve picked a magnifying glass because I love looking at detail. I think it’s important to really look beyond what you see on the surface and understand the facts behind what’s going on.  Also, it demonstrates curiosity.