Nicky Klein

Chief Data Officer - Direct Line Group

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

I was working for a university in their marketing and recruitment team, and through that, I ended up working with data. I thought it was quite cool because I knew things about the organisation that the people who were running it didn’t know – I thought that was really exciting.

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

The best thing about my job is getting to work with great, energetic people. I also really like the puzzle part of my role and the fact that it’s quite difficult – it’s a love/hate thing.

Has there been a turning point in your career?

I spent a few years living and working in India and that was a really transformational time for me. I went there as someone who had some experience and I left knowing that I’d learnt to build a team and be a leader – it was the first time that I really realised how important it was for me to be a role model for the team.

How do you feel about doing things differently?

Looking back, I realise I have constantly taken jobs that have pushed me out of my comfort zone, in fact most of the time I’m not in my comfort zone! You grow the most when you are pushing yourself.

You grow the most when you are pushing yourself
What advice would you give your teenage self?

I would say relax, enjoy it and believe in yourself more. When times are really tough, don’t worry that you’re going off track as those are the times you are probably right on track.

 

How do you lean on others to gain strength?

I am a reflector, so I need to talk to people to be able to organise my thoughts. When I’ve had particularly challenging things to deal with for the first time, I’ve gone and found a coach or a mentor who’s got experience and can help me. What works best is when people don’t try and tell you the answers. We actually have the answers inside ourselves, it’s just having someone who will listen and ask open questions so you can think out loud and find them.

 

How has a setback or obstacle shaped you?  

I’ve had loads of obstacles. The hardest times have often been the times of the biggest growth; I think careers bounce up and down. I returned from maternity leave into a very difficult environment and I realised after sometime that it wasn’t the right place for me. I had to create a path out and it took a lot of strength to do that.

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

I would encourage mums to really involve girls in data and tech from an early age because it is so easy to do now with apps on your phone. My daughter does coding on apps and she enjoys it because it’s a game and it’s also introducing her to something that maybe she might not get the chance to do at school.

I’d advise older girls and younger women to really think about where the big opportunities are going to be in your career and look at the way the world is going. There is so much opportunity in data and technology and everyone is looking for good women because there aren’t enough of them.

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

It’s a photo of my grandmother that was taken in 1924. For me it represents opportunity and the idea that we’re all capable of great things if we are given opportunities and we take them. My grandmother had a very tough childhood and her circumstances were very different to mine and my daughter’s. The good decisions that my grandmother made, and then the ones that my mother made, have given me the opportunities that I’ve had. I want to hand those onto my daughter and to future generations and this is a reminder of that.