This blog is part of our ongoing "meet the analyst of the future" series, which profiles analysts who are transforming their organizations and supercharging their careers by embracing the future of analytics today.
For this special post in our series, I’m in conversation with two of the coolest, warmest, and smartest leaders on Johannesburg’s data scene — Investec Business Intelligence Analyst, Quaanitah “Q” Manique and Senior Data Scientist, Keotshepile “Jakes” Mosito — to explore how their roles are evolving with ThoughtSpot. Incidentally, Investec is not only ThoughtSpot’s first customer in wealth management, but first in South Africa as well.
Hannah: To kick off, tell me how you got started in your data careers.
Q: My passion for Mathematics and Physical Sciences in high school led me to become a qualified Chemical Engineer. In my first job at a scientific consulting firm, I noticed that we’d gather a lot of valuable data that would then end up locked in Excel spreadsheets. I just believed that there was so much more that we could do with data, which inspired me to start exploring data roles. That’s when I met Daniel Seymore, Investec’s Head of BI. During my interview we spoke about my final year project in wastewater management, and how to optimise that process using data analytics. I joined his team in 2018 and have been loving data analytics ever since. One day I hope to re-enter the engineering industry and eventually become a data scientist centered around engineering.
Jakes: I’ve always had a passion for technology, gadgets, and math, so studying statistics was a natural move. I started out as a data analyst back in 2010 for SARS — South Africa’s tax collector. I teamed up with a great mentor who believed that with his IT and my data skills we could make great things happen — and we did. In those days we didn’t call it data science, but data mining. We built models to do things like detect fraud, minimize our risk, and profile and segment clients. Since then, I’ve been looking at ways to solve problems using that same integration of data and technology.
Hannah: How has the role of data changed in the last five years?
Q: Though I’m still relatively early in my career, I’ve seen things change a lot in the data world. When I started two and half years ago, our view of data was almost one dimensional. Client X closed their account on a given day — and that was it. A few years later it became two dimensional — we could ask, “why did this client close the account?”. Today we can do even more and gather insights like how to stop the situation from repeating itself. That’s actually a lot of change in a short amount of time.
Jakes: When I started, it was all about using Excel. So, for me, data has moved from being stagnant to dynamic. Data analytics has advanced into a decision-making tool that increases an organization's revenue. Top management now embraces data as a powerful instrument for business growth. It can enable leaders to make informed decisions and make accurate predictions about the future.
Hannah: So, do you see leaders taking more data-driven decisions now?
Jakes: I’m definitely seeing that leaders now recognize that the profit lies within the data. They know that if they don’t use the data, they won’t grow! They might think they’re growing, but if they don't see the numbers, how can they know? I can show an executive, for example, clear evidence of their business area growing at a rate of say, five percent. Once they start to believe what you're showing them is correct they will love you forever!
Q: Yes, I agree that people are becoming a lot more engaged and data-literate. Through our whole BI strategy and the introduction of ThoughtSpot, people are really starting to trust the data, and that’s so important. So much of this stems from the trust our business users have with people in the data team. If I have a good relationship with the users and can empathise and solve their problems, the trust grows.
Hannah: So, what are your top priorities this year?
Jakes: If there’s one thing this difficult year has taught me it’s that my number one priority will be putting my health and family first. Professionally, I aim to always keep my skills relevant so I’m always learning the latest technologies, like new Python updates. With ThoughtSpot it’s all about getting more people on self-service. We’re currently focusing on machine learning models that will enable our users to make informed decisions at the click of a button. Providing timely data access to our users is an ongoing challenge, but it’s improving all the time.
Q: 2020 really shocked me and taught me not to take anything for granted. I’m trying to live life like there’s no tomorrow — I’m going to go skiing and yes, I will be jumping out of that plane! Professionally, like Jakes, my priority is enabling my users with self-service so I can focus on the skills and studies that will help me progress into data science. ThoughtSpot is definitely helping me with this, as it’s dramatically cutting down the number of incoming requests.
Jakes: I agree with Q. When I joined Investec in 2018, I used to deal with lots of small, similar requests. Imagine 23 teams with people asking you for the same thing every month! We’d been using other reporting tools before and when someone showed me ThoughtSpot I was very skeptical. Fortunately, I chatted to colleagues, gave it a chance and for me it has really, really changed my life. I get nowhere near the same number of requests, and when I do, I can normally point people to ThoughtSpot. One thing that’s really amazing is that I can now see that the people that used to rely on me most often are the most active ThoughtSpot users. This has really helped my career growth.
One thing that’s really amazing is that I can now see that the people that used to rely on me most often are the most active ThoughtSpot users. This has really helped my career growth.
Q: To give you an idea, last year for the first six months there were something like 950 requests that came through to the BI team. And from the middle of last year, this dropped down to 400. We charge for, and have to dedicate many hours to every request, so this represents a huge savings. And we’ve only rolled out to a few areas so far, so eventually our savings will be much much greater.
Another really exciting thing is how we’re seeing ThoughtSpot go viral. We have our ‘champions’ who are the power users and they are so passionate. We see situations where a champion will ask us to present ThoughtSpot to a group of 10 new users and 20 will show up.
Jakes: The real a-ha moment for me came when my most difficult internal customer no longer gave me a headache! She actually turned around and became one of the strongest champions for ThoughtSpot. She explores data independently with ThoughtSpot. I am so impressed.
Hannah: Wow, so has that freed up time for you to do more interesting work?
Jakes: Very much so. When I started at Investec, I had to put data science on hold for a while as I had so many data requests. Thanks to ThoughtSpot I’m now freed up again to work on an important strategic project to build a fraud detection model using machine learning to pick up anomalies.
Thanks to ThoughtSpot I’m now freed up again to work on an important strategic project to build a fraud detection model using machine learning to pick up anomalies.
Q: Before ThoughtSpot, I interacted a lot less with business users. I spent most of my time just pushing out reports. I couldn't really help solve the actual problems because I didn't have the time to sit and focus on what the data meant to our users, and also what their problems were. With ThoughtSpot, I now spend my days thoroughly understanding the business processes, interacting with business users to understand their problems, and becoming more of a partner and trusted advisor.
Hannah: To close us out, what does the Analyst of the Future look like to you?
Jakes: For me I think automation and self-service are the future for both the data analyst and data scientist to be able to gain fast insights. You also need this to adapt to business changes quickly. Once you automate the routine stuff, you’re free to do everything that you want in data science. I also think data engineering is and will be really important in the future. In order to do data science well, you need to have clean data in the right format.
Q: The data analyst role is changing, the technology is changing, and the user needs are changing. A few years ago, we were looking to solve today’s problems. Now we’re trying to solve problems six months in advance. One thing I am sure about is that being a data analyst will involve much more advanced interpersonal skills and change management skills. Change is constant and not everyone wants to come along for the ride. As analysts, we need to understand the business and give people the data and support that they need to navigate through this change.
If you’d like to learn more about Investec’s journey with data, tune in to The Data Chief podcast to hear Cindi Howson speak with Investec Head of Business Intelligence, Daniel Seymore about upskilling workforces, developing domain expertise, and treating change management as a partnership.
Learn more about Quaanitah Manique and Keotshepile Mosito Investec's Analyst and Data Scientist of the Future
Quaanitah Manique, Business Intelligence Analyst at Investec<br>I am a Chemical Engineering graduate and BI Analyst at Investec. I am a problem-solver and nurturer at heart. Throughout my life, I wanted to change the world, but over time I’ve realised that all I need to do is change someone’s world, one person at a time. This is why I do what I do. I believe that Data Analytics is a powerful and effective way of bringing about improvement in livelihoods and a means to drive positive change in our society.
Keotshepile Jakes Mosito, Senior Data Scientist at Investec<br>I have worked in the financial industry for 10 years, gaining unparalleled experience in data mining and analytics, data optimization, and business intelligence. I have never liked to make decisions based on instinct, perhaps because instinct says one thing today, and something completely different the next day and that’s how I fell in love with data. Data enable informed decisions. I had a passion for technology and mathematics in high school, which led me to study statistics. After graduating, I was offered a position at the South African Revenue Services in 2010. I started my career as a Data Analyst at South African Revenue Services, before moving on to do Data Science at King Price Insurance. Driven by a mission to enable businesses to make informed decisions, examples of solutions that I have implemented are tax audit prioritization, debt collection, HNW analysis, and claims fraud engine. At Investec, I was responsible for the implementation and rollout of ThoughtSpot within BI and the business. The implementation of ThoughtSpot has significantly reduced the number of ADHOC requests serviced by BI, as users of the tool are empowered to answer business questions on the spot.