Caroline Carruthers is Director at Carruthers and Jackson, a company she co-founded to improve data literacy and help companies understand how to treat their data as an asset. In addition to co-authoring The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook in 2017 and Data Driven Business Transformation in 2019, Caroline hosts Data Talks, a global series of workshops created for data leaders, and the annual Chief Data Officer’s Summer School.
Caroline is passionate about improving data literacy at all levels and is an internationally acknowledged “data cheerleader”. She is a recognised expert in all aspects of data transformation and regularly asked to speak at events to put a human face on what can be seen as a ‘dry’ and difficult subject. In 2018, Caroline was named as one of the Top Women in Data & Technology.
Prior to founding Carruthers and Jackson, Caroline worked across multiple industries in strategic data and IT roles, most recently as Group Director of Data at Lowell Group and as the first Chief Data Officer for Network Rail. In both roles she started building the data capability from the ground up, delivering change to each organisation around how they valued their data as an asset.
1 How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
The older I get the more convinced I become that everyone has a talent and passion. Everyone has something that they are great at, but sadly not everyone has a chance to find out what that it. My main role as a leader is to help people find their passion and help them thrive even if that means they end up leaving you.
2 How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I’ve had some great roles across a really wide spectrum because I have always pushed myself outside my comfort zone. As a result, I bring a breadth of experience that often helps put things into perspective for me. Business have more in common than they have differences if you know how to look at them.
3 What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
Setting up any new business up is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows…so it’s probably a good job that I love rollercoasters! The support I’ve had from some incredible people has been amazing and a little humbling at times, while the cold hard facts of cash flow made for some interesting times during the really early days.
4 What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Jump in, the water is lovely! The world of data is fun and full of interesting opportunities. There is so much to do and we need you to come and join the party so what’s stopping you?
5 What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
That it is not as important as your family and friends. I am a (bit) of a control freak and a self-confessed workaholic but the time I spend with my family is the highlight of any day. Keep your career in perspective, have fun with it but don’t let it overwhelm you.
6 How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don’t think that there is any such thing, we are all so much more complex that two dimensions and we should stop trying to put everything in little boxes. I enjoy what I do so as long as I have some semblance of balance between all the factors in my life then I don’t worry that I am on a conference call while cooking dinner or skipping out of work early to pick up my son from school.
7 What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
A lot of the time it is our own limiting beliefs. I don’t think we shout loudly enough about our achievements or put ourselves forward when we are more than capable because we spend too long listening to that little voice inside our own heads telling us all the reasons why we shouldn’t do things.
8 How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
By showcasing all the great women that have done it already. By being honest about the challenges they have faced and successes they have achieved. I think it is very true that you are influenced by what you see so let’s see more women showing girls how it’s done.
9 How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been incredibly lucky to have had brilliant mentors throughout my working life and my mum was always a constant source of personal inspiration to me. My favourite quote of hers was ‘Caroline, some days you just have to put your big girl pants on and get back out there’ – I was over 30 when she came out with that one! A good mentor isn’t trying to give you the answer and make it about them, it’s about bringing the most out in you and helping you be the best you possibly can be. I always encourage people to have and be mentors as everyone has something to learn and to offer
10 Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many but we can always do with some more. I love the work of Martha Lane Fox, Edwina Dunn and Maggie Philbin as a starting point as women on the technical side of life.
11 What do you want to professional and personally accomplish in the next year?
I want to finish the year being really proud of myself and the team of people around me and I want to have fun every single day.
12 What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Firstly, be able to articulate the problem you are solving, if you are just repeating something that has already been done a million times before then you might need to look at how you will really make a difference. Secondly, work with people and ask for help, no one manages to do this on their own, understand where your support comes from and don’t be afraid to be honest about what you need from them. Thirdly – be brave and jump! There’s always a reason to wait for tomorrow but don’t.