Governing Body Spotlight
Co-Chair of the UK CDAO Community
Data & Analytics Director
Dr. Ruben Lara is the Data & Analytics Director at Tesco. Before joining Tesco, Ruben was the Chief Data Officer at Standard Life Aberdeen. He has also held senior data roles in telecoms, first as Head of Big Data Product Development and Innovation for Telefonica, and later as Head of Big Data Analytics for Vodafone. Ruben holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and has received the First National Award in Computer Science from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education.
Learn more about leaders in the UK & Ireland CDAO community here.
Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.
I developed an early interest in artificial intelligence (AI) while studying Computer Science at university. This motivated me to continue my studies in this area and eventually complete a PhD.
In my professional career, I was lucky enough to have my first job in a relatively small but hugely impressive Spanish company called Afi. Here, I learnt from great leaders and worked very closely with clients in retail banking, helping them to make better decisions with data.
In 2008, I joined the R&D unit of Telefonica to lead an innovation programme on data. I had an amazing journey, developing a portfolio of data products to grow and optimise the core telecommunications business. Later, I worked on launching insight products for external clients in retail, transportation, and government.
After a short stint in the Middle East, I moved to London in 2015 to join Vodafone as Head of Big Data Analytics. I was then appointed as CDAO at Standard Life Aberdeen, and finally joined Tesco in 2019.
What is one of your guiding leadership principles?
Build trust and give autonomy. I believe trusting and empowering others is the only way to sustain high performance and to have a long-term impact. This will enable you to create a far more positive and fun environment than if you aimed to control and micromanage.
With disruption being a key theme of the past few years, where do you see your role as a CDAO going in the next 1-2 years?
I see the role of data leaders becoming increasingly important in driving sustainability. Change is constant, but some changes may be irreversible. Data leaders will be instrumental in measuring environmental impact, driving change in organisations to optimise and adapt their operations, influencing entire industries, and nudging customers to embrace more sustainable behaviours.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the role as a CDAO?
The most impactful uses of data involve an effective use of technology and strong engineering. If you want to maximise your impact as a data leader, you should make technology and engineering an essential part of your role.
Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself.
- I enjoy playing percussion and have recorded a studio album. Good luck trying to find it!
- I worked (and spoke) on a radio programme for some time during my university studies.
- I am a keen runner, and I may run the London marathon this year. Having young kids doesn’t help with the preparation, though.
What is the value of participating in a professional community through Evanta?
Participating in a community through Evanta enables you to challenge your own thinking and to learn from great leaders.
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