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Caryn Tan

  • Programme: Masters in Management
  • Job Pre-programme: Digital Analyst at Accenture
  • Job Post-programme: Digital Strategy Consultant at Accenture

Caryn Tan (MiM 2015) is adamant that the days of people being pigeonholed into humanities or science are over. “To be a competent business professional today, you have to be able to harness the power of data. Heading into the future it doesn’t matter what role you play, winning strategies have to include data driven decisions.”

Despite this, says Caryn, her current role as Digital Strategy Consultant at Accenture wasn’t an easy one to land. “When I joined there was a strong emphasis in my practice on quantitative skills only, so everyone was a mathematician, a statistician or a data scientist. I used the networking skills I’d learned at LBS to show senior management that I deserved to be part of this practice, and to show them what I could contribute as an LBS graduate who understands both the quantitative and qualitative side to business.”

Caryn says that the opportunity to learn alongside more experienced professionals during her Masters in Management degree has paid big dividends. “MiM is an Early Careers degree, but electives are cross-programme, so in those classes I worked in teams with MBAs and EMBAs. I had to interact with some very experienced people from different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives – it gave me a proper insight into how the business world works.” She now uses those skills at work on a regular basis. “The LBS community taught me that no matter how senior you are, you’re still a person. I shared my electives with people who were VPs of divisions at companies like HP and Morgan Stanley; being in class with them taught me to approach them with respect, but also to see their human side. So I’m able to interact with ease at a very senior level.”

Although she loves her current role, Caryn says that during the MiM she went through the usual phase of considering a career in consulting or banking. Then, she says, she went on a School trek to Silicon Valley trek. “What I realised there - and why I’m in analytics now – is that everybody had this incredibly strong belief in data. It didn’t matter if they were a CEO, in sales, product engineering or a designer, there was just this huge emphasis on data and data driven decisions as being instrumental to start-up and company growth.”

Caryn says there is a growing need for people who can translate between highly technical roles and management. “There’s a lot of hype around data science, but what’s important for business success are people that can think about how the data drives strategy.” She spent her first year at Accenture building solid technical skills, but refusing to be pigeonholed as a ‘techie’. “I didn’t want to be seen as a pure data analyst, but I needed a strong analytics background so I had the credibility to strategise in the analytics space. Currently I manage the data science team, working with a high-tech multinational selling consumer goods. I’m the bridge between senior management and the data scientists.”

So in a world where data rules, what challenges does the industry face? “One issue is to ensure that people deploy AI responsibly, and that it’s not unintentionally (or otherwise) biased against subgroups or minorities.” Caryn says this means a multidisciplinary approach to human-led design is critical. “Without proper implementation of AI there is an increasing risk of marginalisation. Combining analytics and management brings together technical skills with an understanding of what customers need, and how to develop ethical strategies going forward.”

Caryn hasn’t stopped in her quest to future-proof herself, and has just completed a part-time law degree. “Everyone in my practice is very focused on analytics - there’s not a lot of emphasis on the wider implications of AI. For me, it’s about bringing together what I learned at LBS, in analytics, in my law degree and in the responsible AI practice at Accenture working in the strategy and policy space for business and governments. That way, we can come up with sound strategies to mitigate any unintended consequences of AI.”