Data is beautiful

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Iris de Jongh is the Chief Data Officer at KPN where she is driving KPN’s transformation towards becoming a more data driven company. She facilitates this by ensuring that KPN’s data transformation is done in a secure way and that the quality of their data is up to standard. Her ambition is to make KPN completely data driven, not only from an inside perspective, but also by enabling their clients to have a smoother user experience.

“I have a team of around 200 people working on improving data quality, delivering data products, and making sure that the data is available for our day to day operations, as well as improving the data driven mind-set within KPN. Our job is to make sure the data is available in real-time, in the different applications, with one customer view, one location view and one product view.”

AI is just the beginning

Prior to joining KPN in September 2020, Iris was a Partner at PWC specialising in Data Analytics and finance function effectiveness. She decided to move from consulting to KPN in search of the next challenge while staying close to her data passion: a focus on content. “At a certain moment in time you say, well, I’ve done my thing, I became a partner, and now is the time to consider whether I want to go to the next level, or see how I can use my knowledge and experience in showing others how to get to the forefront of innovation,” she explains.

When starting her career a little more than twenty years ago, her dream was to work in data mining, which we have now come to know as a part of AI. But the world was not quite ready at the time: “I wanted to work with clients and predict the future using data mining, and then I realised… How can I predict the future if we don’t even know where we are today? I think today we are entering the world of AI more and more, but we’re just starting and there’s much more to come.”

Know who you are

For Iris, her biggest challenge throughout her career in consulting was pivoting her focus beyond the numbers, and learning the skills to manage and influence people.

She explains: “At a certain point in time, I realised that while people were telling me that I should invest more in relationships and look at it from a different perspective, that was not me. I chose to rather build relationships from a content perspective. I am myself when I’m talking about content, I am myself when I’m doing something from a content perspective or from a relationship perspective, and I started to love relationships in the work environment a little bit more along the way.”

Start with the data

Iris’ passion for data lies in its concrete nature: “I think there’s a lot of power in data. It’s not only about the data itself, but how it is used, the analytics, the algorithms – you can use data to make predictions about the future. And I think it’s beautiful. It speaks for itself, it’s concrete, and it means something.”

Iris dreams of a future at KPN where, in the next three years, everyone in the company understands the intrinsic value of data and also understands that their own way of working has a direct effect on its quality: “I want them to understand why they have to be rigid and work according to the guidelines that have been set, so that our clients have a much better customer journey. In the end, we have such a beautiful platform and we want our clients to have a better experience when interacting with it.”

Improving how people understand and engage with data is a passion that lies very close to her heart: “You can’t work in data without working on people, processes, and systems. It’s all connected to each other. In my finance jobs in the past, I have always said that if you want to improve your business functions, start with the data, and I would never tell you anything different today – I haven’t changed this philosophy in 20 years.”

A network supports learning

Iris is an avid believer in the power of a network and how that enables peers to share knowledge and learn from each other. In a world where technology is constantly improving, being able tap into your network for advice is invaluable: “It’s easier to learn from people who are actually working with new technologies and approaches than trying to gain insight from a book or a university. For example, we as KPN are now working towards the Data Mesh which is a new concept with regards to data management. Tapping into people within the network and getting their advice in terms of how they apply it, what works and what doesn’t work, is extremely valuable. You can’t read that from a book.”

Iris believes that this is where the true value of communities like RightBrains comes to fruition: “It’s more about the proven methodologies than the theoretical. And sometimes bringing in topics that are completely new that we need to consider and test. It’s great to have a platform that’s bringing the knowledge together and helping each other to grow. It’s networking, while bringing something I love to the table, which is bringing content.”

To meet Iris and other inspirational women like her, join the RighBrains community today by signing up to the RightBrains platform!