Jane Moran Speaks About Tech-Enabled Service Perfection through Data Science
October 15, 2020
Jane Moran: Reaching for the Stars to Achieve Tech-Enabled Service Perfection through Innovative Data Science
Jane Moran, Senior Vice President of Data & Technology at the AIR MILES Reward Program, understands challenges – and is up for them all. Graduate school first brought this to light, as a “first job” that helped Jane develop the critical skills to think and solve problems independently. In lead up to completing her Ph.D. in Astrophysics, Jane thought she would become a physics professor. However, she soon recognized an emerging need in the industry for women who could both crunch lines of complicated data and lead with authority, and accepted a job doing what would soon become widely known as Data Science. Jane was truly a pioneer in the field – one that would come to define the seemingly incongruous group of academics trying to solve business problems with backgrounds spanning physics, computer science, cognitive science, politics and economics.
As Jane progressed through her career, she led many teams and increasingly added other analytics functions under her oversight, including business intelligence, operations and enterprise reporting. During this phase, she saw an opportunity to replicate techniques from IT development as a way to manage the transition of data science and analytics from one-off solutions to data products – specifically Agile practices, including sprint planning and backlog management, all with the aim of productizing data science solutions.
This experience gives Jane a unique advantage at AIR MILES, where she leads both the Analytics and IT segments – recognized as Data and Technology within the organization – for Canada's most recognized loyalty program, with more than 200 retailer brands, hundreds of online retailers and two AIR MILES credit card Partners. Her portfolio includes data science, data engineering, business intelligence, marketing operations, software development and traditional IT infrastructure. Simply put, Jane manages the collision of analytics and IT to create meaningful solutions for the thousands of customers who swipe their AIR MILES cards over 1,000 times a minute, every minute of every day, seven days a week.
Leadership that Inspires Strength
Prior to joining AIR MILES, Jane led the Behavioural Data and Analytics Group at Ipsos, where she was responsible for introducing new sources of digital consumer data into the business. She has also worked at Mars Inc., with a focus on developing advertising effectiveness metrics in digital and social media.
From the beginning of her career in Data Science, Jane learned to show up (and eventually to lead) with authenticity. "I had to embrace my differences because my profile was so unique from everyone I met. I used to get feedback that people didn't know how to place me – a data scientist who was a woman and one that could also communicate and lead (which was not typical in the field!). When I started sitting at more senior tables, I had to quickly determine how to contribute. My takeaway from this was not to be afraid of standing out and being different. I learned that we don’t always need to fit in, and to embrace that as a strength."
Jane has faced many challenges in her career, from making the transition from academia to business and the cultural challenge of working in different countries, including Belgium and the United States (Los Angeles) before settling in Toronto. She learned how to find different ways to bring others on board with ideas, build buy-in through collaboration and allow for dialogue and debate that improved the ability to move forward and get things done.
But Jane says her biggest challenge was that she kept coming up with "solutions in search of a problem." “I wasn’t directing my efforts toward solving for an existing need and was having trouble getting my ideas and solutions adopted. I soon learned to compromise – adjusting my solutions and work to the needs of those around me, rather than expecting my colleagues to meet me where I was.”
Qualities of an Exemplary Leader
Jane believes that there are many key qualities that every transformative leader should possess, including resilience, patience, the ability to make tough decisions, adapting with evolving changes and humbly dealing with setbacks. “A leader should also be able to acknowledge and celebrate success to keep their teams motivated, especially during the long haul.”
She adds, “leaders also need to recognize that transformational changes take time, so even if change feels like it’s taking it’s time to occur, resist the urge to panic – stay the course.” Jane is driven by leadership that promotes cross-functional work and encourages emerging leaders to find ways to make advanced concepts easy to understand for everyone, and to foster ownership over problems and challenges.
Building Solutions that Address Market Demands
Most of AIR MILES’ current products and solutions involve marketing optimization tools. The company takes an iterative approach – small steps, optimizing along the way. Jane recommends having digital measurement systems in place to track and target everything. “Try experimenting with individual targeting rather than a single solution. For example, engaging different consumers with different types of offers and messages.”
Leveraging Technologies for AI-Analysis
Jane believes that we have arrived at the golden age of Data & Analytics with Artificial Intelligence (AI) at scale. The pace of technology is advancing and promising a future with IoT.
The world is simultaneously generating more data than ever before, and inexpensive and endless cloud computing resources are available to process that data. She believes AI at scale means that humans can process this data in near real-time, in a fully automated process that incorporates data pipelines with data science solutions, and then pushes those recommendations directly into a marketing automation pipeline – delivering customized communications across millions of customers. The impact of that marketing makes the next round of targeting even more effective. “It's exhilarating to see all of this coming to life in a fully automated way. The creation of this type of system is a result of years of work across many teams in data engineering, data science, digital analytics, marketing and IT.”
Embracing Customer Challenges for the Future
With the ubiquity of mobile devices and hyper-personalization, consumers have come to expect information and entertainment to be brought to them, rather than seeking it out. Jane is confident that the data science driving AIR MILES is uniquely able to give consumers what they want before they even know that they want it. By leveraging AIR MILES data sets, the Program is able to drive behaviors through seamless and frictionless integration of loyalty programs into shopping behaviors, and effortless rewards.
Words of Wisdom to Budding Women Leaders
Jane is extremely optimistic about the future of women in leadership. “As leaders, women have a lot to bring to the table. We are more likely to adopt to a leadership style that is in-tune with the needs of our teams and stakeholders and is more likely to promote a culture of inclusion. These are both critical elements for success in the current environment of rapid change and constant adaptation.”
Jane believes that there are as many leadership styles as there are personalities. In her frequent talks with emerging women leaders, she asks them to find the leadership style that fits their unique individual personality and never feel like they need to model their approach based on what works well for others. “Every style has its strengths and weaknesses – a directive style can be very effective when accomplishing operational processes. However, overuse can result in shutting down dialogue. A more open, relaxed style can create a great atmosphere, but if taken too far, can lead to reduced productivity.”
Quote: "Encourage teams to be problem solvers rather than just ‘doers.’ Understand your style and what makes you comfortable and be aware of how you balance the pros and cons of your style to be a great leader. Embrace the culture of the knowledge worker, as automation of increasingly complex tasks gains momentum."
Management: Jane Moran, Senior Vice President, Data & Technology, AIR MILES Reward Program
About AIRMILES Reward Program
The AIR MILES Reward Program, a LoyaltyOne Company, is Canada’s most recognized loyalty program, with nearly 11 million active Collector Accounts, representing approximately two-thirds of all Canadian households. AIR MILES Collectors get Miles at more than 300 leading Canadian, global and online brands and at thousands of retail and service locations across the country, such as grocers, pharmacies, gas stations, home improvement stores, clothing retailers, office supply stores, liquor stores, and more. It is the only loyalty program of its kind to give Collectors the flexibility and choice to use Miles on aspirational Rewards such as merchandise, travel, events or attractions or, instantly, in-store or online, through AIR MILES Cash at participating Partner locations.
To see the article on Analytics Insight Magazine, click here.