Clare McKelvey on her journey as a Data Scientist at Allstate

  • Sync NI caught up with Clare McKelvey, Data Scientist at Allstate NI, to hear about her background, role in the company, and advice to other young women starting off in the sector.

    Originally, Clare admits she was “really panicked” when her friends knew what they wanted to do in school and she “had no idea.” However, Clare was always interested in Maths, so she started off studying maths at university

    It was two years into her degree when Clare discovered that it was the statistics modules she enjoyed most and subsequently changed her pathway to maths with statistics. During this time, having completed several modules on data and machine learning, her passion for tech was heightened, inspiring her to go on to do a master's degree in data analytics. 

    Within this master’s degree, Clare completed a three-month placement with a digital pathology company where she was working as part of their AI and machine learning team. After this, she felt she wanted to work for a larger company where there were more people to bounce off and so she looked into Allstate and has been there ever since.

    Clare says one of the main aspects that attracted her to the company was Project Lightbulb. Project Lightbulb allows employees at Allstate to take 10% of their working week to focus on projects that are outside of their work. Clare explains: “If there are certain techniques that you think would be beneficial to either your learning and confidence within your job or say you're assigned a certain job to improve a model and there’s a bit of a time crunch. You might not have time to look into another method that you wanted, or thought might work, but you can do that in your Lightbulb time. Then if it is successful, you can bring it up to your manager and say why don't we do this? I have some results here that look really promising. So it's just kind of giving people a bit more freedom.”

    Clare adds: “I really like that because I feel like certain companies expect you to do your own learning outside of work as well, and that can be quite daunting, especially if you have a nine to five, Monday through Friday, with the computer screen on all day only to finish up only to go onto another screen and do a bit more learning. That’s really quite intense. To be expected to do that can be a bit daunting, especially for graduates and people just starting out so that was all a huge plus point for me.” 

    Clare has been part of the D3 team at Allstate NI for a year and a half. D3 stands for data discovery and decision science and is a central department that supports all areas of the company. This support includes statistics, machine learning, and applications that all benefit the company and customers. It also includes constant ongoing research and development into new methods to improve implementation within the company’s ongoing design.

    Another thing that drew Clare to Allstate was “a really strong sense of community” that she has experienced during her time within D3 “where we make presentations across teams, focusing on learning and development and what we can learn from each other and possible collaboration.”

    Clare adds that this is “not just work but networking across teams, and making that sense of community because you've got friends actually across the globe. In my last team, we had quite a few team members that were in India and I just thought that was so cool and they were all so nice. I just love the sense of community and hearing about everybody's culture is interesting. It's just not something we're normally exposed to so it's great to get that whole worldwide culture, I think that's one of the best bits about the role.” 

    In addition to this Clare is involved with the Women In Tech At Allstate. She tells us this is very “fun and interesting as a woman, to go into that and do the statistics for their equality and diversity awards and qualifications.” She adds: “to be involved and see how much effort and how much Allstate cares about making sure there is diversity and encouraging mentoring schemes and to make sure young women feel confident in going forward for promotions or even feeling confident in the roles that they're already in is great. I really love seeing that. I feel like it's so worthwhile and rewarding to be encouraging young women to go into STEM.” 

    Clare says that her advice to other women who want to get involved in the tech sector is “don’t let a male-dominated field put you off because there really is so much opportunity at the minute. Loads of large companies are pushing to close the ratios and make it more equal and get more representation. It’s not about your gender. It's just representation in the past that has kind of filtered down in this way. So now we have to represent our gender. Don’t let it put you off at all.”

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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