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Dive into Data: Founding a Data-Driven Business

In the context of our “Dive into Data” initiative, we aim to change the misconception about what it takes to break into and build a long-term career in the data industry. As part of this, we’d like to showcase the many avenues and routes, far beyond the perception that it’s all about being a genius in maths, engineering and science-oriented qualifications and how data brilliance is also fuelled by creative and business orientated minds.

In this part of the series, we’d like to feature the background and career journey of Brittany Harris, Civil Engineer and CEO/Co-Founder, at Qualis Flow, a brilliant example that shows how unconventional backgrounds can lead to dive into data as a career.

Our chat here, to feature a real-life example. How to get into data and an example of how a career path within that field can unfold….

ADLIB: To summarise, what are your main responsibilities as a Founder of Qualis Flow?

Brittany: I do a bit of everything really, whatever is needed; from recruiting team members to going out and finding new clients; speaking at events, to pitching for investment from Angels and VCs. I love solving problems and trying to identify the most efficient and sustainable way of doing things, and that is largely all a CEO does.

ADLIB: What’s your background, what has been your career journey so far leading you to where you are right now?

Brittany: I am a Civil engineer by training, but up until I was 16 I wanted to go into Musical Theatre. I loved problem-solving too much, so followed the engineering career and have never looked back! Now I use those theatrical skills to share ideas with others and engage the wider construction industry.

After graduating from the University of Bristol, I worked for an engineering design consultancy. But I quickly became frustrated by the pace of impact I felt I was able to have in my role, I wanted to see real pioneering change towards a more sustainable future; and so in April 2018 I left and co-founded Qflow

ADLIB: What do you see as the top 3 skills it takes to succeed as a Founder of a data-driven business?

Brittany:

1) I think the most important thing for any new business is to know and love the problem you are trying to solve (not your solution). Data is a means to an end, not the end game itself – take time to understand the problem then, and only then, explore what potential data sets might help you resolve it.
2) Practice Agile – Agile is a term that is thrown around a lot, but at Qflow we see it as a state of mind and a way of thinking and needs to be continually challenged. We take great care to iterate, get feedback often and really dig into what that feedback means for us.
3) Communicate and collaborate – we have learned so much from those that went before us, and are accelerating our development by collaborating with others. You can treat someone in your space and a competitor or a collaborator, only one of these will help you go faster and be better… it is up to you how you approach people.

ADLIB: Any soft skills that are advantageous to this role in your opinion?

Brittany Harris: I honestly think the skills I gained from my time in musical theatre are the skills I use most and have the most impact day to day. In my opinion, fearless communication, a willingness to collaborate and to look daft and play around with stuff, are the fundamentals of leading a start-up. It is my engineering skills that allow me to solve big problems, but it is my theatre training that enables me to share that with the world.

Thanks for sharing!