George White, senior specialist, analytics reporting team, Aon
George White, senior specialist, analytics reporting team, Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics

From the tyre factory to tech analytics and innovation at Aon

8 Dec 2015

George Whyte from the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA), Dublin, talks us through a day in the life of a senior specialist in analytics reporting.

What is your role within this company?

I am a senior specialist in the analytics reporting team.

Can you tell us about your background?

I have a BA in maths and geography, and postgraduate diplomas in education and computer science from UCC.

Starting out as a COBOL programmer, I have worked mainly in the financial sector, but I also spent two years in the IT department of a tyre factory, which brought its own unique challenges. No college course can prepare you for the call that says, ‘A tyre just fell 10 feet from the production line and onto my computer and it no longer works’. No amount of ‘switch it off and switch it back on again’ will fix that.

What steps led you to this role?

I had worked in the financial sector in the UK and Ireland for a number of years, and I was excited to learn about Aon’s vision of a global centre for innovation, focused on developing insurance analytics. I joined the ACIA at its inception in 2009, and I still find something new and exciting in my work every day.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

Each day brings something different – that’s what makes working here so interesting.

We get analytical requests from Aon colleagues across the world, from senior executives looking for global analytics to brokers looking for help with a local tender. A key part of my job is to understand the requirements of our business users and translate these into clear and accurate specifications for the reporting analysts.

What types of project do you work on?

Data and analytics are at the core of what Aon does globally. Some of our projects are short term, like straightforward industry report requests and assisting on client tenders. Other projects are built on close collaboration with global Aon business leaders to address an industry or market challenge they have.

We develop new exciting analytics that ultimately enhance and grow Aon’s global capabilities and business offering.

Our relatively small team within the global organisation can create huge impact through delivering solutions to complex issues.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Apart from core technical knowledge (SQL, Tableau, Alteryx), the key skills I bring to the organisation are my communication skills and industry knowledge. Understanding the industry and markets can be very useful when working with a global team that consists of colleagues from the insurance business and analysts with strong technical skills, all working towards a common goal but not necessarily always speaking the same ‘language’.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

ACIA has widely adapted the Agile approach to both project and BAU work. I use a Kanban board (in my case, low-tech multi-coloured sticky notes on a whiteboard) to clearly communicate issue age, status and progress.

This ensures I focus on completing critical analytical requests, and end each week with a sense of achievement, rather than trying to do everything at once.

How has this role changed as the tech sector has grown and evolved?

As users become more technologically sophisticated, there is a greater emphasis on mobile technology and visualisation. The days of ‘yet another Excel report with pivot table’ are very much in the past. We are encouraged by Aon to work with new, innovative technologies to see if they can help us develop cutting-edge solutions.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The ACIA has a really interesting mix of people, both in terms of age, experience and background. With people from over 16 countries, the regular social nights out are like the United Nations (with more fun and fewer speeches).

Because I’ve worked in insurance for more than 10 years, and can remember ‘80s pop music from the first time around, I am considered an expert in the industry and I am given an opportunity to consult on different projects. With a strong focus on the ‘buddy system’, I mentor new joiners, many of whom I am glad to say are still colleagues in the ACIA.

I get to work with senior Aon executives from around the world, and it gives me great pleasure when I see an email that says, ‘maybe that guy George Whyte in Dublin can help’. Being ‘that guy’ is part of the culture of the ACIA and everyone here, regardless of their experience or level in the company, is encouraged to put forward ideas for new analytical solutions.

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