Lara Izlan

Advertising Data & Technology Specialist

Can you describe a typical week at work?

I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but my job is mostly about creating advertising opportunities that are based on the power of data.

How did you get into data and technology, and why?

I grew up in Malaysia and I have a memory of being about ten-years-old and getting my first allowance which was roughly £2 at the time. The first thing I did with that money was to go to a stationery shop and buy an accounts ledger book! Throughout school, university and all my jobs, I’ve been drawn to the power of numbers and how I can help solve problems and illuminate the truth using numbers.

What motivates you on a daily basis – what gets you up in the morning?

The most compelling part of working in the data and technology space is being able to learn every day. The data and technology industry keeps on moving and progressing. And because I want to constantly learn and be challenged, it’s the best place to be.

How do you feel about doing things differently?

Having a global point of view helps. You can look at a problem in lots of different ways and get lots of different answers. Coming from a different background naturally encourages me to want to look at things in a slightly different way. It’s part of me to question myself and continuously get feedback. And everyone needs to be in the discussion too – quiet team members and loud team members.

The Data and Tech industry keeps on moving and progressing. And because I want to constantly learn and be challenged, it’s the best place to be.
What advice would you give your teenage self?

I’d tell her to follow her passion and that it’s possible to build something successful from what you’re good at. It sounds clichéd, but you really can’t be anything other than who you are. I got to that way of thinking eventually, but I also went through the filter of doing what others expected of me. But maybe that’s a rite of passage too?

Are role models important to you?

There are a lot of really fantastic women in this industry, doing really amazing jobs, but we’re just not seeing them. We need to find these people and talk to them. We need to normalise successful women in the industry.

How important is it to have other passions in your life?

Up until having my children, I was a competitive ballroom dancer and that took up all of my free time. I would work during the day and train, dance and compete for the rest of the time. It was such a huge part of my life for so many years that when I stopped dancing as much, it was a knock to my sense of identity. The passion, time, energy, love and hate that I gave it over the years definitely helped form who I am today.

What advice would you give to girls and young women interested in a career in data and technology?

The first thing I’d say is to throw out any preconceived ideas about what makes someone successful in data and tech. Part of the problem is the way we label things – we often think this space is only for ‘geeks’ or for those who are really, really good at computer science, but it’s an industry that needs all sorts of different people and thinking. Don’t be afraid to bring what makes you special because you’ll still be able to find that it works really well in this industry. Forget about the stereotypes and get stuck in.

Can you tell us about the significant object that you’ve chosen?

I have chosen a statue partly because it reflects the fluidity and artistry of my dance background but also because a statue of the Greek goddess Athena is very compelling due to what she stood for. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, and I always strive to make the best decisions. Whether that’s based on data, or on life decisions, I try to be wise in my thinking and find meaning in things. She is also the goddess of war so she represents the battles you have every day in life. We all have to push a little bit for the things we really believe in so you can finish the day knowing that you’ve done a good job.