Finding the job I love at 54

Gareth Cook from Lloyds Banking Group talks to about his switch into data analytics earlier this year and how it gave him a new enthusiasm for work.

Smart Future


Gareth Cook has had what he calls a squiggly career, moving from accountancy to change management to technology to people & learning and, in the past year, he has pivoted to a data role as Business Intelligence Adoption Lead in the Chief Data & Analytics Office at Lloyds Banking Group. All of his roles are linked by his interest in learning and a need to challenge himself, but his latest role has transformed him – bringing a new enthusiasm for work as he enters his mid-50s.

Gareth started his career in finance, training as an accountant with BT before joining a small start-up business to serve the financial needs of professional people. This was the start of Gareth’s 28 years and career journey with what has become Lloyds Banking Group. Gareth, who thrives on learning new skills and dislikes routine, soon found accountancy “quite dull” so he gravitated towards change management where every day was different and provided new challenges. He says: “The trick is to find that sweet spot of what you’re good at and enjoy!” During the years he spent in change management, he led a series of transformational projects involving every business function and created many connections across the growing business.

He then moved into IT planning and technology strategy for the Group, continuing his work with different business areas alongside tech experts. He says he developed confidence in operating in that environment as his softer, broad-based business skills were complementary to the more tech-based skills of the IT experts. Through that work he was then asked to take on the people strategy. He calls it “a moment in time when the stars began to align”. Through his projects, he had always gravitated towards the people and cultural side of change, but felt it was never valued as much as the delivery side. Not only did he like the broader perspective and enterprising approach needed when considering cultural change, he realised that he had a real talent for it.

Digital transformation

His next few roles involved building new skills and ways of working to support digital transformation, with an increasing focus on using data-led insights to help improve digital literacy within the Bank and wider UK society. Then COVID hit, and his focus changed to help establish new channels and ways of supporting customers in financial difficulty. As the world emerged from the pandemic, Gareth [pictured right] went back to his people & learning role where he worked on building “Platform School”, a learning curriculum for a new platform operating model and system of work. During this time, he felt that he was coasting. “There is discomfort in comfort,” he says, summing up his need to be continually learning and stretching himself.

Making a difference

Given the increasing use of data to help solve problems and identify improvements, he started to explore available roles in Data & Analytics and spotted an opportunity that ticked all the boxes. He successfully applied and started his new position at the end of 2022 in the Chief Data & Analytics Office.  His role involves leading the adoption of business intelligence & analytics across the organisation, enabling the use of data insight to drive everyday decisions. “The job brings together common threads from my working life and utilises my transferable skills. I don’t see myself as a technical expert, but I am learning so much and have grown to appreciate that I am an expert in my own right in enabling others to use data and technology. I thereby feel able to make a real difference and, in under a year, we have achieved so much,” says Gareth.

Over 13,500 people are now using the accessible analytics and data visualisation tools his team has been promoting and training them in. “They provide very interactive, visual ways to bring data to life and enable teams to gain insight without the need for expertise,” he states. The aim is that everyone can benefit from more easily accessible data. He adds that, with technical advancements such as Generative AI, there are issues and ethics to navigate and, for that reason, the team is not rushing things. “The main thing is to ensure that the data being used is understood and trustworthy, and that we are able to access it in safe and secure ways,” says Gareth. “It’s a two-way thing.”

Changing jobs has had a big impact on Gareth’s home life too. He says he used to never talk about work with friends and family. “Work was just a bit dull,” he says, “but this last year I have been talking about it with such enthusiasm. I love my work and the team I work with. I feel I can truly be myself and that I can make a bigger difference, and I’m also getting more recognition. It’s quite funny that it has taken until I am 54 to find a job that I love, which fully utilises my skills and expertise, and that really motivates me.”

He adds: “There is so much fear that stops you doing things, especially when it comes to data and technology where there is a mystique which builds a barrier for people applying for roles.”

Gareth is keen to encourage others to switch to a tech/data-based career, with opportunities to help people reskill and find these new career paths. “These skills are in high demand and difficult to recruit as we’re all fishing in the same small pond for them, so it makes sense to reskill people,” says Gareth. “People said you couldn’t do that, but we have already proven that you can and I am just one example. There are big opportunities for career movement to paths that people may not have considered before.” It’s also not just about training and upskilling employees, but also customers, including other businesses who need insights on everything from customer behaviour to competitor positioning in their sectors and regions. “It’s a real growth area and has opened up another new avenue for us to explore,” says Gareth.

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