Data Strategy

Meet Will Cobbah: Building a team that solves the biggest data challenges

  • Hear Will’s experience working with Zühlke’s data team.
  • Explore the huge challenges his team loves to grapple with.
  • Discover what's next for Will and Zühlke’s data team.
4 minutes to read

Will Cobbah loves to tackle big data challenges and create sustainable solutions.

Throughout his career, he’s sought out organisations that meet such challenges head on, and solve them in the most fulfilling ways possible. As Head of Data & AI Practice, he’s therefore the perfect match for Zühlke Germany.

“Working at Zühlke has been a really exciting challenge so far. I love having the chance to not only wrestle with the biggest data challenges I’ve ever encountered, but also to build the data team so we can tackle even more of them.”

Below, we dive into Will’s journey with Zühlke and the big difference he feels the data team can make.

What does the data team actually do?

The word ‘data’ can mean many different things in different industries. So what is the focus of the data team?

“Well, it might sound a little lofty, but our focus is to deliver positive change to people and the planet by solving big challenges through the ethical use of data. To do that, we champion a multidisciplinary approach involving a wide range of highly skilled individuals.”

As Will explains, this interdisciplinary approach is key to ensuring that the data problems you’re solving lead to products or solutions that are practical and extremely usable.

“When you bring together the combined skills of great data engineers, data scientists and data consultants, and get them working closely with talented front- and back-end developers, you can innovate in a way that creates complex but easy-to-use solutions. Human-centricity is vital for lasting, and sustainable change.”

What do you think is so special about the data team?

For Will, the thing that makes the team so special is also the thing that allows it to deliver on its mission.

“I think our ‘innovation engine’ is really special. Big data challenges attract top data minds. The more top minds you have, the more challenges you can solve. The more challenges you solve, the more organisations with big challenges come to you for a solution and the more top minds want to work with you. It’s like an engine, fuelling itself. Our team runs a particularly great innovation engine, and for me, it’s the thing that makes it so special.”

What makes a good team member?

Will is keen to point out that when he says ‘top data minds’, it goes much further than intellectual prowess.

“Of course, we look for deep data skills when recruiting, but it’s more important that the person has the right mindset. It’s vital they have a genuine passion for solving problems with data combined with a willingness to learn and an empathetic outlook. Having team members from a diverse range of backgrounds is also crucial. Combining these ingredients allows us to assemble a team of what I call ‘data alchemists’. A group of people who wake up wanting to bring a diverse range of ideas together, solve huge challenges in the most sustainable way, and turn data into gold.”

How do you ensure your ‘data alchemists’ keep learning?

Bringing together top minds is only half the story. As Will explains, one of the most exciting things about working at Zühlke is the focus on individual development.

“If you feel you’ve got nothing left to learn, Zühlke probably isn’t the best place for you. Here, we love to learn and develop. The balance we aim to strike is that people feel inspired and challenged every day, but they’re also given the time, space, and support to develop and forge their own unique path.”

What are the three things that you like most about your job?

Whilst there are many good things that Will is keen to tell us about, there are three things that standout for him.

“First is definitely the innovation engine I spoke about earlier. Next, I love that ‘end-to-end’ means something different here. Working in an organisation with deep expertise in both software and hardware, widens the scope of end-to-end data challenges. Suddenly, what was an endpoint is now a gateway. Why? Because your challenges and solutions span both the digital and physical world and that opens the door to a new level of creativity.”

Will’s final choice is perhaps the most surprising but most indicative of the data team's culture.

“Finally, I love the challenge of solving data problems in highly regulated industries such as medtech and healthcare. It’s really complex. The mental gymnastics, attention to detail, and creative thinking it requires is really exciting, especially when the problems you solve directly impact people’s daily lives.

What’s next for you, the data team, and Zühlke?

It isn’t just the team that has a love of learning and development, and for Will that is also a major strength.

“I love where Zühlke and the data team are, but what I love even more is how ambitious they both are about continuing to develop. My vision is for more people to know about us, to be more visible. The reason? The people we have here have amazing ideas and have worked on some incredible projects. When you work on something so inspiring that adds real value, you want these projects and the people behind them to have a platform. That’s how we can take the innovation engine to the next level.”

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