Q&A: Talking with Data and Analytics Business Leader Pawan

Evolving daily with data and analytics

3 min read

November 2019

Portrait of Progressive Data and Analytics Business Leader Pawan

Data and Analytics Business Leader Pawan doesn’t think you’re trying hard enough if you’ve never failed. When it comes to the D&A space, he’s a firm believer that we need people with perseverance who can try, fail, learn, and keep going. We chatted with him about how he continues to cultivate the “risk, learn, grow” mentality that’s foundational at Progressive to drive D&A forward.

How important is the D&A function at Progressive?

Data is a core ingredient to our growing business. Progressive relies on lots of data for our products and services. Every facet of our business uses data in many ways to provide the best possible experience for our customers. So, we need to maintain existing data sets, build new ones, nurture existing tools and find new ones. I’m responsible for the strategy for that and helping to implement it. My customer base is in the thousands and spreads across all of Progressive. I make lots of new friends every day, and I love that.

What are some of the things you’re most excited about right now in your field?

I’m super-excited about real-time data. Usually when we talk of data, we talk about something that happened yesterday, a month ago, etc. Our systems have historically been geared toward processing past data. Now we’re focusing on real-time data. We can process data and derive insights nearly instantly. If something’s happening now—an issue on our website, for example—we’ll know that and can address it today. So, in the data space, the notion of driving insights in real time and responding in real time is very exciting.

On the analytics side, there are so many new tools available now. It’s as if you’re a craftsman who had only a hammer and screw driver, and now you have much more sophisticated tools. A full-fledge tool box to work from. Some of these tools are actually in the open source space. The crowd-source nature of open source is really exciting because things can evolve quickly. In the tooling space, there are lots of innovations I’m excited about.

When we put both aspects together—data and analytics advancements—we can engage our customers in much better ways. We can do things with AI and machine learning. We can tune our products and services for the customer and really personalize what we’re offering them. When we personalize things, we see much better engagement. And that goes for internal and external customers, translating across all our business areas.

What does the future of analytics look like at Progressive?

D&A is a great space to be in. There’s longevity to it … and it will continue to evolve. It’s not like we’re asking you to come make CDs and DVDs. No matter which way we slice our strategy as a company, D&A will be front and center. We’ll continue to use it to put good products in front of our customers.

In some industries, or at some companies, it can take a while to see the fruits of your labor in D&A. At Progressive, most changes and updates are more virtual. A good idea today could be in market tomorrow. So there’s very much this “look mom, here’s what I worked on” aspect to it which is cool. Here, you’re working on a consumer brand and focused on the customer and the experience we’re providing. You may even forget you’re working in insurance at times. You’re just building good things for our customers.

What’s next for you at Progressive?

A view of the Progressive campus

Applying data to existing and new business products is what’s next for me. I want to really take data up to that level where it’s just “how we do business.” I have a bigger team now, and I find I’m spending more time inspiring others and developing a workforce for the next generation in this space.

There’s no blue print here which is what I find so exciting. The norm for us is to try, fail, learn. It’s kind of an expectation that you’ll be trying 10 things and a few of those 10 won’t work…but you’ll learn. You’ll learn more from those failures than successes. You don’t spend your whole day failing, of course. [laughs] But practicing “risk, learn, and grow” every day is important. To play in this space, we need people with curious minds. We need a lot of folks who ask good questions and for whom data resonates.

Find out more about an analyst role at Progressive

Pawan Divakarla is responsible for Progressive Insurance’s data (big and other) and analytics strategy. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry. Over the years, Pawan has built expertise in high-end analytics and uses it in both strategic and tactical planning and decision-making. He’s a life learner and loves working with both people and data to drive innovation and business value.

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