Sarah Wells

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Loyalty Management UK

On September 10 2001 I said goodbye to the project supervisor of my MSc in Operational Research (OR) at Lancaster University Management School and was eagerly waiting to start in my new role in the analytical department at British Airways. A week later I had bad news: my job at BA was cancelled as major job cuts were initiated, following the slump in trade after September 11.

Fortunately, within a month I had landed a new role at Tesco where I joined their Customer Insight Unit. Here I was involved in a number of marketing-related activities, including measuring customer loyalty, segmenting customers who buy organic products, price basket analysis and understanding why customers switch between supermarkets. I also gained valuable hands-on retail experience through a 10-week programme of work experience in a Tesco store.

In 2003 I moved to Loyalty Management UK, the company that runs the Nectar loyalty scheme. I am enjoying analysing customer data across many retailers and service providers such as Sainsbury’s, BP, Vodafone, Debenhams, Threshers and EDF Energy. As well as analysing data to aid marketing the Nectar scheme, I help the sponsors meet their business needs through understanding their customers more successfully. I am enjoying contact with clients, experience of different retail businesses and the breadth of OR techniques this work allows.

I chose to study OR after my Maths degree as I enjoy problem solving and using numerical evidence to aid business decisions. Having attended the Operational Research Society open day in Birmingham as an undergraduate, it was apparent that OR plays an important role in many very successful companies. The lectures convinced me that the work would be interesting and fulfilling. I chose Lancaster as it has a top-rated Management School, great facilities and is well regarded in OR circles.

My year in Lancaster was a great foundation for my career - as the guest seminars and project placement enabled exposure to major organisations. Lectures on consulting, improving presentations and training in technical packages (such as Enterprise Miner and Visual Basic) also set me in good stead.

I have found the MSc in OR at Lancaster gives applicants to analyst roles an edge over other candidates. I doubt I would have enjoyed such opportunities without my year at Lancaster.