Beatriz Sanz Saiz, Spain
Beatriz Sanz Sáiz doesn’t let much stand in her way. She made partner at 31, has beaten serious illness, is a single mother to two young children, and runs an Ethiopian-based nonprofit organization supporting women.
Beatriz is currently the Global Head of Analytics for Advisory. She lives in Madrid, only two hours from the ancient city of Cuenca, where she grew up with her three brothers. Both her parents were agricultural engineers.
Cuenca is a small city and, when Beatriz finished school, she left home to study Mathematics at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Always enjoying a challenge, Beatriz was studying for a five-year Master’s in Mathematics, but she also took on a three-year Economics course in parallel. And at the same time, she was working part-time in IT support at Digital.
Despite this triple commitment, Beatriz completed her five-year course in only four years. In addition, while at Digital, she began to implement some of the ideas she encountered in her Mathematics degree. “I started applying statistical analysis to my work, to try and predict which machines were going to break by looking at patterns and probabilities,” she says.
It was showing this initiative that landed Beatriz her first job after graduating. Somebody at Digital spotted her interest in statistics and put her in touch with Banco Santander, where she began her career working with big data and analytics.
At Santander, Beatriz was doing cutting-edge work on big data and analytics in order to predict customer behavior. At the time, few senior managers were familiar with such tools. Beatriz recalls an early meeting vividly. “Once, I was presenting my statistical analysis to the group CEO. I was looking at which customers might leave the bank. The CEO decided to call the first customer on the long list of names. Luckily for me — since the analysis was based on a series of probabilities — the customer was indeed dissatisfied with the bank.”
Beatriz continued to demonstrate the value of statistics and analytics to the bank. After a couple of years, at only 27, she was appointed as the youngest executive at the bank, responsible for customer intelligence and relationship management. At that time, the executive management level at the bank was nearly exclusively male and Beatriz was often the only woman at meetings – but she says that this never bothered her.
Moving to consulting
After six years at Santander, Beatriz started to feel restless. Having been impressed by the consultants she had worked with at Santander, Beatriz decided to move into Advisory at EY. In 2003, EY was in the early stages of rebuilding its Advisory practice. “For me, it was a big challenge, but one that I welcomed,” Beatriz says. “We needed to build a business from scratch. I built a new practice based on advanced customer management.” This was a great success for Beatriz, and led to her being made EY’s youngest Spanish partner in 2005.
A life-changing experience
By 2005, Beatriz had built a very successful career. Then, something happened that changed her outlook on life. “One day in 2005, I was in the office when I started to feel very unwell. Soon, I felt so ill I decided to go to hospital.” By the time she arrived, her temperature was soaring. The doctors told her that she had septicemia and it was possible that the infection could be fatal. It was a frightening time, but, fortunately, the antibiotics worked and Beatriz pulled through. But the experience changed her.
“When I was in hospital, I had time to think about what I wanted in life. I loved my job, but I decided I needed to have a bit more balance,” she says. Ultimately, this would involve doing more, not less. While she was recovering, she decided that she wanted to adopt an Ethiopian child. After three years’ hard work, Beatriz was able to achieve this in 2008.
Finding a balance
By that time, Beatriz has also been appointed Global Customer Leader for Advisory Services at EY. She was the youngest member of the Global Advisory leadership team. “It was an amazing experience for me, as I had the chance to drive a global practice,” she explains. Working as a global partner at EY and being a single mother was initially difficult. So, in 2010, Beatriz decided to leave EY and move back into banking. For a while, this worked. But her work as the Disruptive Innovation Leader at BBVA meant long stays at Silicon Valley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Singapore. Professionally, this was an incredible experience but, on the personal side, it was quite difficult to manage.
As a result, Beatriz decided to return to EY. And partly because of the banking crisis in Europe and partly because she wanted her son to learn English, Beatriz wanted to move to Australia. In 2012, she and her son relocated to Sydney. Beatriz spent nearly two years in Australia, working as EY Customer Leader for Financial Services in Oceania. Then, in in early 2014, Beatriz had her second Ethiopian adoption accepted, but a condition was that she had to return to Europe. EY were accommodating and welcomed her back to Madrid.
Not for profit
Working as an EY partner and raising two small children is difficult enough, but Beatriz also decided that she needed to do more to help other people. Inspired by her adopted children, Beatriz wanted to do something to improve the lives of Ethiopian women. Her nonprofit scheme is focused on helping women into university. In order to fund this, Beatriz set up a car sales business in Ethiopia, which also gives the Ethiopian women who are sent to university as part of the scheme the chance to gain work experience. Its profits go into helping more women into education. With so much going on in her life, it is perhaps no surprise that Beatriz operates on as little as four hours’ sleep a night. But this does allow her to achieve some balance between the pressing demands of her job, her children and other activities. When she does have a moment to relax, she spends time taking her children on trips around Spain or decorating her home. Her advice for anybody who wants to emulate her success is to be “creative, positive and brave” in all that they do.