Three Career Tips for Data Professionals

In Business Intelligence, Data Management by IRM UK2 Comments

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Are you as excited as I am to be a data professional? Are you one of the next generation of data professionals? Are you exploring the possibility of having data be the focus of your career? I have been in the business of data and information for over 25 years.  It has been immensely rewarding. At turning points in my life, I have consciously made the decision to continue along this path.  I know what I do is important to this world.  But let’s face it, as data professionals, our names are not going to be splashed across the front page of the newspaper or get a million likes on Facebook.  We do what we do because we believe in it.

Danette McGilvray, President and Principal, Granite Falls Consulting
Danette will be presenting the 3-day course ‘Ten Steps to Data Quality‘ 1-3 June 2020, London

She also co-chaired and spoke at the IRM UK Enterprise Data & Business Intelligence and Analytics Conference Europe 18-22 November 2019, London, on the subject ‘Bridging the Gap: Learn Leadership Lessons from the Building of the Golden Gate Bridge‘.

We know that data and information underlie everything that happens in this world.  We truly want to make a difference within our sphere of influence. How can we best do that?  No matter if you are new to the data scene or have spent a good part of your working life on some aspect of managing data and information, let me share three ideas that helped me both at the beginning of my career and throughout my working life: 1) Show up, 2) Continue to learn and improve your skills, and 3) Build your network of trusted colleagues – and be a trusted colleague.

Show upEvery move throughout my career was made available to me because I showed up. I attended a conference, joined in a conversation at an early-morning breakfast, introduced myself to someone at lunch, attended a professional association meeting, asked a question, exchanged business cards, talked to the person sitting next to me in a class, posted an answer to a question.  At the time I did not know the people I met would be the ones who opened doors for me and that I would also help them. Of course, we can show up virtually through LinkedIn and on-line discussion groups. But I still believe that face-to-face is best, particularly when first meeting. Even if geographically separated, we can have a one-on-one conversation using video chat. No matter the skills you possess, if no one knows you, how can you provide help? How can you be in the running for that next exciting role?

Continue to learn and improve your skills. The world is constantly changing around us.  Fundamentals of managing data that have held the test of time may be new to those just entering the profession.  Basics can still apply, but the specifics of how and where to apply them will vary. There will always be new techniques, new technology, new business needs, new ways of doing things.  A professional must continually learn and keep up in order to provide the most value to his or her organization – through reading books and articles, learning from internal and external experts, attending webinars, conferences or training courses. Hone your communication skills, as they are equally important.  Ask yourself: What skills do I need personally? What skills and knowledge will best help my team accomplish its goals?

Build your network of trusted colleagues – and be a trusted colleague. I used to hate the word “network”.  I thought it was a way to meet people only for the sake of my own selfish purposes.  How wrong I was!  No one can do it alone.  Being part of a network means giving as much as you get so you must also be a trusted colleague. For us in the data world, we know that to get the right information to the right people, at the right time and place, for the right purposes takes cooperation between those with skills and knowledge in business, data, and technology.  It is a collaborative effort best accomplished between colleagues who know each other.

Now that you have the background, remember these three ideas: show up, learn, and network!  Can you see how they are interconnected? What better way to achieve these objectives than to attend a public conference or training seminar?  Whether you are a manager, project manager, team lead, or individual contributor, work together to make use of the many opportunities for showing up, increasing skills, and building networks of trusted colleagues.

Danette McGilvray is president and principal of Granite Falls Consulting, Inc., a firm that helps organizations increase their success by addressing the information quality and data governance aspects of their business efforts. With a focus on bottom-line results, Granite Falls helps organizations enhance the value of their information assets by connecting their strategy to practical steps for implementation. We also emphasize the importance of communication and human factors affecting the success of their business goals, issues, strategies, and opportunities.
Danette is the author of Executing Data Quality Projects: Ten Steps to Quality Data and Trusted Information™ (Morgan Kaufmann, 2008).  An internationally respected expert, her Ten Steps™ approach to information quality has been embraced as a proven method for creating, improving, and managing information and data quality in any organization. Her trademarked approach, in which she has trained Fortune 500 clients and thousands of workshop attendees, applies to all types of data and all organizations. Her book is used as a textbook in university graduate programs.  The Chinese translation was the first data quality book available in Chinese.
A skilled facilitator, program and project manager, she has worked with people at all levels of the organization and from most functional areas, giving her a valuable perspective on organizational challenges based on real-life experience. Danette has consulted with and helped organizations with their data quality and governance efforts in industries as varied as biotech, pharma, insurance, banking, retail, automotive, financial services, direct selling, utilities, higher education, energy, and water management. Danette is a popular speaker and has taught her highly-rated courses in several countries.

Copyright Danette McGilvray, President and Principal, Granite Falls Consulting


  1. Excellent. And just today, here in Frankfurt at my “Business-Oriented Data Modelling” class, I was asked about data quality. Naturally, I referred them to you, Danette.


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