I recently spoke with my colleague Neil Martin to learn more about his career background, consulting philosophy, pro tips for working remotely and what he predicts for the future of data. I hope you enjoy this Q&A recap for personal and professional insights into the people that make up Team FSFP.
What’s your typical day like?
I’ve never had the same day twice here at FSFP. But, a typical structure would be dealing with current engagements and working on deliverables or participating in meetings in delivering value to the client in the realm of Data Governance. Other than working on client needs, I help support FSFP in a business operations role to standardize and scale internal efforts. I’m working with the business development team and the sales ops team on generating new proposals for clients, working on delivering those proposals, and helping to find the scope of work. Whenever I have time I try to stay up to date with market trends, industry news, etc.
How would you explain data governance to a kid/grandparent?
It’s a discipline. It is a capability of an organization to generate the value of their data with their data. It’s aligning people, process and technology to get trusted and valuable data.
Data Governance sits at the intersection of Business, IT, and Legal. Effective Data Governance is the alignment of people, process, and technology to ensure trusted and valuable data.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I’d say at the top of the list is getting to work with the cream of the crop. Getting to work with the best, the best thought leaders, the best consultants, the most experienced individuals within this industry across the whole spectrum of data governance. Every single day is challenging and every single day I learn something.
What was your first job?
I worked in lawn care throughout high school for three years. It was a summer job and we did commercial buildings. I was responsible for mowing the grass and weeding. It was not fun.
What prepared you most for a career in consulting/data governance/data management?
Going back to school and getting my Master’s in Business Informatics helped prepare me for what this space entailed and how to translate technology to business speak.
My first job out of school, I worked in sales and operations, and I got to work with people day in and day out. I learned how to converse with them and to be able to effectively communicate what needs to get done. That experience on the business side helped prepare me for what the consulting world looks like as far as all the technical lingo and vernacular. My non-technical business experience helped prepare me as well.
Taking that experience into working for a Fortune 500 company in Enterprise Data Management and seeing firsthand the common issues that organizations are going through with their data and that these data headaches are more the norm than not. This was the biggest eye opener for me in that this Enterprise DG concept is a common struggle and felt by nearly all organizations across all industries, and that this a new space for many companies and people. This helped me realize that DG is at the forefront of innovation and prioritization for organizations.
What made you choose FSFP?
I was recruited by Catherine Ruef. I respect Catherine, I look up to her and I trust her in this space. Being able to work with her again after she left the insurance firm we were both at previously was high on the list.
Throughout the interview process, learning about the culture contributed to my decision as well as the opportunity to work fully remote. Last but not least, the standing that FSFP has in the data governance market. The quality of people to be working with and FSFP’s respect in the space, and seeing that the industry is continuing to grow.
Describe your consulting style.
It’s about being transparent. It’s being able to meet a client where they’re at, and being able to explain these higher level, sometimes confusing concepts and terms in a language that they understand. So, being flexible enough to meet them where they’re at, but also having the chops to put on the educator hat and explain things that they have to learn. Being flexible and transparent about not only what you know and what you can educate the client on, but also what you don’t know and what’s outside of your realm of expertise.
Which FIRST (focus, integrity, resourcefulness, skillfulness, teamwork) value do you resonate with the most and why?
I’d say integrity and teamwork are at the top. Working with this quality and caliber of consultants every day that has different expertise and knowledge across different kind of capability areas drives home that it takes a team. You have to be able to pull and extract that knowledge and be able to deliver that for a singular goal or objective. What I enjoy doing most is working as a team and communicating, and ultimately working towards a singular goal. I really like being able to make everybody look good. I like when everybody wins. And not only is that part of the job description, but it’s what we have to deliver for our clients each and every day.
Integrity is something that’s really important to me, it goes back to the transparency aspect of my consulting style. It’s just being true to who you are as far as what you’re knowledgeable about and being able to hold true to what you’re able to deliver, not only to the client, but to FSFP. That means putting in the hours and doing what it takes to get different tasks or activities knocked out and putting the company first. That’s the culture here.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My hero is John Adams, second President of the United States, and he had a quote that I absolutely love and live by. “You cannot ensure success, but you can deserve it.” That rings true on so many levels for me.
What advice would you give to someone considering a job in data management/governance?
This space is constantly evolving, there’s always new tools and technologies, there’s always going to be new laws and regulations. There’s so much new that you have to be confident enough to get outside of your bubble, and be able to explain those things. You have to trust in yourself that you will be able to effectively learn new technologies and concepts to build them on top of your current foundational expertise.
Secondly, you have to want to learn. You have to want to learn about the industry and the markets because you can’t be static in this space. Be willing to learn and know that you are always going to be learning.
What’s your best work from home tip?
Have an assigned space for your workspace. That is one thing that is absolutely essential. Whether it’s a desk or an office, you have to have a space where work gets done and where you go to work.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love going hiking with my doggo, going backpacking, going camping, and mountain biking. I’m a huge history nerd, and love reading. Spending time with friends and family and being out on the lake and water is something I always enjoy. I also love golfing and re-watching New Girl and Lord of the Rings.
What do you see as the future of data?
I think that data is going to be on the balance sheet. Data is going to be not only evaluated internally, like it is now, but it’s going to be evaluated from external shareholders in the public at large. We’re not far off from companies starting to actually report on the quality of their data, whether it’s regulatory or legally required. What this will mean to companies is not only internally cleaning up and getting value from the data or selling it, but I think it’s going to be on the balance sheet and something that all companies will be evaluated on.
What does this mean to the public at large? I’m thinking a wide range of very strict data laws on privacy and security. The individual is going to have a lot more power over their own data, as far as what companies have, where it’s getting used and who’s selling it. I know we’re on that path now, and I think the regulations are only going to increase.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Neil. We’ll be introducing other members of the FSFP Team soon, so stay tuned for more of our Meet the Team series!