Michelle Harper, one of our First San Francisco Partners consultants, has extensive experience in a variety of industries leading global enterprise implementations at top international law firms, technology companies, financial services institutions, Fortune 500 companies and startups. With more than 20 years of experience, Michelle brings a proven history of success in leading large-scale projects from conception to implementation to our clients.
Upon joining First San Francisco Partners (FSFP) in early 2017, Michelle focused her information management expertise on the areas of data governance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Collibra, a leading data governance platform solution. (We’re a premier Collibra partner.) In her Collibra work, Michelle partners with FSFP’s senior data governance leads to implement our firm’s recommendations with clients — for example, standing up data governance in Collibra and then using the tool to define a client organization’s critical data elements. She also advises clients on best practices and how to manage Collibra going forward.
A FOCUS ON SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
Before joining our company, Michelle, whose formal education is in computer science and math, spent the early years of her career in software development, product management and project management. As she recently reflected on the varied work responsibilities and organizations she was part of, Michelle said, “Every project I worked on all had a common thread in that they focused on information.”
One of Michelle’s early focus areas was customer relationship management (CRM) implementation, where she worked with US-based and global legal and accounting firms. As a senior technical project manager, her responsibilities included complex CRM solutions, setting project budgets and timelines, addressing business risk, change management and stakeholder management — with all efforts focused on working to reduce company overhead and streamline business operations via a CRM.
Over the next eight years, Michelle continued her information-focused career by spending time working on human emulation software, smart phone development and implementing enterprise resource planning systems.
Michelle then moved into the world of banking where she stayed for six years honing experience in the areas of risk and compliance, systems integrations and retiring legacy systems, among others. She also spent two years at Apple as a senior business intelligence (BI) project manager and business analyst leading the BI portion of a new learning management system and supporting change management and technical application training that was required for the massive rollout.
LIFE AT FSFP
Michelle enjoys FSFP’s remote work culture, especially because she lives in the Bay Area. “Being able to work remote is important in this city. Even though I may be only 20 miles away from work, I could spend an hour and a half getting to the office. It’s nice to have those three hours back into my day, being back at my desk and not in my car.”
Michelle works with FSFP employees distributed across all time zones, which means there are occasional 6 a.m. meetings. “But that’s OK,” Michelle said,” because the trade-off is our remote, laid-back, yet professional, atmosphere. And because we have the tools we need to collaborate virtually, like Zoom and Slack, I always feel connected and am just a video call or direct message away from team mates and clients.”
Another aspect Michelle enjoys about FSFP is working with industry thought leaders, like Kelle O’Neal and Malcolm Chisholm. “They take the time to listen, are open to new points of view and frequently engage with my clients — being on-site with them, when needed, as I also am.”
Michelle’s two decades of information management experience helps her see the commonality in the challenges and opportunities many companies face. “Regardless of where I worked — in banking, law, manufacturing or tech and on any kind of implementation or integration, upgrade or system change — it at all came down to understanding the data, mapping it correctly, seeing the information you wanted to see and deriving insights from the information.”
Knowing that data is at the core of every company, Michelle has advice for people wanting to start a career in information management. “Consider being a business analyst,” Michelle said. “You do a lot of number-crunching, but the more you dive into the role, the more you realize the importance of data and how it flows from one source to another and through the organization. Get into those details, follow data throughout the organization and enjoy that type of work, and this will open up new opportunities for you.”
Michelle added that she sees more interest in the area of data governance. “It’s something that wasn’t seen as exciting five years ago — but that’s changing quickly. With regulations like GDPR and roles like the data protection officer, the related responsibilities give you the visibility to be in a role that virtually touches all areas of a company. And even though many companies don’t have this role yet, they’re adding governance functions to existing job descriptions.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in information management.” Michelle said. “Even with the common business issues I see time and again, there’s always variety. The specific projects, company culture and client contacts I work with are all unique. This keeps things challenging and enjoyable for me, and I get great satisfaction from helping each client strive for and reach their goals.”