We’re continuing our Women in Information Management series with a profile on Angie Pribor. As a senior consultant, practitioner, advocate and speaker, Angie relies on her deep experience in business-focused information and data management to inform the work she does today for First San Francisco Partners’ clients.
We asked Angie to share her thoughts about working in this industry and what it’s like to grow a career in Information Management (IM). Here’s what she had to say.
DATA-FOCUSED CAREER PATH
As I close in on four decades of business experience (23 in IM), I realize I’ve always gravitated toward data. (I consider myself a data geek!) In the early years, my focus was on business processes (order management, customer service and finance). My career path followed a natural progression that eventually led me to a “full-fledged data position,” managing a large database marketing department for a high-tech services firm.
Good data quality and records management were important in the early part of my career, when a majority of the work was tracked on paper and later re-keyed into a computer program. And these things are still important today as businesses deal with massive amounts of data flow and need to seamlessly tie together information with processes and systems.
When my career path moved into the 2000s, master data and data governance were bleeding edge. Soon the high-tech bubble burst and, surprisingly, many firms still invested in roles and solutions to address data-associated barriers to growth, efficiency and insights. I jumped at the opportunity to join the high-tech firm NetApp at the beginning of its master data management (MDM) journey, where creating a “golden customer record” (consolidating and standardizing client records across a complex and disparate business environment) was a focus.
This was an exciting time when everything was new and quickly evolving. It was an advantage to be centrally located in Silicon Valley near many software development leaders. My peers and I had the opportunity to influence and help evolve the future of the solutions we were implementing. There was a true sense of camaraderie with others who were on similar journeys, and we met often to share our war stories, wins and defeats.
EARLY, LASTING IMPRESSIONS
One of my earliest “aha” moments came when I was trying to explain to senior management what a customer master program was all about. I came up with a cloud diagram to show the multiple functions of people, process, data and technology. Years later, I realized this was similar to the industry-standard way of describing data governance and MDM practices. I guess I was on to something in those early days!
Back then, there was a tight-knit group in Silicon Valley focused on these emerging practices. Everybody knew everybody and there was healthy competition around the various solutions we were all designing and implementing. I attended one of the very first MDM conferences and, as the years went by, found myself speaking at many industry events. One year, I was invited to keynote the MDM track at Oracle OpenWorld. A few years later I was fortunate to co-present with Kelle O’Neal at another event, and it was the beginning of a terrific, long relationship.
INDUSTRY FOCUS AND EXPERTISE
I spent much of my early IM career focused on high tech, customer master and data governance programs, most often leveraging Oracle, Siebel, SAP and Salesforce technologies. I’m well-versed in data cleansing and data standardization, using various technologies including Trillium, Informatica and IBM.
Here at FSFP, most of the consulting I gravitate towards is grounded in data governance and master data, ranging across multiple industries.
KEEPING INTERESTED AND ENGAGED
I enjoy helping solve our clients’ challenges and identifying the best, most immediate path forward — and sometimes that solution is focused on identifying the minimum complexity that can fulfill the needs of the client and sets them on a trajectory to meet both short- and long-term needs. (Kelle wrote about a similar concept in A Minimum Viable State for Information Management.)
I like the fact that the information landscape is always changing. It can vary greatly depending on the industry and subject area (domain), the technology a company uses, if the focus is on one or all types of data (customer, product, vendor, employee, etc.) and the business type I’m working with (B2B or B2C).
Even though much of what I do today is similar to what I did 5–10 years ago, there is always something I learn from each new client project. This keeps me energized and engaged.
A CAREER IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT
This industry has tremendous upside and growth which is predicted to continue far into the future. Data is the lifeblood of companies and there will be no shortage of jobs in this field. Unfortunately, I find that many universities are not addressing the myriad roles in our diverse industry. Instead, the curriculum is either dated (hello, data’s not just about spreadsheets!) or one-dimensional — for example, just focused on the data scientist role.
For people wanting to get into an IM role, I recommend they focus on gaining key, hands-on experience across multiple business processes and industries. (So important!) Learn about the various departments and lines of businesses, understand the roles and how the business functions — and, most importantly, how data runs through the business processes. You may think it’s not ideal to be a generalist, but the broader your end-to-end knowledge, the more valuable you will be in the IM space. It worked for me!
There’s also considerable value in being active and aware of what’s going on in our industry. Join a LinkedIn group and attend conferences, even if that means investing on your own dime. Grow your expertise outside your day job and get exposed to our industry, its technology and its many thought leaders, books, blogs and podcasts. (Editor’s note: We share a few favorite podcasts here.)
Self-education and self-motivation are key. But collaborate with others, too, either at work or outside it. Find out what’s working and what isn’t, as we can all learn from each other’s successes and stumbles.
Lastly and maybe most important: Be what I call “data curious,” where you are interested in data discovery and data detective efforts. Find your inner data geek!