Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson, authors of The chief data officer’s playbook, say they have overhauled their CDO summer school to match the increased importance of the chief data officer (CDO) role.
Carruthers told Computer Weekly: “The data leadership role has evolved into a more strategic space. We define it as first and second generation. The first focused on the more risk-averse side of the role, the second more on the value add.”
Jackson added: “CDOs are expected to do both, but also the role has evolved into a more strategic role, not only for data but for the business. They are getting closer to the COO [chief operating officer] and the CEO.”
The CIO and CDO roles should, they said, be symbiotic. The CIO looks after the bucket, the CDO the water, in Carruthers’ oft-expressed analogy. “They both win by working together. A couple of years ago, CDOs were struggling to be taken seriously, compared with the CIO. That has changed,” she said.
Jackson added: “That’s because CEOs and boards are recognising that the data leader has a different set of skills to the CIO, new skills that they need.”
Speaking to Computer Weekly when the school was first launched, Jackson stressed the importance of the community-building element of the course. “At present, there are [only] a few hundred data leaders, at that level, in UK organisations. And there is no well-trodden career path,” he said.
“Our summer school will equip the next generation of data leaders with the skills and network they need to help make data a transformative resource within their organisation”
The summer school course, which runs over 12 weeks, has been rebuilt from the ground up to reflect this relative change in emphasis. The pair have added Scott Taylor, known as the “data whisperer”, to promulgate data storytelling, and Hilary McLellan, an executive coach, to lecture on “authentic leadership”.
Participation in the summer school is by invitation only, with applications opening on 8 April via the Carruthers and Jackson website. The course runs from 17 June to 2 September, offering “data leaders” 12 online sessions, each for a duration of 90 minutes.
This year, they say, the course is open to data leaders, regardless of job title. The first cohort, in 2018, was around 200 students. This year, they want to keep student numbers to around 450, as in 2020.
In a statement, Carruthers said: “Data has been the foundation of so many innovations during the pandemic, and it’s vital that it continues to underpin business strategies as we come out of lockdown.
“Organisations need to have confident data leaders to help them through their data journeys. Our summer school will equip the next generation of data leaders with the skills and network they need to help make data a transformative resource within their organisation.”
“The CDO role has evolved into a more strategic role, not only for data but for the business. They are getting closer to the COO and the CEO”
The statement featured testimony from two previous alumnae: Ela Wardowski, vice-president of data governance at Comerica Bank; and Shreya Goswami, the director of data and artificial intelligence for Microsoft (Middle East and Africa).
Wardowski said: “As a data governance professional, I found the summer school to be enlightening. The course also supported my conversations with management – adding structure and meaningful approaches that have led to furthering data governance at my organisation.
Goswami said: “I found the summer school really insightful as a first-generation chief data officer. The network of CDOs that is offered is very useful and there is tremendous opportunity created for co-creation and best practice sharing. This course has personally enabled me to lead the data office with much efficacy and confidence and made a huge difference in the lives of my colleagues and leadership.”