Guest post: Median, Midway, We’re Halfway There #CDOSummerSchool

This is the second guest blog post in a series of three – you can read the first blog post here.

Success as a Chief Data Officer means knowing yourself and your organization, managing change gracefully with authentic leadership, and making an impact right from the start. Join me for my #CDOSummerSchool #DataLiteracy reflection as we pause at the midpoint of our journey.

The Chief Data Officer Summer School  2020 (pandemic edition) is a free online masterclass run by Carruthers and Jackson in collaboration with Collibra, open to any aspiring data leader who applies and is accepted.

For 6 weeks, the authors of  The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook, Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson, bring their strategic book to life with handouts, webinars and a thriving community for deep dives with 500 other data leaders.

I first came across the summer school when my colleague recommended that we apply. We’d just completed an ambitious data maturity assessment with Carruthers and Jackson, where Caroline and Emma have been a breath of fresh air. So, I was sure the summer school would be engaging but I was concerned I wouldn’t learn anything new.

After all, I’d read the playbook and the summer school material seemed very similar, what more could they add? There was also the small matter of our organization going through a merger and looming deadlines on our budgets. Was this really a good time to carve out a few hours a week for the CDO Summer School?

I’m glad to say not only was it a great time to deepen my learning, it’s given me a much-needed boost to forge ahead with the work we started back in January 2020 – making data meaningful, valuable and valued throughout our organization.

What have I learned in the last three weeks? Firstly, there’s always room to improve, learn and grow, so lessons from the playbook are deeper in these sessions. The bones of the book are still apparent, but the delivery is better-rounded, including more strategic and practical advice.

In week one, we learned how to build a better Chief Data Officer. Peter clarified his thoughts on being a third generation CDO, which is akin to the digital revolution. At this point as a CDO you are accelerating on delivery, unlike the first generation CDO who is mainly making change happen or the second generation CDO who is mainly focused on value. This is a pendulum though, not a spectrum, expect to spend time in both areas.

I also learned how useful it is for me to listen, as well as read. Caroline and Peter have great rapport and their banter lifts the sessions. The 90 minutes pass quickly as they play off each other, agree, disagree and enrich the webinars with dips into the chat to answer questions. Despite some issues with connectivity, the sessions have overall run smoothly.

In week two, this really came to fore as we explored when to run a data maturity assessment and why. I had spent quite some time on our data maturity assessment, which gave me a slightly different perspective from folks who never been through this exercise. Right now, my focus is on raising the profile of data in our organization and this session, along with some excellent suggestions in the chat, helped me shape my plan for engagement and comms.

Finally, I really valued how guest speaker, Executive Coach Hilary McLellan, linked delivering as a Chief Data Officer to delivering as a leader. In week three, we explored setting yourself up to succeed as a Chief Data Officer . This two-parter focused on emotional intelligence and navigating a leadership path to help you start delivering value straight away.

In the past, I’ve been engaged by leadership lessons then disappointed by a lack of practical suggestions. Knowing the path is there isn’t the same as walking it. For the CDO who like me comes from a technology background, learning to communicate with the C-suite and other areas of the organization means learning to context and language switch. We may have great ideas but if we can’t communicate, engage and influence to see them realized, we aren’t giving the organization what it hired us to achieve.

I’m pleased I found the time to be involved with the CDO Summer School. The community has been amazing and I’ve had several enlightening conversations that have helped shape my weekly recaps and work on data.

See you in September for a final reflection and graduation!

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