Data Governance Interview with Emma McLeod

Emma McLeod is a Global Data Governance Controller at Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG). She is fairly new to this role, however, has been with WMFTG for nearly 6 years. Emma began as a Customer Service Representative within the UK Sales team then progressed to her most recent position as UK Sales Support Manager. WMFTG manufactures niche peristaltic pumps and other associated fluid path technologies across 10 brands. There Data Governance initiative is to provide centralised support to sales and supply sites in circa 40 countries.

How long have you been working in Data Governance?

I’m very new to Data Governance as I only started my current role a couple of months ago. Through my previous roles, I have become very familiar with the challenges and frustrations associated with poor quality data. I’m now busy learning all I can, and exploring how I can leverage my skills and experience to become an effective leader in this area of our business.

Some people view Data Governance as an unusual career choice, would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?

I’ve had quite a varied career path so far. I started out as a primary school teacher, then progressed in various sales, customer service and management roles. I’ve always been very inquisitive and while my roles have changed I have found the skills I learned, at each stage of my career, have supported my development and helped me quickly adapt to the demands of each new challenge.

The constant between them all has been my passion for working with others to enable success and improvement. Oh, and I also really like organising things…

When the opportunity to work in Data Governance arose at Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group, it was a no-brainer as it was a chance to collaborate with our global network to enhance our capabilities as an organisation.

What characteristics do you have that make you successful at Data Governance and why?

Resilient, approachable and patient.

I must admit, I probably struggle with the latter at times, especially when I’m excited about a new idea or project. However, patience is vital as Data Governance takes time before you really start seeing results.

Being in the early stages of redeveloping our Data Governance initiative means there is a long road ahead, with many obstacles to overcome. It can seem quite daunting at times (and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had a few moments where I wondered what I’ve got myself into). I find it’s those times when I need to step back and revisit the core purpose of our initiative to regain my perspective. Having confidence in what you’re working towards not only helps you remain strong when challenged by others but also builds trust with those working with you.

Are there any particular books or resources that you would recommend as useful support for those starting out in Data Governance?

The first books I picked up were Robert Seiners “Non-Invasive Data Governance” and John Ladleys “Data Governance”, as well as the DMBOK. They are great starting points with lots of interesting insight and guidance. Though I only really felt like I was starting to ‘get it’ when I started exploring the challenges and working out the specific needs. Some things that seemed to make so much sense when written in a book simply would not work in reality. I learned quite quickly not to get too caught up in the theory.

I have just finished reading Shannon Huffman Polson’s “The Grit Factor”. While it’s not a book about Data Governance, it was a really inspiring read that focuses on vital soft skills required within leadership roles. As she explores the importance of resilience and courage to overcome adversity. I found her reflections on purpose and building a network particularly insightful, and very appropriate for anyone working in Data Governance.

What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in a Data Governance implementation?

I have limited experience in specific Data Governance initiative implementation, however, we did focus on data quality more locally in my previous roles.

I found the most difficult thing at that time was retaining engagement from all data users, and building the consistent behaviours required for the processes to work. Communication is key, you can create the best process going but if others don’t buy into it then it’s not going to work.

I’m trying to apply this learning to my new role by having a strong communication plan that helps me make Data Governance accessible across the business.

What single piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in Data Governance?

Test the foundations before you start sprinting ahead. It’s really easy to get caught up in all the different priorities that fall into “Data Governance”, especially if you’re lucky to have people already keen to start getting things done.

Start by establishing a solid plan with a clear vision, linked to your organisation’s strategy. Then take small, steady steps to achieve some initial success. This may give you some ‘quick wins’ that will help others see the benefits, but is also not going to cause any major disruption should you find you need to rework anything.

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