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Developing Skills through Continuous Learning

Every professional, in every field, must be ready and willing to learn continually so they can maintain their skills and develop new approaches to an ever-changing world


In the 21st century, every professional must be ready to embrace continuous education, and develop a willingness to learn new skills to develop talents that enable them to contribute to the ever-changing world and its challenges. This is especially true of data management professionals.

Data Management is a field in which there are several components, as demonstrated in the graphic below:

Figure 1: Data Management Framework

An effective data management professional understands the holistic nature of the entire framework and how each part works with the other components. He or she also understands the concepts within each domain (data governance, metadata management, data architecture, etc.) and the specific contributions each makes to the organization. Organizations that can develop and sustain an effective enterprise data / information management approach can realize many long-lasting benefits, both tangible and intangible (revenue increase, cost reduction, decision and analytics improvements, performance enhancements, confidence rise, etc.).

Sustainable Data Management Talent

There is a dearth of experienced data management professionals at all levels, in every industry. With the growth of data and business analytics, the need for a solid foundation of enterprise data management (data governance, metadata management, enterprise data architecture, data integration, etc.) is intensified. Many university programs in computer science, business and management information systems, and related disciplines do not teach enterprise data management. Therefore, most data management professionals learn their skills after graduation through self-study or other means. Demonstrating that one has acquired those skills can come from a variety of sources, some more accessible, others with different value.

Sustainability is a term with multiple meanings. It can mean environmental sustainability, or it can mean ensuring one is taking the proper steps to ensure fitness for future action. Data Management professionals should take this perspective and focus on examining the steps they should take to ensure professional sustainability.

Professional Development Credentials

Many data management professionals choose to earn some form of credential to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in one or more areas of enterprise data management, or in some related area (e.g., data security). There are a variety of ways to learn as shown in this chart, and the differences between certificates and certifications are described in more detail:

Type of CredentialAdvantagesDisadvantages
  1. The highest standard in specific fields
  2. Adds to profile with specific professional identity
  3. Incremental approach to talent development
  4. Many be part of a degree program
  5. Testing / exam demonstrates knowledge
  1. Limited number of fields
  2. May be expensive
  3. Not all certifications allow for online mode
  4. May take time to achieve full certification
  1. Employers accept as evidence of advanced knowledge and skill in a particular field / domain
  2. Accessible online or F2F – variety of delivery modes
  3. Employers may fund certificate programs when they do not fund degree programs
  4. Reasonable cost in many cases
  5. May transfer to degree programs
  1. Quality of learning program can vary
  2. One more thing in a busy life
  3. May not transfer to a degree program (depends on program / source)
MOOC Specializations
  1. Available from a variety of universities
  2. Fast-paced
  1. Completion rate for MOOCs extraordinarily low
  2. May not be funded by employer
  1. Specific focused skill (e.g., coding)
  2. Usually / frequently F2F
  1. Intense
  2. Can be expensive, depending on topic or source
  3. May require additional study to qualify for participation

Table 1: Professional Development Credentials

Result of an educational process (series of courses on a topic / subject / domain)Result of an assessment / testing process
For newcomers and experienced professionalsTypically requires some years’ experience
Indicates completion of a course or series of courses with a particular focusIndicates mastery/competency measured against a standard – usually by exam
Course content set through standard academic processStandards set through an industry-wide process
Usually listed on a resume detailing educationTypically results in a designation to use after one’s name (CPA, SPHR, PMP, CDMP)
Demonstrates knowledge of course contentOften has continuing training requirement (C.E.U.s)
Often, a gateway to a degreeNo relationship to attaining higher education/degree

Table 2: Certificates versus Certifications

Degree Programs for Data Management Professionals

Although most universities do not teach data management, many data management professionals want to earn a graduate degree as a career enhancement device. Additionally, many data management professionals did not complete their undergraduate degree before entering the workforce, and could benefit from a degree completion program that would enable them to gain a valuable credential. This chart shows the variety of technology-enabled methods of study:

Degree Programs AdvantagesDisadvantages
Online (Full and Part-time Masters, and undergraduate degree completion)
  1. Accessible (online vs. onsite F2F)
  2. Most online programs are accredited
  3. Recognized level of accomplishment
  4. Less costly than F2F (usually)
  5. Flexible schedule (usually)
  6. Most undergraduate degree completion programs are part-time
  1. No F2F experience (limited video experience in some cases)
  2. Not as accepted by some employers as F2F degrees
  3. Full time master’s degree usually prohibits working
  4. Part-time master’s degree complicates life
  5. Part-time undergraduate degree completion program complicates life
Internship during Full Time Masters
  1. Allows for concrete work experience while studying
  2. Financial support may be available from internship
  3. Job placement from internship possible
  1. Lengthens time to degree
  2. Very limited number of internships available
Weekend Masters
  1. Allows for full time employment while studying
  2. F2F experience in selected programs
  1. Can create a stressful life.
  2. Can be expensive
  3. Limited number of programs

Table 3: Technology-Enabled Degree Programs

Building Experience for Data Management Professionals

How does a data management professional put himself or herself in the position to gain experience? Through earning the degrees, studying for certificates and achieving certifications. How does a data management professional continue on the path to increased responsibility, higher achievements, etc.? Through additional experience supported by continual learning from formal sources (degree programs, individual courses, etc.), seminars and conferences, data management certifications (e.g., CDMP), and professional networking.


Build a resume that shows continuous learning, a steady progression of formal education, appropriate certification, seminars and conferences all designed for a 21st century data management professional

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Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., CDMP

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., CDMP is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise data management, data governance, enterprise data architecture and data warehousing. Dr. Smith is VP of Education and Chief Methodologist of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc. (EWS), a Chicago-based enterprise data management consultancy dedicated to providing clients with best-in-class solutions. Author of numerous articles and a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP), Dr. Smith is also a well-known speaker in her areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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