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Caroline Carruthers

Caroline Carruthers

CEO | CDO – Chief Data Officer | Author | Data Leader | Instructor

I am a problem solver at heart, the bigger, more complex problem the happier I am which is great since I am a first generation Chief Data Officer!
After working in different business sectors, I love bringing my creative thinking and love of technology to help bring about pragmatic solutions to some rather interesting problems…

What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?

My interest in technology and computers came before my interest in data, and I think that happens with a lot of people. I vividly remember getting a Commodore 64 in my early teens, which led to a fascination with all things computers and tech! I’d end up sitting in a pitch-black room, having taught myself to code on that machine, playing my own games. From then on, I knew I wanted to do something “techy”. The biggest reason I was able to pursue this was definitely my parents- they were always incredibly supportive and never allowed me or my sisters to think we couldn’t become anything we wanted.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?

I’m so lucky that I have a rich set of experiences to draw from for this question- I don’t take any of them for granted!

Launching our first book alongside Peter Jackson is up there, as is setting up Carruthers and Jackson to help other companies improve their data maturity. However, I think my top one was in Riyadh. I was coming off stage after giving a presentation on data strategy, I had five women come up to me and tell me that I was an inspiration to them. They had been given a copy of my first book and they had shared it amongst themselves before I had got there. Meeting them was a truly humbling experience, and certainly the proudest moment in my career.

These interactions with other members of the data community have been so important for my career because I love being part of a network of like-minded data professionals, where I am able to learn, collaborate, and grow with my peers in the industry.  

What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?

I think the biggest challenges for CDO’s come from the fact that the role is still evolving. It’s almost like the picnic table at the end of the big table, organisations aren’t really sure what to do with it!

For this reason, a lot of organisations are still trying to figure out what the role is and what it does for them, and a lot of the work CDO’s do is about trying to mould their role so they get to a point where we don’t need to worry about the definition of their role anymore.

A lot of CDO’s are finding their feet in the role and we’re beginning to find effective ways of addressing the issue of job specification. CDO’s need to establish what it is they’re doing for their organisation quickly, and that comes with developing and implementing a good data strategy.

How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?

We’ve already had two generations of CDOs: the first generation were the data leaders who came into an organisation and got its data in order, implemented good data governance practices and regulations, and ensured operations were compliant with laws such as GDPR. The second generation built on that and began using the foundation left by those initial data pioneers to begin transforming organisations with the data they have, and unlocking data’s true potential.

For me, I think the next evolution of the CDO role will be one where it becomes a really well-established part of the c-suite. If you track what happens with the c-suite, the roles that have longevity and become very well-established roles are the ones that are based around a corporate asset. So, because the CDO role is based on possibly one of the most important corporate assets, data, I think within two to three years we will be in a position where companies wonder why you wouldn’t have a chief data officer in the same way they all have a Chief Finance Officer or Chief Operating Officer!

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

The next big focus for me is the upcoming annual Carruthers and Jackson Summer School, which I have been running with Peter Jackson for five years now. The international and free-to-attend event will be bringing together more data leaders from across the globe to learn, collaborate, and grow.

I love running this event with Peter, as it allows me to continue nurturing this fantastic data community for a new generation of data-focused C-Suite executives, as summer school brings CDOs and data leaders from around the world together to help them better understand their position and become data leaders.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far?  Why has it been so important to you?

“If you manage to take a step forward, be the positive inspiration for someone else!”

One of my big passions is supporting girls at school and helping to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM. I am lucky enough to be able to regularly go into schools across the country to talk to young women directly about my experiences and the importance of letting curiosity lead!

Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet my childhood role model, Maggie Philbin, and unlike the old saying, I wasn’t disappointed! Role models are really, really important for women in STEM and as a kid growing up with a fascination in tech, it was amazing to see other women doing the things that interested me. Seeing Maggie as a host on the technology show, Tomorrow’s World alongside all the geeky, techy stuff really had a massive impact on my life and inspired me to pursue my career!

I guess the other thing is that I am big rollercoaster fanatic. I just can’t get enough of them, the bigger, the faster, the better!

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