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Catalina Herrera

Catalina Herrera

Senior Sales Engineer | Helping Organizations Adopt Enterprise AI/ML | Product Evangelist | Data Scientist

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

I studied electronic engineering, and after college I became an electronic engineer at Texas Instruments. Once I got into that role, I really began to realize the importance of data. So, I guess you could say I didn’t plan on making this my career, but I realized that I had a strong acumen for both understanding data at a deep technical level as well as at the business level. This unique combination of skills allowed me to move into the software business and help other organizations make sense of their data.
Every industry needs to analyze and maintain their data, and professionals are needed to help ensure data is being managed and used properly.

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

During my role at Texas Instruments, I was part of the Yield Team. We had to be very efficient at work to make sure that we would get optimal yield as the result of the semiconductor process (>10,000 steps, millions of data rows per day, across multiple silos to analyze). The most important part of making this work was being proactive. The sooner we were able to identify potential yield issues the more savings we could generate.

We were able to successfully implement predictive analytics techniques that impacted KPIs, thus optimizing the Yield flow and minimizing unnecessary expenses. We ended up helping TI realize millions of dollars in value because of this project.

Since then, I have been exposing my customers and the community to the art of “what is possible” when your business is properly represented with data. In 2020, my influence in the AI community in Texas resulted in being recognized as one of the top 30 women in Artificial Intelligence Advancement.

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

Every single day I see companies attempting to figure out how to maximize the value of their data. The cultural change required is often the biggest challenge. Finding the right data and getting the right summary/outcome of it to the right people in a way that embraces collaboration is absolutely necessary but still oftentimes very difficult for organizations to achieve.

Getting the teams to work together as ONE extended team that collaborates in a responsible way is the goal. It requires a common vision across departments and cannot simply rely on the selection of a technology application or platform to solve the problem.

Ultimately every organization is going to have to figure out how to bring together teams of people with many different skill sets (data scientist, analyst, data engineer, executive business users) and learn how to build a culture to respect those differences to truly extract all the value out of their data. Some of the key things you must consider when developing a data strategy include Responsible AI, Governance and Technology Resilience – these are all key to ensure a good strategy.

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

I see AI as the catalyst of augmenting activity in the organizations. The role of the CDO is evolving to orchestrate people and processes on top of a dynamic infrastructure where collaboration is embraced, and a culture is fully supportive of an end-to-end process. This process includes everyone in the organization (those developing models such as data scientists) and those not involved in model creation (such as lines of business who need to understand the output and how it translates to stakeholders).

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

I will continue to work with state-of-the-art technology solutions across multiple industry verticals, learning and sharing lessons learned with the data-driven community. I will continue to evangelize what is possible when a healthy culture that works together has access to the proper data.

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?

The best piece of advice I have ever received is to never underestimate the power of the business value behind the data. Understanding that gave me the opportunity to take my career down a path I never planned for or anticipated, but one that I genuinely enjoy the impact I am able to make.

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

I am an Engineer and I have 3 masters’ degrees covering computer science, engineering technology, and advanced electronic systems. I also earned a specialization in Data Science after I was farther in my career.

I started my career back in Colombia as a professor at the engineering school, where I discovered my passion for education…however, after teaching the same class for the 5th time or so, I decided I needed to complement my skills with experience coming from the industry.

So, in 2004, I left my country, my culture, my family, and my language to start my journey in the United States as a student.

My first data science job was at The Alternative Energy Institute as a Graduate Assistant. We worked with the data coming from wind turbines, and my Master thesis back in 2006 was already a data science project that describes the variation in wind direction across the state of Texas. Of course, at the time we did not call it a Data Science Project.

On my first day at Texas Instruments, I received a computer that already had a BI tool installed on it (Spotfire) and I was part of the Yield team; we were the Data Scientists analyzing all the data to maximize production. That was a great learning opportunity for me where I discovered the power of data

For the last decade, I have been supporting multiple Analytics and data science projects tied to specific business problems across multiple industry verticals.

I enjoy playing bongos, painting, and DJing.

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