IBM Distinguished Engineer, Open Group Distinguished IT Architect (with specialization in data), IBM CTO for Data-Based Pathology
Neal has recorded many of his insights in several books, including: “Smarter Data Science” (2020), “Viral Data” (2009), and “Enterprise Architecture” (2003), and “Conceptual Modeling Language Syntax and Semantics” (1999). He is currently working on an AI business book titled “A Matter of Consequence.” He has been a distance-learning instructor for the University of Washington, a guest lecturer at Thomas Jefferson University, and a guest teacher for the Forest Hills school district in Grand Rapids, MI. Neal holds several patents and has had articles published in several technical journals.
What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?
To answer what attracted me to data management, I would rephrase the question to, what has kept me in data management. To answer that question, I would point to working on a data migration project that involved the adoption of children with special needs. The data entered in the original system was wayward and things weren’t always entered as anticipated. Anyway, there were two separate sets of adoptive children that were annotated as “The Hancock Twins.” There was nothing in the data to support an automated or manual approach to matching the correct children with the correct adopting parents. Since that time, I have always been bothered by the danger and the damage that can be attributed to data as a root cause.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?
Rather than a single greatest accomplishment, I would say that my top three thrills have been: (a) being a speaker at John Zachman’s ZIFA conference; (b) designing NASA’s first data architecture for sending an astronaut to Mars; (c) having my books published.
What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?
The biggest challenge is that there are a significant number of practitioners that are wedded to antiquated ideas about data. In general, the practice of data needs to be revamped in order to deal with the modern ever-changing organization.
How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?
Hopefully, treating data as an asset will move from lip service to the physical act of managing data as an asset.
Do you have any planned next steps for your career?
Write more books!
Mentor more people on data management!
Expand the role of the data-based pathologist!
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 piece of advice was: Take a look at this. https://www.zachman.com/about-the-zachman-framework
It was Zachman’s original paper. Life-changing!
Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?
I’ve worked in over sixty countries.
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