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Nicholas Lowthorpe

Nicholas Lowthorpe

Data Visualization and Communications Expert | Engineer | Data Communications Strategist | Instructor

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

I am an engineer by background (and at heart!) so finding solutions to problems has always driven me. I studied physics later in life, where I learned that our ability to model natural phenomena is only as good as the quality of our underlying data. The intersection of engineering and physics is where I was pulled into the world of data; the desire to solve problems that relate to the collection, storage, and distribution of data.

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

Implementing a new communication strategy to build an extensive network of collaborative R&D within the UK government, saving substantial sums of money and time. I believe that the biggest barriers to success within data science and analytics are cultural, not technological. My goal is to help those new to data-related professions understand this and build communication skills into their personal development.

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

Lack of leadership understanding of the power and limitations of data.
‘Data’ is commonly viewed under a technology lens, when it should be viewed under a business lens (technology is just the enabler).

Culture shift is key to addressing these issues:

Top-down approach: CDO/CDAO role must evolve into a business-oriented role with an equal seat at the table with other CxOs.

Bottom-up: most education in data such as bootcamps, degrees, MOOCs etc. have a strong technological bias. I would love to see this reframed so that new entrants to the industry think about business context and value generation first, before thinking about tools, techniques and technology.

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

Hopefully evolves to be seen primarily as a business leadership role, not a technological one. Also hope to see the role more commonly exist in its own right, instead of data being an off shoot of IT.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

To better help entry-level and mid-career data professionals build their data visualisation and communication skills on a 1:1 and 1:many workshop basis. I want to reframe data professions in their business context, not a technological one, communication is the foundation of that process.

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?

A past director told me: Always step into the business world, never expect your stakeholders to step into the data science world. I built up my career by keeping true to this, translating technical endeavors (data science world) into business context and terminology. Maintaining a common terminology across the business is vital for everything we do. The onus is on us to learn to speak business and translate accordingly.

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

I love to bake bread and make a mean focaccia. Unfortunately for my waistline, I also love to eat bread.

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