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Robert J. Abate

Robert J. Abate

Data & Analytics Thought Leader | Speaker & Author | Data Innovator & Evangelist | Servant Leader | 2022 MIT CDOIQ Committee | IsCDO Board | Data Storyteller

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

Started my career in applications and realized that data was far more valuable than collecting it. I researched and learned from many of the industry greats (John Zachman, David Marco, Dr. Arka Mukherjee, etc.) the challenges and victories any organization can have with data – and loved that feeling.

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

Designing and implementing the highly applauded Walmart Collaborative Analytics Facility for Enterprise (Data CAFÉ) by far.  We built in six months a PB data lake for advanced analytics with ethical boundaries and utilizing technologies such as immersive (game theory), collaborative (rooms connected to other rooms), and data science storytelling that drove the business decisions (CEO, CFO, COO) on Black Friday.  The team received the Walmart Technology Innovation Award for 2013 and I was so proud to be a part of this effort.

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

  1. Understanding your data assets and getting them into a manageable state
  2. Building credibility for your data team so that the business can utilize their talents
  3. Creating data stories that both captivate the imagination of and spur the creativity of executives to invest in data programs

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

CDO’s are established in the US but overseas (EMEA, Asia) the role is still nascent. In the next 2-3 years, CDO will transition from being a part of the IT organization to being a part of the CEO’s executive management team.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

I am currently consulting to healthcare organizations utilizing data storytelling with immersive visualizations (AR/VR) that will hopefully change laws to protect those hurt during the COVID crisis.

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?

Know your data!  Many times, we assume that our data is complete, accurate, has integrity, and will be used ethically, and I have found this to be universally false.  I have built my career on understanding data ecosystems and placing constraints on them so that they are compliant with industry standard data policies and regulations.

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

My first love was playing music before a live audience and it still ‘plays’ an important role in my life – and let’s not forget that “laughter is the music of the soul” à we always need more music/laughter in our lives!

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