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Sanjeev Kumar Upadhyay

Sanjeev Kumar Upadhyay

Data Strategist | Digital Transformation | Video and Podcast Creator and Host | Data and Technology Evangelist

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

How data happened to me is quite a story and I promise to keep it short

Long back when MS SQL Server 6.5 was gaining popularity, out of interest I was also learning it. I still wasn’t a data guy. I use to do Visual Basic, and ASP programming.

I remember I was looking for a change and through a network, I got an interview opportunity for an IT job.

While I was waiting for my turn, I received a call from an acquaintance who also happened to work in the same organization

He said, “Sanjeev…our database crashed and the person looking after the database is traveling. Do you know anything about it? Can you help?”

I said, “Yes”

And it’s been more than 18 years now. Data has been a part of all I do, my passion for data projects and initiatives, and my profession. I have had the opportunity to manage people, process, technology, and data at every layer (backend, application, cloud, and business) and level.

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

Many that I am proud of, but it is so relative. The accomplishments that I am proud of maybe something that you or someone can accomplish in their sleep.

I would pick a few from my early days because my early few years shaped who I am today. Honestly, I am still running on those early foundations.

I joined my first job and in 11 months I got laid off. Started a small IT startup, met a lot of people, presented what I bring to the table, generated business.

Later I came back to corporate life, joined an organization to realize that the massive project I was hired to deal with would not be started, I learned new technology and created my place.

The very latest I am proud of is my initiative and show #DataKiBaat one of its kind in India and this part of the world. I am proud of the data fraternity’s trust and support in me and I am proud of my community work and mentorship that I do for free to help.

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

It depends on how you see them that makes any challenges small or big. I start with the notion that data is simple and a direct result of what is happening with all of us right now, that is life itself.

Your needs and wants (from your life and data) define your challenges and complexity and how you handle those. BIG LIFE and BIG DATA = BIG CHALLENGES.

If it is too philosophical and radical try transposing the concept to your day-to-day business situation, use some business-friendly terminology. I see a great connection between life and data. You need to master and manage both – Master your data, Master your life.

All data problems can be modeled into life problems. Data challenges are fundamentally the same for everyone, starting from data ownership, culture, and literacy to leadership commitment, and sponsorship. You may not have faced all forms of data challenges yet, but you will never face a challenge as “new” that cannot be bucketized under those fundamental standard challenges coming out because of volume, velocity, variety, and veracity of data.

As a human being your goal is to lead and live a valuable life. As a data professional/ CDO your goal is to ensure meaningful, valuable data is available all the time for an organization and society.

So, I recommend a simple formula to successful life and data management.


Challenges are not going anywhere.

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

If technology alone could solve all the data challenges, you would not be talking/relying on a lot of people with their data learnings and experiences. You cannot make useful life and data with technology alone. You need a people-focused approach to data management. The world needs data people. We need a lot of them with data mindsets. I see future data people with life skills and the ability to apply those to solve data challenges for organization, public and social good, leading the pack.

Artisans of life are going to be the artisans of data. I would not be surprised if we start seeing Chief Data Artisan or Chief Data Artist. The future data leader must be open, flexible, and detached from popular technology and frame-works approach. They must be open and flexible to a what-works approach. You cannot solve ever-changing V’s of data by clinging to a fixed approach

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

Honestly, I am well past that race. I just make sure I am growing and finding meaningfulness and inner satisfaction in my deeds.

Professionally I feel I am very well placed and will continue to do all that is needed to grow further.

I will continue to grow #DataKiBaat, engage with the community, keep striking #DataFullConversation with data people and product owners around the world.

I am also proud to grow the data community in India and excited to see that the data community is growing every passing day.

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?

  • Data is simple. What you see is what you get.
  • You cannot solve all your data problems.
  • You cannot do much about volume, velocity, variety, veracity.
  • When you are dealing with data, the value is in the value. So, you take the value FIRST approach to deal with other V’s.
  • You solve what matters for you the most and not worry about the hype around the DATA TSUNAMI.

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

I started my IT professional career as a young IT teacher. I still remember my first class when I was put in front of 60+ senior students waiting to learn Microsoft technologies (ASP/IIS). I was still only a couple of months young in the IT field. Imagine yourself being asked to learn and teach a new technology like an expert with very little time to practice/prepare. With no time to react, I learned to unlearn and re-learn, make peace with unknowns, accept it and move on. I am proud that I had those early few years that taught me so much

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