Fixer of dirty data | DataIQ100 2022 | Author “Between the Spreadsheets” | Creator of COAT | Spend data classification, supplier normalization, and taxonomies | TEDx – say NO to NO
With a decade of experience fixing your dirty data, Susan Walsh is a classification guru.
Susan is Founder and Managing Director of The Classification Guru Ltd, a specialist data classification, taxonomy customization, and data cleansing consultancy. She is an industry thought leader, TEDx speaker, DataIQ100 2022, and author of ‘Between the Spreadsheets: Classifying and Fixing Dirty Data’. She’s also the creator of the COAT philosophy.
Susan has developed a methodology to accurately and efficiently classify, cleanse, and check data for errors which will help prevent costly mistakes. She brings clarity and accuracy to data and procurement; helps teams work more effectively and efficiently; and cuts through the jargon to address the issues of dirty data and its consequences in an entertaining and engaging way.
Susan is passionate about helping you find the value in cleaning your ‘dirty data’ and raises awareness of the consequences of ignoring issues through her blogs, vlogs, webinars and speaking engagements.
What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?
I didn’t find data management, it absolutely found me! My first business, a clothing shop collapsed, and I was so broke I had to save up to go bankrupt to clear my business debt. I needed a job, any job, and quickly. That’s when I found an ad online for a spend analytics company to classify data.
It’s not something I’d done before but as soon as I started, I fell in love with the job and data, it came so easily and naturally to me. So, the story began…
What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?
It’s really hard to pinpoint one, but I think taking my current business from an idea, with little knowledge and no connections in the industry, to a successful company where people know who I am and working with companies across the globe and employing a team of six is pretty special.
What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?
My biggest challenge is to get funding from the client to clean their data. By many it’s seen as a menial task that anyone can do, and while yes anyone can do it, an experienced professional can do it much faster and far more accurately. Data is an investment not a cost and it’s hard to get this message across.
Why is it acceptable for a highly paid data scientist to spend 80% of their time cleaning data, but it’s not seen as acceptable to pay an experienced 3rd party to do the same, potentially at a lower cost in less time. It’s a challenge but I’ll never give up highlighting it!
Secondly, fixing it won’t stop the issues. The root causes of data quality problems start at the point of entry, often by non-data people, and we need to engage them and get them to understand the importance of data quality.
How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?
I’d like to see it become more prominent within organizations and be viewed as an asset rather than a cost.
Do you have any planned next steps for your career?
Absolutely! Next, I’d like to build out my own set of online data courses to share my knowledge with as many people as possible.
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?
Focus on developing the things that you are good at, rather than trying to plug the gap in areas you struggle with.
Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?
I’m terrified of spiders
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