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Wendy zhang

Wendy Zhang

Data & Analytics Leader | Driving Business Success Through Analytics and Business and Digital Transformations | Data Strategies and Management

Action-oriented, efficiency-seeking, and a tireless, lifelong learner. A data enthusiast and a visionary biased towards action, Wendy has spent the last 15 years helping Fortune 500 companies and government agencies drive business results using insightful data analytics. A practitioner with functional expertise, a results-driven leader who excels in combining business acumen, technical aptitude, and hands-on analytical experience with relationship management and influencing skills to derive valuable insights and enable effective transformational initiatives.

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

In the beginning, it was the natural problem-solving desire and inherent curiosity that drew me to the data management field. Then after realizing the kind of impact I could bring to organizations through solving complex problems for them, it is the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that got me to stay. Data management is an area where I can leverage my cross-industry experience, data expertise, as well as business acumen to make a meaningful impact and facilitate continuous growth and transformations.

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

A few years ago, I joined Wells Fargo to head up its data management practice for one of the regulatory reporting functions. In three years, I managed to build a sizeable and geographically dispersed team, establish a brand-new data management framework, and implement end-to-end data solutions for key analytics processes.

It was significant to my career because of the level of responsibilities I assumed right from the start, the opportunity to establish a framework to facilitate critical regulatory requirements, and the unique challenges of building out solutions and approaches to accommodate regulatory needs while also advancing AI capabilities. After nearly three years spent there, the team fulfilled critical regulatory requirements for multiple portfolios over $500 B and automated and streamlined major forecasting processes.

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

One of the two significant challenges is understanding data management in the current environment. With the rapid technological advancements in recent years, there has been an increased focus on technology and algorithms without corresponding attention to data management. Data management is more critical than ever. Although we are now better equipped with capabilities to handle Big Data than ever before, many of the challenges in the underlying data cannot be addressed by technology and algorithms alone.

The other challenge is around talent. Also, related to the focus on technology and algorithms, the need for data professionals has been shadowed by technologists, data scientists, and AI engineers. While those positions are undoubtedly important, having data management people with appropriate knowledge and skills about data is critical to set ourselves up for success. We need to have the right skills aligned throughout the entire lifecycle of analytics programs without neglecting the essential foundation at the outset. There is no data science without data. Similarly, there cannot be a successful analytics initiative without a good data management team.

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

  1. One of the trends I foresee would be the blurring line between various jobs. Due to the need to incorporate analytics within our inherent business-decision making, the democratization of data and analytics processes requires sufficient literacy at many levels. In addition, the need to connect silos also drives better communication, timely information sharing, and cross-training in different areas aimed to break down barriers. With that, it likely won’t be uncommon for the line between technical and business positions to blur. The exact extent should depend on the particular situations and inclinations from either side and the comfort level. Nonetheless, it should facilitate more collaborations as teams would become more cross-functional and multi-disciplinary when this does eventually occur over time.
  2. The other trend would be alignment with the bottom line. Data management functions are often seen as the cost center and a support function, making continuous and sufficient support challenging to secure. Through discussions with industry leaders and observations of shifting focuses, more data leaders will recognize the need to align with P&L, where immediate impacts and priorities are.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

Yes. Coming from a blend of business and analytics background, I believe that the intersection of the two is a sweet spot for me. Combined with technology, the enabler for better data management and analytics solutions, I think the three areas will be where I can make the most impact in enabling success in organizations’ digital, business, and analytics transformational journeys.

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?

That advice would be, ask questions. It is vital for many different reasons. First, the devil is in the details. Asking (the right) questions is foundational to thorough the understanding of pretty much everything. Then, in the process of asking, we challenge status quos and elicit considerations around the why behind the way things are. A deliberate but cautious approach like this is essential for continuous improvement and innovations.

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

That I have a diverse educational background. I went to college in California, got my first Master’s in Accounting from the Ohio State University and the second one in Analytics (which I promised myself to be the last one) from George Washington University. Even in college, I did the first year of study in China before coming to the U.S. and the last year in England as an exchange student. So, my background is diverse not just in subjects but also in geographical locations. I believe the exposure to different cultures and subjects, followed by working in various industries, gives me a unique perspective and the ability to learn and adapt to just about any environment. As a result, I am a quick learner and cross-pollinator.

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