Building a data community

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    Written by Ashlee Dutton, Director of Analyst & Industry Relations at Solidatus

    “If you build it, they will come” – on September 8th, 2023, exactly six months post International Women’s Day, we helped successfully launch the Houston Women in Data Chapter and began to connect a thriving data community.

    Houston is home to many things from Fortune 500 companies to World Series Champions, and most notably the energy sector. But that is only the beginning…Houston is transforming, poised to become the next major hub for innovation and rapid technological development.

    As the US’s fourth largest city, it has one of the youngest, fastest growing, and most diverse populations anywhere in the world. Its vibrant culture mixed with a well-developed suite of key global industries – including energy, life science, manufacturing, logistics and aerospace – make it a melting pot for talent which have an undeniable spirit and an immense sense of community.

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    “We have all been good at innovating within our own company, but we’ve not always been good at sharing those insights. It’s about understanding what data is industry-agnostic, to then share to see where the value lies.” – Michelle Stansbury, Houston Methodist 

    Data is the currency of the future

    The world of data is complex – it is everywhere and isn’t slowing down. Data is the currency of the future and the driver of transformation, innovation and decision making. We must start to recognize the power it holds and how to protect and foster its endless potential.

    Data is rapidly fuelling organizations and sparking the need to remove silos, upskill their employees and create measurable data strategies. Building a strong data governance foundation that will allow the business to manage costs, comply with the rise of regulations and innovate to support initiatives such as Cloud migration, AI, and sustainability, is a must.

    But where do you start? We believe the first step is to make the unknown known – to discover, connect, and activate your data. Understand what you have – so you can go faster. Silence the noise and start to make trusted decisions. This is at least our theory at Solidatus; we wanted to go direct to the source and find out from Women Data Leaders what they are doing to inspire and transform within the world of data. The aim is to support the growth of the Houston data community and beyond, through sharing the lessons they’ve learned and encouraging cross-industry collaboration.

    “Connect your data foundation to the business strategy and create data products that deliver business value. It’s not data for data’s sake, but the focus on value that allows you to have a sustainable data foundation.” - Shannon Hughes - ExxonMobil, Enterprise Data Architect Manager  

    Inspire & Transform – Celebrating Women in Data

    As the Director of Analyst & Industry Relations at Solidatus and in making Houston my home and our US HQ last year, I immediately felt a sense of belonging. So when I learned that Women in Data was seeking a Houston Chapter lead, I jumped at the chance. Not only did it directly connect to my “day job” and align to Solidatus’s values but more importantly it tapped into my personal passion of connecting people and building a community. Naturally a role that allowed me to help connect, grow, and lead all things data within the city of Houston was an immediate yes.   

    The inaugural breakfast event planning started with a few simple steps: 

    1. Just ask – it’s amazing the power of a network.  As I engaged with Houston Women Data and Technology Leaders and asked if they’d like to share their experiences and collaborate with others, there was an outstanding number of ‘yes’s’. 
    2. Create the topics – naturally AI, Sustainability, Data Governance and Data for Good were selected. 
    3. Find a venue – thank you to JLL and their amazing generosity, beautiful offices, and superb hospitality. The Ion was a close second – so stay tuned for the next event!  

    The line-up included Women Data Leaders from Houston, arguably the world’s, largest organizations:  

    • Morgan Henkel – JP Morgan Chase, Executive Director – Global Technology Chief Data Office, Privacy & Data Use Lead  
    • Michelle Stansbury – Houston Methodist, Vice President, Innovation, and IT Applications 
    • Swapnil Bhadauria – EY Americas Oil & Gas Digital Operations Leader 
    • Trinity Lloyd – Google Cloud, Energy Transition & Sustainability Leader 
    • Tavia Prouhet - Chevron, Low Code and Automation-Product Owner 
    • Dr. Sunny Zhang - Founder, TrueLeap & Founding Partner, Born Global Ventures 
    • Devshree Golecha - Board Member at, Adjunct Professor, SNHU and Global Editorial Board Member, CDO Magazine 
    • Shannon Hughes - Exxon Mobil, Enterprise Data Architect Manager 
    • Summer Xiao - City of Houston, Deputy CIO – Enterprise Applications/PMO 
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    The panel topics were focused around “The Intersection of Data, AI & Sustainability” and “What Does Good Look Like.” Although there was a cross-section of sharing their backgrounds, personal and professional successes and learnings, and key initiatives driven by data. We also leaned into the good that data can do, given its trusted and protected. 

    Swapnil Bhadauria – EY Americas Oil & Gas Digital Operations Leader commented “Every business unit upstream or downstream has the ambition to be the business of the future. The question is what enablers do you need to get there? In our experience, it all starts with data. The complexity of bringing operations data sets together is a real challenge and wholly underestimated. Companies are learning that to build the asset of the future, organizations must alongside their digital ambition, build the data foundation and an integrated technology ecosystem around people and their ways of working. The same applies to sustainability – accurate data at the right level of granularity has to be made accessible to those making everyday operations decisions. The ambition to be digital, sustainable all lies in the hands of people who need good data to make decisions, to innovate using advanced technologies such as AI and predict outcomes to manage risks around their business proactively.” 

    The growth of women in the field, upskilling and imposter syndrome were discussed with positive intentions to enable women to continue to flourish in a field that naturally compliments our talents and skills. And then together women and men can harness the power to build an inclusive and diverse data community.  

    “You need to be your biggest cheerleader – people won’t remember or judge you for it!” – Devshree Golecha, Adjunct Professor, SNHU and Global Editorial Board Member, CDO Magazine 

    The event filled with dynamic conversations and audience participation – the questions didn’t stop from gaining buy-in from the organization, to building a strong data foundation, data protection and the role of metadata. Many even started to better understand that data touches everything and everyone, making it more compelling for people who want to learn how to transition into a career in data.  

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    Many shared best practices and some of the projects their organizations were supporting. Below are two that stood out: 

    Houston Methodist – Ion Tech Hub Launch & Virtual Nursing

    Michelle Stansbury, Vice President, Innovation and IT Applications at Houston Methodist joined us fresh off the launch of the new Houston Methodist Tech Hub at the Ion. This new outpost in Houston’s innovation hub is a space to encourage cross-industry collaboration and showcase the latest innovations in digital health technology.

    Houston Methodist’s Center for Innovation is a network embedded into every aspect of the hospital that promotes transformational growth and the adoption of digital technology. While the hospital has a dedicated group focused on these efforts, Houston Methodist encourages a spirit of innovation from every person within their organization and empowers everyone from the C-suite to those on the frontline on the patient floors to bring ideas forward and continuously look for opportunities to innovate throughout the whole organization. Some areas of focus include: remote patient monitoring, virtual nursing and voice technology, which are all part of their care redesign initiatives focused on improving the patient experience and decreasing the administrative burden on physicians and staff so they can focus on high-touch clinical care.

    Find out more about Houston Methodist’s Tech Hub at the Ion Houston HERE 

    Chevron – Citizen Developers

    Tavia Prouhet, Low Code & Automation Product Owner, touched on her role in leading Chevron’s democratized digital development initiatives and the enterprise upskilling needed to ignite a culture of innovation with low code. Chevron is deploying many projects that are enabling business users to build new applications or modify existing ones without needing help from the IT or development functions. Over the past six years, Chevron has cultivated a community of more than 2,500 citizen developers that come from virtually every discipline and organization across our global enterprise — from new energies to petrotechnical functions to manufacturing and all corporate functions. These developers are becoming force multiplier when it comes to rapidly developing solutions not already provided by our application portfolio. One quick example she mentioned, was when flash flooding impacted some of the homes of Chevron’s workforce in Africa, one of the company’s citizen developers quickly created a dynamic tool that enabled rapid damage reporting and resolution tracking. 

    Find out more about it what Chevron is doing HERE 

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    Powering Future Women Data Leaders

    We had over 25 applicants from the University of Houston and University of St Thomas apply for a Solidatus sponsored WiD scholarship. They ranged from studying for their bachelors all to completing PhDs, and all from various fields of study.   

    They were asked to submit answers which included: 

    1. What do you aspire to be or do with your degree? 
    2. What is the future of data? 

    The voting was done by a committee and was extremely difficult to select just 3 since all the applicants had incredible stories and passion related to their field and future ambitions. It proves that data is everywhere and showcases the power it has to change the world. 

    Ultimately, we want to support all the students who applied, but below are highlights from the 3 winners: 

    Scholarship Winner #1

    Cassidy Salentine attends the University of Houston and is working on her PhD in Paediatric Clinical Neuropsychology.  

    Her journey as a paediatric clinical neuropsychology doctoral student revealed that data takes on a pivotal and transformative significance, both in her academic pursuits and future professional endeavours. Her personal aspirations are in building a programming repertoire to visualize and analyze datasets more confidently. In her work, data is the key to performing evidence-based research, to provided well-grounded recommendations to parents and educators, and to ensuring that all decisions are based in empirical rigor that prioritizes the well-being of patients. 

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    Scholarship Winner #2

    Ivy Grossberg attends the University of Houston and is starting her 2nd year as a PhD student in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Ivy would like to go into Industrial Organizational consulting at an external consulting firm and when she is more established in her career, she would like to also become an adjunct Professor of Industrial Organizational psychology.

    Ivy believes that data is extremely pertinent to the study of Industrial Organizational Psychology. In fact, one of the main goals of Industrial Organizational Psychology is to look at human behavior from a data analytic standpoint to create solutions to problems facing employees and organizations. That goal is fundamentally impossible without data. Data has played, currently plays, and will continue to play a huge part in her life as an Industrial Organizational Psychologist.

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    Scholarship Winner #3

    Zoubida Rezki attends the University of Houston and is starting her 3rd year of her Bachelors in Computer Science. She aspires to leverage her degree to make meaningful contributions in the field of medicinal research by harnessing the power of AI and machine learning. Her particular focus lies in advancing cancer research, a cause deeply personal to her due to its impact on several members of her family.

    In both her studies and work focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning, data holds a crucial role. Her process begins with gathering the right data to train and assess her models. The kind of data she uses significantly influences her outcomes. Data stands at the forefront and center of her work, and having well-organized data with accurate labels and ground truths is vital. Without this, she wouldn’t be able to perform her tasks. She’d either need to invest substantial time in collecting data herself or consider a different career path.

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    We are just getting started…help us continue to build!

    We have only just started what is set to be an amazing data community. A community that will promote collaboration and diversification and help lead the way to inspire and transform with the power of data.

    Everyone showed up because they wanted to listen, learn, and participate in discussions around data – the number one currency that impacts and drives the decisions we make daily. The overall energy and conversations that took place exceeded all expectations. I was told that never had Houston had such industry collaboration and opportunity to celebrate the innovation and transformation backed by Houstonians.

    I encourage you to JOIN a WiD chapter and help support the growth of an organization that is changing the world of data. There are over 66 chapters worldwide and no matter the contribution – we can all make a difference. 

    If you would like more information how Solidatus is changing the world of data by helping companies build Enterprise Data Blueprints please get in touch. 

    Sign up to stay up-to-date with the latest news at Solidatus HERE