Women take tech: CDO Lorraine Waters

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As part of our annual series of Women Take Tech for International Women’s Day, I caught up this year with the Solidatus Chief Data Officer (CDO), Lorraine Waters. With a long and illustrious career, Lorraine is widely known as a thought leader in the data space, hailing from HSBC where she was the CDO for Global Compliance.

Despite taking early semi-retirement in 2020, Lorraine’s passion for the industry and our product saw her join the Solidatus team in 2021. She has won many awards, including CDO Magazine’s Global Data Power Women in 2020 and most recently making the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist 2021. I talked to Lorraine to find out about her career, her thoughts on how the industry has changed and her inspirations.

Tell us about how you ended up in data and tech. What was it about the industry that appealed to you?

My career has always been in financial services, but I’ve only come to data and tech in the last 10 years or so. Before that I was in operations, transformation and strategy roles. But data and tech plays a big part in all of those roles, so I gravitated towards it, and after managing one of the big data integration programmes at RBS and ABN Amro, I found myself as RBS Head of Data.

Transforming organizations through better management of data is a passion of mine and it is great to see the value of data finally being recognized across so many industries. Learning data skills can take you beyond just financial services, and I have recently seen data friends and colleagues make the transition seamlessly from banking to retail, broadcasting, property management, pharma and beyond.

Growing up, what did you want to be? And how did that influence where you are now?

I wanted to be a journalist. I love books, I love storytelling and I love to write. Telling stories with data is the closest I have got but I still get excited about the insights you can get from a well-managed dataset, and I try share that excitement with everyone I meet.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you as a woman in an industry that is still male-dominated?

Being listened to. Often other women and I raise valid and innovative ideas, only to be talked over, or the idea attributed to the next male speaker. This still happens today. Both men and women need to recognize this happens and commit to being more inclusive of those voices that are not being heard. Be conscious of it at every meeting, every gathering and ‘signal boost’ those colleagues that are not being heard. That term ‘signal boosting’ was coined by women in the Obama administration who recognized what was happening and agreed to ‘signal boost’ for each other to make sure ideas were attributed to the right person and each of them had a voice.

Looking back on your career, what do you think has changed for the better in our industry?

There are many, many more women in data and tech these days with some inspiring role models in senior positions. Look at Kate Platanova, Group Chief Data Officer at HSBC and Jennifer Courant, Group Chief Data Officer at Deutsche Bank, both of whom are great communicators and champions for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as well as for other women in data and tech. For every senior woman in one of these positions there are many in their organizations and across the industry who see it can be done. And each of those senior women who champion DEI and women in tech, have made it easier for other women to follow.

And what do you think still needs to change in data and tech? Are we where we need to be with gender equality, diversity and inclusion?

The path has been laid but there are groups of people who are so far away from the start of the path that we need to reach out to help them, such as those in low socio-economic groups, those with disabilities, and those for whom starting a career in data and tech seems too far a stretch. Organizations need to look at their workforce data to see if it is reflective of the communities and customers they serve, and if not take proactive steps to address the mismatch.

There is sensitivity in collecting and analysing people data, but where there are valid grounds and positive intent then it is possible and organizations must try.

If you could have had one piece of advice when you started working in data and tech, what would it have been and what advice would you give?

Take a risk. That job that seems not quite attainable. That role that you don’t feel you can do 100%. That team that you don’t quite fit into. That pay rise you think you deserve. Take a risk and go for it.
And be generous and kind with your knowledge and your time to help those who are developing their careers. It means more than you know and could literally change someone’s life.

Throughout your life, which women have inspired you? How have they influenced your life both professionally and personally?

There are honestly so many: my sister, who has four kids and is a primary school teacher who puts her heart and soul into teaching, my friends and colleagues who have often juggled successful careers and motherhood, the women who help other women up the career ladder… I can always rely on Maya Angelou for an inspiring quote or poem when the need arises. One of my favourites is: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We are always on the lookout for new members to join the Solidatus team, who will not only add to our product innovation, but will help nurture and build on the Solidatus culture and vision. Check out our careers page to see our latest opportunities: