What's in this podcast?
In this episode Jason talks to the Chief Data Officer at Silicon Valley Bank, Cara Dailey, about the importance of the first 100 days in post and the level of hustle needed to carve your role and strategy. They discuss what to focus on, what to de-prioritise and how to generate momentum behind the data strategy and transformation journey. They talk about selling the why, getting investment, building relationships, winning hearts and minds, creating believers and the need to pay for the data and tech sins of the past.
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If you are a CDO, or data leader setting the data strategy at your organisation, find out more about the CDO Hub.
One Big Message:
Embrace the hustle and always find opportunities to add value to the people around you.
[01:21] What Cara’s role as the Chief Data Officer at Silicon Valley Bank comprises and why the field of data is not for the faint-hearted.
[05:50] The first 100 days as a data manager
[10:30] Why you need to have quick-wins in your early days when starting at a new company
[14:10] How to build a team from scratch
[18:50] What happened after Cara’s first 30 days and planning into the mid-term
[23:10] When do you need to start focusing on the long-term
[26:10] Things Cara did to help move the needle when it came to bringing value to Silicon Valley Bank
[29:30] What is the best behavioural approach to starting in a new role in data
What are good values for a Chief Data Officer to have?
At Silicon Valley Bank the CDO role sits under the Chief Finance Officer and it works alongside business operations to provide data solutions for the company. Cara states that the CDO is an entrepreneurial role. You need to be able to ‘sell the vision,’ network, build a team, get the funding and execute on promises made.
- It is also important as a CDO to have value realisation. Data is expensive so when you work on a task, make sure it aligns with the values of the company and contributes in a meaningful way.
- Team building is an integral role of any managing position. When Cara first started she was given a generous budget, but had no team. She was fortunate to be partnered with someone who was well-known in the company who could help guide her. With their guidance, Cara was able to build a new team by bringing in people from other departments and hiring from outside the company.
- When hiring in your business spend 30 minutes a day on recruiting and make it a priority. Otherwise time will fly by and you will be stuck with a problem that requires team members you don’t have.
With new opportunities, come new roles and challenges
- The biggest challenge for most leaders in data stems from the fact that they are pioneers in their field. As a new and emerging field, Cara explains that essentially as a data expert you become the co-founder of a new department in your company.
- Being a CDO is a huge responsibility as you have to constantly explain everything you’re doing to the decision makers. In addition to the constant reporting, Cara also found that she had to hustle for funding, traction and familiarity with other departments.
- When you take on a role as a CDO Cara explains that the hustle is non-stop. The role of a CDO is self-eliminating because those who don’t enjoy the ‘hustling’ part often burn out and leave. This contributes to the high churn of data managers in fast-growing companies who typically only remain in the role for 2-3 years.
- Cara’s solution: realise that the hustle is part of the job and embrace it.
Package small wins
- Data is a thrilling roller coaster ride of tackling problems and celebrating wins. While working in data might not have ‘huge’ wins all the time, Cara says to celebrate all the mini-wins along the way.
- Try to get some quick wins early on in your new role. They don’t need to be huge wins but delivering value early on will put you in good standing.
The first stretch as a CDO
- The first 100 days as a data manager starts before you land at your job. Research what the problems the company is currently facing, what products or services they sell and gain a ballpark of the solutions that are available.
- You need to turn your new co-workers into ‘believers.’ By building credibility early on and leaving a good first impression you will find that it is much easier to build trust amongst your co-workers. You can build credibility by contributing to discussions, helping to solve problems and generally adding value to the workplace around you.
- Cara spent the first 30 days becoming familiar with the people and the problems around her to help build a team. She noticed the way they worked together and what everyone’s roles were. When you are new to a role, find the people who will help you champion your cause. You are only one person, so you need to form connections with people who will help spread the message about what you do.
- The next 60 days saw Cara taking on more projects to help grow and pressure-test the team, framework and governance they had created while still giving value to the company.
Prioritise your tasks
- Start at the beginning because in data you pay with your past mistakes. Do a gap assessment and fill the gaps first. Then continue with your policies and framework before you rush off to start building data products.
- In the first 100 days you need to make the tough calls. If someone is underperforming or something is not working you need to be able to stand up and say so, otherwise things will get out of hand very quickly.
Being the CDO is definitely not for the faint-hearted but it is an incredibly rewarding experience. Enjoy the hustle, add value to the people around you and prioritise your tasks.