When I started in this new role for UW-Madison in September of 2014, I was asked “What exactly does a Chief Data Officer do?” Hmmm. That is a great question. According to my job description, I am the person responsible for “designing, creating and maintaining a service able to meet the needs of UW-Madison in creating reliable and useful information within and across organizational units while also maintaining data integrity and security.” Easy, right! Today when I’m asked, I tell people I am the campus champion for encouraging responsible data usage and management. If you interact with data in some fashion — whether it be administrative data, research data or an excel file you keep on your desktop — I’m probably at least somewhat interested in it.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and speak to many different people across campus from folks in administrative capacities in departments across the different schools to researchers and primary investigators, to faculty and to central administrators. And in meeting with the people with whom I’ve met, I’ve found that everyone welcomes the opportunity to discuss how effective data management strategies could make our collective lives easier.
We’ve started a Data Governance Program on campus that I believe will be the basis for those effective data management strategies. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to speak with people on the national stage in higher-ed about Data Governance and I’ve also co-authored a couple of papers on the topic. And I feel good in saying the scope we are undertaking in our Data Governance Program is second to none across the nation. And, we’ve established our program in keeping with campus’ Shared Governance beliefs.
Through our Data Governance Program, we have re-defined UW-Madison’s Data Classifications. By going through this exercise, we now have the basis for providing user training on responsible usage of data as well as the basis for our Office of Cybersecurity to implement a risk based approach to securing our systems. We have also formally established the group that will be responsible for designing the access control policies for our Tableau environment.
I tell everyone who asks today I have found my dream job. Working at UW-Madison with all the great people with whom I work, and having the opportunities to collaborate with a wide variety of people in a challenging environment is something I’ve always sought in my career. After my first 15 months on the job I can say I have found what I’ve been looking for.