How to succeed in a career in data governance

Register now

Data governance involves the overall management of the data an organization owns. It encompasses several factors, including data integrity, availability, security and usability. But, it cannot succeed without data governance professionals.

Those professionals take responsibility for creating and upholding data governance plans. They also commonly build and interact with data governance bodies within the organization and depend on those parties to update data governance policies as a company's needs change.

Many people may not have historically thought of data governance as a stable or appealing career. But, as companies regularly work with large quantities of data, the perception of data governance roles is shifting, and people are beginning to view them in a more favorable light.

If you want to transition to a data governance career, it's possible to do so and embark on a path that leads to lasting satisfaction and success. Here are some practical steps you should take.

Get the Specifics of the Work

One of the first things you should do when transitioning to your data governance career is to research the typical job requirements, average salaries and details about the work environment. Doing that helps you assess whether you'll likely have the staying power for the career and increases the likelihood you'll end up doing something you love.

As you learn more about what a data governance profession entails, you'll probably come across a significant amount of content about data science. That's because data scientists often take care of aspects of data governance within their day-to-day tasks.
Keep in mind, though, that data governance is not merely part of a broader data science role. It's a separate and valuable job and one that is increasingly necessary in today's world.

Know What Traits You Need to Succeed in Data Governance

Certain personal traits and attributes make people exceptionally well-suited to data governance work. Having a problem-solving mindset is a good start, especially if you begin working at a company with no current data governance plan, or if you get hired to fix known flaws. It's also helpful if you're comfortable acting as a leader, mainly since people will depend on and trust you to be a resource for all things data governance.

Along with that, excellent communication and interpersonal skills will serve you well. You'll need to be equally skilled at interacting with everyone from the top managers to the people at a company in entry-level positions who deal with data in limited capacities.

Being a persuasive person also helps, especially since you may need to assist with training employees and explain the roles they play in supporting data governance. Your powers of persuasion may come into play when you meet with the executives who make budgetary decisions and need to convince them to up your financial resources for data governance improvements, too.

Determine If You Need to Expand Your Skill Sets

The preliminary research you carry out should include looking at current data governance job listings and becoming familiar with what hiring managers want from applicants. Then, you can gauge whether you have the necessary skills to enter the job market and remain competitive, or if it's best to grow your skills first. In any case, don't foster the belief that you're an adequately prepared person without doing the research to back that up.

You may find pursuing a degree associated with data governance is the most appropriate way to get well-equipped. Although not many universities have data governance degrees, other options cater to the work of data governance professionals, such as information management majors. Information managers learn the intricacies of their companies' information needs and often get hired after organizations experience critical information failures.

It's also useful for you to have structured query language skills and knowledge of leading data management apps. If you identify some gaps in your knowledge, but don't have enough flexibility to be a full-time student, self-paced online courses could help you get up to speed.

Talk to a Data Governance Professional

As mentioned earlier, some people perceive data governance roles as career suicide. They view them as thankless positions that require people to work hard with limited resources, often making enemies in the process.

It's ideal to speak to at least one person who's currently working in data governance and ask them to give you truthful perspectives about their experiences. Confide in them to say you're interested in pursuing data governance as a career, but want to go into it with the proper expectations.

For example, if you have any doubts, bring them up for the person to dispel or confirm. Having those first-person insights could give you confidence because it allows you to directly follow up with more queries based on how the person responds.

Also, ask them what they wish they'd known before going into the field and what would have helped smooth out the earliest parts of their data governance careers. You can apply those tips to your career pursuits and, hopefully, avoid some pitfalls.

Understand How Today's Business Needs Relate to Data Governance

Even the people who love their data governance work sometimes get discouraged and question whether they made the right choice to work in the field. Something that can help you have a balanced perspective during those tough times is to learn why data governance is essential for today's businesses.

Then, it'll be easier for you to remember you're doing worthwhile work that's highly applicable to the requirements of modern enterprises. Knowing how data governance benefits companies could also work to your advantage if you need to have discussions with superiors about making more investments in data governance now and for the foreseeable future.

Understand How to Set Yourself Apart When Competing for Data Governance Roles

Once you get to the point of entering the job market and looking for work, it's crucial to understand there will inevitably be times where you are one of many individuals competing for the same role. Fortunately, you can do several things to stand out from other applicants and prove you're the best candidate to hire.

It's a good idea to stay abreast of data governance trends and be prepared to tell an interviewer how you might apply them to your work. Moreover, find out as much as you can about the respective company with the data governance job opening. More specifically, memorize things you could connect back to data governance during an interview, such as the enterprise's average data volume and the type of data it has.

Spending time to get a data governance certification could also increase your competitiveness. The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals is one certification body, and it offers a data governance and stewardship professional certificate.

Data governance is not the right career focus for everyone, but it's an increasingly attractive option. Staying in it for the long-term requires both preparedness and maintaining a proper mindset about the work.

The pointers above will get you off to a strong start as you explore a successful career as a data governance professional.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.