Episode 12: Data Dave Dives Deeper with Monika Kapoor

Data Dave Dives Deeper with Monika Kapoor

BONUS CONTENT ALERT!

Welcome to Data Dave Dives Deeper, the podcast that takes you on an enlightening journey into the world of data with your host, Data Dave. In this Talk Tech with Data Dave bonus series, Data Dave delves further into the intricacies, trends, and groundbreaking insights within everything data, everything cloud, everything technology, and everything D3Clarity.  In each episode, we will be joined by experts in the digital world for an educational and hopefully entertaining conversation.

This week, our expert, Monika Kapoor, shares her history with data, specifically data governance, and offers all listeners some wonderful career, life, and even podcasting advice. You don’t want to miss her amazing story.

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Published:

January 9, 2024

Duration:

00:26:08

Transcript

Alexis
Hi everyone, welcome to Talk Tech with Data Dave. I’m Alexis, your host of Talk Tech with Data Dave, and I’m here with Data Dave. But more importantly, I’m here with Monika Kapoor, a data expert, and we’re going to do a Data Dave Dives Deeper bonus episode. So, I’m super excited to talk to you both. How are you guys today?

Data Dave
Good morning, Alexis, this is Data Dave. I’m delighted to be here and to have Monika with us. This is a fabulous opportunity to actually be in person. So, thank you. Thank you, Alexis. Thank you. Monika, please introduce yourself.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, sure. I’m Monika Kapoor. And I will say that I’m data evangelist. I have got work experience around 25 years now from data to technology transformation to innovations, strategy to executions. This is the game that, and this is my world. Yeah, that’s how I will begin.

Sometimes I am on the other side of the table and then might change the side and that’s like a musical chair. But that keep on adding the perspective around data. The core is always data and keep on revolving around that, giving me different perspectives and I’m very happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me, and I would love to share whatever I know.

Data Dave
Excellent. And you’ve come a long way as well, haven’t you? You don’t live in DC. We’re here in DC and you, you don’t live in DC?

Monika Kapoor
Yeah. So I’m here for the conference, right? Like I keep on getting invited. Twice in a year for delivering keynotes at DGIQ. Yeah. And couple of other conferences as well and more frequent conferences happening in India. My current location is Bangalore, India and yeah. But then coming over here and ending up meeting people like you and sharing and learning and contributing to everybody’s else learning journey and their learning in return. Yeah. So these are my triggers that keeps me pulling me, pulling me up and that makes me feel younger as well.

Alexis
I’m not a data expert. Everyone on the podcast knows that I’m the one who learns from Dave, so I love coming to these conferences because I feel like just though osmosis I learned because I get to have conversations like this with you and I get to listen to Dave speak. Although I listen to Dave speak a lot. It’s such a helpful task for me to just like learn more about data as a non-technical person.

Data Dave
So, Monika, can you tell us a little bit more about how you got in today? How did you start your career and how did you get here? We find that a lot of people in this space didn’t start here, they started somewhere else and they became victims of poor data. And then they came into the space. How? How did you get here?

Monika Kapoor
Okay, so after spending few years in application development, I hit the wall and that happened after spending just some 3-4 years. And initially 3-4 years in the perfect continuum, as you will see, is very less. But at that moment of time when you were sitting there after finishing your school and postgraduation and everything, and then you actually figured out that, “Okay, I’m going to do application development. I’m going to be a coder, right?” And I’m doing coding. I was very good at codin, but suddenly I hit the wall.

Many things happened in 2000, 2001, very unfortunate things happened, right? Industry got doomed. And I always believe in universe giving the signals and all I said no. Maybe you know, I’m not very happy to make my career out of coding.

Specifically, I started, you know, researching. Searching, browsing through and all and then I happen to know read about data mining and I kept on reading about data mining one days, two days, three days. Right? But then I figured it out. Are there any courses? I started, you know, finding out there were no courses. I’m talking about like 2 decades back. Two decades back into the early 2000s, as I mentioned, I think it’s not very uncommon that professionals get stumbled to some topic and then they want to make a career out of it.

Data Dave
Right, you just keep diving in and keep getting deeper and you’ll understand more and then you realize you understand that.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, but the only problem that was existing before at that moment of time, which is partially still over here in the industry, is that that there was not any structured course even on data. So, all your bachelors in computer applications and everything, bachelors in information and masters in information started much later, at least in India.

I’m sorry I was not having much, much resources. I was not that fortunate. Like, you know, kid of Rich Dad. And then I thought, “Okay, how to make that happen.” Because there is no end to it, there are books written by, you know, famous authors that I happen to meet. I happen to start meeting few years back when I started coming over here. But there’s only books and books is not giving me much experience and then you get frustrated. So, what is the best way out of it? Get in, get yourself in whatsoever howsoever.

I started finding a job and I got the job.

Data Dave
Excellent!

Monika Kapoor
And that was an advertising agency, but they advertised that we are looking for people who would like to explore the area of data mining. I said okay, and I went in and I thought that I will fail. But I didn’t because I was having what? I was having passion. I was having curiosity.

So, my curiosity led me to explore the area more. I was like almost deaf when they were talking about my remuneration. I didn’t care. Because I wanted to stay and learn, but I was getting the opportunity to learn at work and it was phenomenal journey ever since. So, I always tell that to people that I actually got married to data, two decades back. Yeah. We kept on- like how we are maintaining our relationship- because we kept travelling all the time. Tt, you know, keeps on changing. So sometimes we are on the hills of data mining, doing BI. Sometimes we are doing the data modeling and sometimes we find ourselves in the city of data lakes, yeah.

Data Dave
Right. Wading through the lake.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, exactly, BI. And while I was deep diving in my, you know, deep diving right in data lakes. Then I realized that, oh, my God, on the surface, it’s very, very nice water, but it’s muddy and sometimes.

Data Dave
Exactly gets murky down the bottom.

Alexis
Dave calls that a “Data Swap”.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And then mushy water will produce what it will only sink you in. It will not let you go. Go out as well. But it will not let you swim and float.

Data Dave
But it might poison you if you drink it as well.

Monika Kapoor
Exactly. And soon enough, I actually realized that maximum resources in any organization is actually getting in preparing that data for analytics. Yes, blah blah blah data producers perform all this and they pollute the data as people say and then data consumers are not able to consume it. And then data consumers keep on doing it, preparing the data in some different staging areas, but they don’t do it at the source because they’re not having the rights and permissions to do so. And as a result, they only need to do it again and again because data has got the nature of becoming dirty, yeah.

Data Dave
Yep, Yep.

Monika Kapoor
While we are speaking, our data is getting changed, and that is our age. Everything is data at the end of the day, and it is very dynamic in nature because if the data is not changing then it is actually becoming static, stale, and dead.

Data Dave
Stagnant, stale, it’s losing its interest.

Monika Kapoor
I will say it’s so expensive to get the accuracy right or validity, I will say rather, rather than completing the data or rather than removing duplicates, no, that is that is still simpler Because there will be some moment of time when you will hit the bottom and then you need to only validate your data after speaking to the authority who is owning that data, yeah.

Data Dave
Yes, you have to get back to the source. You have to know who owns it, know what’s going on. You have to know.

Monika Kapoor
Exactly, exactly. So that was my journey that actually took me into the area of data quality. And that happens. I will say approximately 10 years back. So you know, so after 10 years spending my considerable time in doing data-driven projects and everything, I realized that, “Oh my God, like what we are doing over here. We need to do something about it, because all data migration projects all business transformation projects will fail.” Although it’s always being understood that data is a byproduct of business or technology, but sooner we realized after BI coming in and now AI that data is not by product of operations and technology only.

Data Dave
Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Monika Kapoor
But data itself is a product and data can actually disrupt the entire technology. Your entire technology can stop working because everything is in silos at this moment, right? No organization is having one application and one tool to run entire business. And they also need to speak to each other. If they won’t speak to each other, it is just next to impossible to run the business.

Data Dave
Businesses have made their own ecosystem of all the systems in them and all the data flowing between them. If the data is not moving it’s dying.

Monika Kapoor
It’s dying. So, it is taking me to the matter for that I always, you know, love to give. So, data is like a blood in your body. If the blood is bad, but all your organs are good, what do you think? What’s going to happen next?

Alexis
The organs are going to go bad.

Monika Kapoor
It will stop. Not only go bad, bad. And stop. So, if we can’t take care of the quality of the blood of the system, then it is very tough to save you or save the organization. And sooner or later people understand that. And as we are getting on to the realms of AI, I will say it is very crucial for anyone to secure the data and also to secure the data pickups.

Data Dave
Yeah, absolutely. And data is getting more and more valuable and more and more dangerous. There’s more and more liability and loss or bleeding.

Monika Kapoor
Exactly. Exactly.

Data Dave
You know, cut your arm and you bleed. It’s the same with data these days.  If your business bleeds, then that’s gonna be a problem.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, I’m going to steal that. This is very nice metaphor you mentioned.

Because if we are saying, today, “Data is an asset.” Yes it is an asset, but if you will not handle it rightly, it will become liability for you. It will. More blood will be lost. And then what’s going to happen? That also is a problem. So then I understood data quality is only one component of data governance. You cannot only keep on working. It’s a very it’s very significant important part, but then that’s not the only thing. There are certain other aspects to it: data usage, data accountability, data privacy, data security.

So, there is whole lot of that and that helped me to start exploring in the area of data governance and I’m very thankful to my clients and to my customers and to the people who shouted most on me that what this data is, right. So, I’m really thankful to them and I’m really thankful to the bad data because you really need to touch bad to understand the significance of what it is.

Data Dave
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. That’s excellent. Yeah. Finding the data that does not describe something, it says it describes something and doesn’t. It describes something else. And looking at it teaches you that and shows you so much.

Monika Kapoor
Yes. So that’s how I set across my journey. So first, working on technology. And then accidentally, you know, stumbling on the topic of data mining and data mining always interested me because it was like, you know, I am being detective.

Data Dave
Right, yes.

Monika Kapoor
So, I really like Sherlock Holmes and all of that, and then, you know, I sooner realized that you know, you need to go into the detail if you really want to bring certain change. And I’m a very optimistic person by nature. And I thought that, “Okay, if I can work onto the governance of data, then I am not only improving my life in preparation and blah blah blah, but I will also end up improving others lives.” They will do what they’re intended to do rather than preparing the data or reporting on the data. It’s all automated. You can use AI nowadays, but you only use that if your preparation is happening automatically on clean data.

Data Dave
And if your data is good and clean and actually describes what it says it’s describing.

Monika Kapoor
Yes, yes.

Data Dave
Right. One of the phrases I use, as I say, is that data describes history. It describes the evidence of behavior historically, and then mathematics describes the prediction, but the prediction is only an extrapolation of history.

Monika Kapoor
Uh, yeah.

Data Dave
If your history isn’t very good, yeah, then your prediction is going to be way off.

Alexis
Yeah, absolutely. Your passion for this, Monika, is amazing. I am over here, like, I want to hear everything. I love it. I believe in passion from people, and I will listen to anyone who’s passionate about something and you’re passionate about data and data quality is amazing. I do want to as you, from a data quality perspective, what is the biggest challenge that you’re seeing, right? You’ve talked about it a little bit, but I’d love for you to dive a little bit more into that..

Monika Kapoor
Sure. So, in governance, let’s say. Now, let’s focus on that. Data is no longer challenge for the organization to get generated. We are having lot of digital environments now which is actually, you know, no longer is data getting captured even even on the hard copies at all. It actually you know gets in, flows in and all of that sort happens.

Businesses have taken care of creating technology, have taken care of creating silos of data, right. But now the problem is that the data actually grows exponentially. And everybody knowns that data is holding potential value and that can act as a competitive advantage for them if it gets generated in the right quality. It’s not only that that you know you will understand the data being generated and then cleaning it and then you know, doing your work, it’s also that – One of my very dear leader who has played major role in data governance career in my career, he always taught me that rather than keep on cleaning the room of bad quality data, you need to close the tap. If you’re not closing the tap and you keep on cleaning the room, your job will never finish.

Data Dave
Right.

Monika Kapoor
And another aspect, another thumb rule. He actually explained that to me. He also said that then it will not be strategy. It will only be operational job and operations never ends.

Data Dave
Right.

Monika Kapoor
Close the tap, but then, you also need to see that no plumber is coming to opening it again or not mishandling the pipes as well. Because,what will happen if your tap is closed but the pipe starts leaking then also you are doomed, right? Right. And there comes governance.

But now in the organizations we are having excellent tools and technologies in the organizations. But now if you will put everything together. We are running tools and technology. It is like, you know, sitting in the airplane and asking, “Okay, where you going to take me?”

Data Dave
Right, Yep.

Monika Kapoor
Howsoever whatsoever somewhere. “Okay, now what I’m going to do next, what I’m going to do next.” That’s one problem. One challenge that we all are having.

Second problem is that people think that we will create catalogs and focus on metadata because that’s the foundation of getting started your governance programs, but they often forget, while they are doing all this, still they are creating data.

Data Dave
Data is moving, the business is operating, the business is moving forward. It’s still being successful, it’s still creating mess and it’s still creating data and it’s still pumping out.

Monika Kapoor
Exactly. So organizations need to define the criticality around that, yes, and often they are not able to. But then there is another aspect that you know, people need to understand that data is moving very fast, not only entering in the system, but even changing in the system. And if you are going to take lot of time to transform that data so that it can be used for its intended use, it will be too late. Customer is already gone. And you don’t know who to find in the street because that customer that data got changed, the name demographic details, it is no longer, it is no longer, you know, good for you. It’s a second category that I’m talking about around the dynamic, you know, nature of data. And third, around data governance if I talk about it data governance, other name is change management.

Data Dave
I couldn’t agree more. Most people don’t think that and don’t get that, but I’d spend half my time talking about, Alexis knows this, talking about change management and the fact that if you don’t change the behavior, you don’t change the data.

How do you clean up the data that’s coming out of the tap? Change the behavior of what’s going on on the other side of the tap.

Monika Kapoor
Dot on dot on.

Data Dave
And let it flow through as clean data and get that change going. Get the change moving and the business changing around the data.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, because it’s something like that, you know, doing same things again and again and expecting different results. So okay, you want to bring a change, then it’s a change management and among people among technology, among processors, processors are getting run not entirely by technology. People play major role in it. So, change management and change management in any organization depends upon culture. People, yeah.

Data Dave
People. Culture. People’s behavior.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, exactly. People keep on changing. But then who creates that culture? People create that culture, right and that culture culture is based on what?

Data Dave
Right.

Monika Kapoor
Value system. So, value system, it sounds very philosophical, but believe me, data governance is directly related to value system. There are different components that are acting in between. But you cannot defeat that. Otherwise, it becomes a kind of a fraternity in an organization. Who is the governing body? Yeah. And want to do. “Okay, I am telling you do this. Do that.” Nobody is going to listen you because this might be your job this might not be another’s.

Data Dave
Right, so I found that when you say that people will work harder not to do it just because you say do it.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, that’s another thing.

Data Dave
They will people, people will. If you say do this, they will spend hours trying to work around your edict. Yeah, they work harder to work around the edict. So, you have to make it easier to do it, right? And guide them through that change into where they’re going and slowly meld that culture into where you need it.

Monika Kapoor
Exactly. Exactly.

How we have been trying to beat this challenge, I’ll say- business KPIs. Don’t think what is important for you because, you know, you learned in some conference in some book from some professor? No, that’s not the. Not everything works for everyone. Even in the same organization, if the leader, if the direction is getting changed or the mission and the vision is getting changed for the organization, is the time to see. Because ultimately what you are doing it for? You’re doing it for business to prosper. It’s not a social service. You are doing it for the business to prosper. So, attach your quality KPIs or your governance KPIs rather directly mapped with your business KPIs and if no mapping you are unable to do, then please don’t do that.

Data Dave
So, so just building on that, one of the things that I do when I lead a number of data governance councils and that sort of thing, is my first slide in every deck, every week or every month – whatever the cadence is, the meeting-  is the vision statement of the organization and I’m working in and follow that with the vision statement and the operation objectives of the department. That is being directly impacted by the governance activity of the day so that you can pull that thread of we are doing this because our corporate mission is X. “Here’s the word in our corporate mission that we are following with this project,” and do it every time we meet, every single time, so that everybody gets it. Everybody understands it and you’re just always reinforcing “This is a direct relation to the corporate mission like this.”

Monika Kapoor
Even on the dashboards, quality dashboards or governance dashboards, when you are displaying your data. When you are showing the trend. Show it next to next with your business KPI and get that data in the business reviews, quarterly business reviews or whatsoever, and new business reviews onto the business table. There should be one slide dedicated only on data governance showing your business KPI is getting held by this because then you get seat on the table of executives.

Data Dave
Absolutely. The language that I would use, I say your data has purpose. Publish the purpose. Tell people what the data is doing. Why is it operating in the business? Why is the business benefiting from this data? What is the purpose of this data?

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, dot on.

Alexis
All right, Monika, last question, as we wrap up this podcast: if you had to give yourself at the beginning of your data journey, some advice, what advice would you give yourself or another person who’s in that situation right now?

Monika Kapoor
Although it depends where the person has been landed, whether they are in some specific course or some specific educational program, academics and all. Or it can be for the people like me. The way I started my journey, doing something and then stumbling upon the topics, and then, you know, getting interested in that. But I’m coming from the age when things were not available.

Today it is available, wheresoever you are. It doesn’t matter. Distance is miles doesn’t matter. So get yourself in, learn more and more about the topic of intrest because that is going to make your journey not only fast, I will say more impactful. Yeah and you need to enjoy whatsoever you are doing.

It’s okay to fail fast, but fail frequent. Because then, in that case you will be able to understand what is it for you or not, but also don’t shy away and I will say that give dedicated time or some time, whatever that particular experience is is demanding, because sometimes what we do we change quite often.

So, understand that whensoever you are trying to come out of your comfort zone, it’s going to take a while to get adjusted in, so give that time at least. At least give one work experience or I will say two work experiences around that thing. If you are not enjoying if it is not getting connected to your own self, your purpose in life, if it is not getting connected to that then please don’t do that. You cannot change the purpose of your life. It’s only that that you realize it at different stages in your journey. So, get connected to the topic and not only that, keep on getting connected to the people who are already in the journey little ahead of you.

Data Dave
Don’t be afraid to learn.

Monika Kapoor
Don’t be afraid to learn. Don’t be afraid to connect.

Data Dave
Don’t be afraid to ask.

Monika Kapoor
Ask exactly exactly exactly, and then always ask yourself why. “We need data catalog.” Why? “We need the definition of all the attributes in the legacy applications right? Even if they are getting into sun setting mode?” Why?

So keep on asking why, why, why and why? Because that will not only sell your story to someone else, but you will be more convinced what you are doing over here and bring more value and impact.

Data Dave
It will also give you priority of how to attack it, because if the why isn’t strong enough, don’t do it.

Monika Kapoor
Yes, exactly.

Data Dave
Because there’s more than enough work to do this forever, and you have to choose your battles. So why and why not? What’s gonna happen if I don’t do this? You get that priority laid out.

That’s excellent advice.

Monika Kapoor
Yeah, yeah. And the 2nd aspect, people who are already in their journey, they have just started in their journey. Data governance cannot be a monologue. Usually that happens that we get onto the monologue, and we forget that for whom we are doing.

It we are not running any fraternity in any university, this is something we are doing for the company, for the organization, for the business. So, make them equal partner. No governance charter for a respective business can be devised only having data governance and IT people in it. Business needs to be in. We need to serve them rather than other way round.

Alexis
That beautiful. I love that I wrote down your quote here, “It’s okay to fail fast, but fail frequently.” I think that is a wonderful concept of life, of data, of podcasting. I just love it.

Monika, Dave, thank you so much for talking with me today. This has been an absolute pleasure. If you all are interested in listening to more topics like Monika’s, we can definitely have anybody and everybody join us on Data Dave Dive Deeper. Make sure you reach out to us at talktech@d3clarity.com or send us a question, and we can have Dave answer it on the podcast. Thank you. Both so much. Thank you.

Data Dave
And thank you. Thank you. Monika, that was spectacular. Thank you so much for joining us. And Alexis, as always. Thank you. It’s a delight to be here.

Monika Kapoor
Thanks. Thanks, Dave, and thanks Alexis, for arranging all of this. And yeah, it’s good to connect with both of you and learn.

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