I Love EDW – You should too!!

by Glenn J. Thomas (@WarDuke)

If you are a DATAVERSITY™ follower, you’ve likely been receiving email notifications on the upcoming Enterprise Data World conference to be held in Atlanta, April 29th – May 3rd at the Omni Hotel at the CNN Center. If you’ve attended EDW before I have no doubt that your reservations and flight information are already in your inbox. If not, you may be wondering what’s in it for you.  Let me share my own experiences with EDW over the past several years.

In 2007, I was going to my first Enterprise Data World conference – back then it was called the DAMA International Symposium and Wilshire Meta-Data Conference (the previous year I had attended a different data conference but had been less than impressed since 99% of the sessions were theory with little practical information that I could take back to work and use). On the way to the registration desk, I met a very pleasant woman who asked me if I was here for the conference and if I had any questions. She introduced herself as ‘Anne Marie Smith” (later on I would learn that was a name worth remembering). We chatted for a few minutes then went our way and I was impressed with how friendly and interested Anne Marie had been. During the next several days drinking from the data ‘fire hose’ I met a number of recognizable names in the data community and all were equally open to discussion and sharing their time and ideas. I attended a session mid-week presented by Mark Mosley discussing the vision and functional framework for a Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBoK). As Mark talked about the vision for the DMBOK, I could picture all of the components and how each could play a part in the enterprise data strategy I was at that time laying out for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  I stayed around after the session and spoke to Mark and discussed my excitement at the vision and my own interest. We exchanged business cards and I went on to the next session. Over the course of the conference I gained more and more of what I call ‘nuggets of knowledge’ – things I could take back and actually utilize immediately or spend time researching to see how to incorporate them into my own work. This is because EDW did then, and still does, devote a large segment of the conference to case studies presented by the actual people that have ‘done that and earned the T-shirt’. I left the conference with my head swimming with ideas and thoughts that perhaps I would submit a presentation for the following year.

2008 rolled around and I checked online for the conference site and found that indeed they were looking for presenters. My own data project had met with success within Kentucky and was moving ahead nicely. I thought ‘the worst thing that can happen is they’ll tell me No.’ I had done a few speeches for other national conferences so I at least had some idea what I was getting myself in to.  I crossed my fingers, submitted my topic, “Application of the DMBOK in an Enterprise Data Architecture” and waited. The time frame seemed an eternity until one morning my inbox contained an email from the conference organizers congratulating me on my selection as a speaker for the conference (yes, I admit I did read it through a few times just to be sure it wasn’t actually a rejection). Well… that meant I needed to start putting my actual presentation together. Several months passed as I devoted considerable time to crafting, re-crafting and re-crafting it yet again until I felt I had a presentation that would not only tell the story of what we had accomplished, but also how it likely was relevant to everyone in the audience *AND* it provided additional ‘nuggets’ in the form of links to written policies and standards for attendees to check out when they got home.

Arriving at the conference, I had a sense of pride when a ‘speaker’ label was added to my name tag (for the record the conference staffers have always been top notch and always bring their best game every year!). I bumped in to Anne Marie and Mark and others that I had met the previous year. I also had the pleasure of meeting Eva Smith (@datadeva). Eva was a member of the DAMA board and was excited about my session. The conference was a hit and the sessions I attended were full of ‘nuggets’. It was finally time for my session.  Both Mark and Eva were in the audience. My introducer, Ingrid Jane Hunt (@ingridjane1), introduced herself to me and it was time to start.

I always try to add a little humor into my presentations and I believe I hit just the right mix with the presentation. A good percentage of the audience was nodding along with my comments so I know they were engaged and getting the message. I was even more impressed when it was over and several dozen people waited to talk to me instead of heading directly to lunch. Mark and Eva both found me afterwards and complimented me and suggested I become more involved in the drafting of the DMBoK. I volunteered on the spot.

Several weeks passed and I received an email from the conference staff with the evaluation of my speech and the notice that my session was rated the overall #1 session by conference attendees with a 9.64/10. Words could not express my shock and surprise. I immediately sent a Thank You to Tony Shaw (@tonyshaw) the conference chair, for all of his patience with my questions as I was preparing my proposal for submission.

That same week I also received an email from Davida Berger (@datagoveconf) asking if I would be interested in presenting my session, with a data governance flair, at the Data Governance conference that summer in San Francisco (having spent 18 months there during my Army years, I never pass up the chance to visit The City by the Bay). Davida also asked if I would consider participating in a ‘Practitioner’s Panel’ session during the conference. Of course I agreed!

A few short months later I was at the conference, seeing people that had quickly become my ‘data friends’. My session there was also a success and Davida contacted Jeremy Hall in London recommending they consider my session for the Data Management and Information Quality Conference Europe 2008 held there in November. Because of the recommendation, I was soon on my way across the ‘big pond’, presenting in London and taking a few extra days to sight-see while there.

2008 was an amazing year and I will certainly never forget it – but there is more to my incredible tale.

I submitted a proposal for the 2009 conference, “Data Conversion – Project Management and Data Analysis from the Trenches” and was accepted again. I was excited and looking forward to a wonderful presentation in Tampa when I received an email on Jan 19, 2009 from Anne Marie Smith (remember that name?) congratulating me on winning the 2008 DAMA Achievement Award for Government Service. I was floored! I had absolutely no idea that my name had even been submitted. The conference was another fabulous ‘knock it out of the park’ event. DAMA and ICCP were offering a beta test for their new Certified Data Management Professional – Data and Information Quality certification. I figured I’d give it a try and was successful in passing it. Another wonderful achievement!

Certainly the highpoint of the year had to be receiving that DAMA Government Service Award. I still remember standing on stage with Eva Smith (Academics), Jaylene McCandlish  (Professional), and Mark Mosley (Community) to receive the award and realizing that I was indeed a peer with all of these wonderful people that had given so much to the data profession. I thought my surprises for the year were over but the next day during the vendor sessions I stopped by John Zachman’s booth and *HE* congratulated me on receiving the award (it took a moment for me to comprehend that John knew my name).

Although I was accepted to speak in 2010, personal obligations prevented me from attending. In 2011, I presented a non-traditional data session “Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers”. The session was well received and I appreciate Tony and the EDW selection committee stretching the boundaries for me and others that submit subjects that other conferences may have ruled out because of a limited scope.

This year, I will again present at EDW. The session is titled “Congratulations! Now What?” – another session with a project management theme now falling into the conference classification of ‘Management’. If you plan to attend the conference I hope you will be in the audience for the 8:30 AM session the last day of the conference. I guarantee it’ll be worth sticking around or getting out of bed for.

I truly enjoy speaking at EDW conferences because the audience is real and they aren’t there to attend one or two sessions and then go check out the sites. The attendees are there for every session, asking questions and looking for ways they can use the knowledge they gain to improve their organizations.

Another opportunity that I have been fortunate to receive is the privilege to be a regular contributor to DATAVERSITY™. Check out the site. There is fresh information daily and the information is top notch!

This article wasn’t meant as a personal brag session. It was meant for those of you that might be thinking about submitting a presentation but haven’t yet. It’s for those of you that wonder if the price of attendance is worth it. It’s for those of you wondering what you’ll get out of it if you go.

I talked earlier about the nuggets of info I bring home ever year and they are plentiful. However, they pale in comparison to the new friendships I made and seeing the dedication of everyone I met to one goal – to make the data profession the best that it can be for all of us. My last nugget is the knowledge that I am part of something bigger.

If it is your first time attending and you arrive feeling unsure among strangers, I hope you will leave at ease among friends. And don’t be afraid to stop me or stick around after my session and say ‘Hello.’

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Glenn Thomas

Glenn has more than 20 years of experience as a programmer, analyst, and project manager on systems development projects and research missions around the globe. The past 10 years have been spent serving in a variety of leadership roles in the application development, data and enterprise policy and standards arenas. His background includes time spent in the US military, private industry, and the public sector. Glenn is a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP – DIQ), a Certified Public Manager (CPM), and a Project Management Professional (PMP). Glenn was the recipient of the 2009 DAMA International Government Achievement Award and is a former President and VP of Communications for the Project Management Institute’s Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter. 

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