Women in Data Management: Interview with Christine Connors

by Shannon Kempe

Inspired to write an article on women in data management, we interviewed several women to compile an article on the topic. This interview is with Christine Connors, Founder & Principal Consultant for TriviumRLG LLC.

DATAVERSITY (DV): How long have you been in the data management / technology industry?

Christine Connors (CC): 13 years – since getting a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science

DV: How did you get into the industry?

CC: The Fates made me do it! In all seriousness several events over a period of 4 or so years pointed me in this direction. When I was a technical librarian at Raytheon (yes – a real library with books and periodicals and reference questions!) one of the IT directors was tasked with overhauling our intranet search engine. Verity, the vendor, had just created its Intelligent Classifier product and offered it to us for the purpose of improving search through taxonomies and algorithmic classification. Keith, the IT Director in question was very good at networking and giving people work that fit their skills. He approached the librarian in HQ and asked, “Librarians are good with taxonomies, right?” Several of us were loaned to IT part-time to work on the project, and within two years I had transferred to IT. I dug deeper into human and machine processing of data, added deeper knowledge of semantic web technologies and learned about the broad spectrum of capabilities in the information architecture domain.

DV: What do you consider your career specialty to be?

CC: Unstructured data is my specialty. Classifying content containers, extracting information from them, driving insight from a broader set of data.

DV: Do you consider yourself as having been a geek in school? Growing up? Today?

CC: Hmm… nerd, yes. Geek? Not hardcore. But I was definitely on the nerd/geek line!   I got more geeky as I grew up, and I’d say the largest geek growth spurt I experienced was during and after college. Now, yeah, I think I’d be classified as a geek.

DV: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?

CC: Explaining what I do is the biggest challenge! It’s hard to find the right level to describe what I do. If I “dumb it down” too much I feel that I sound condescending. But I risk losing people or boring them or scaring them with complexity if I get excited about some detail of the work.

DV: Were you ever told you couldn’t do it because you’re a woman? Whether it’s in relation to your career in general, career in technology, or otherwise?

CC: No, I can’t say I’ve ever been told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. I do think that I wasn’t guided towards this path because of my gender. For example, I only learned a very little of computer programming in school, and now have to teach myself the snippets that I need to know. I suspect had a been a boy and shown the same level of geekiness my guidance counselors might have suggested a degree in computer science.

DV: Have you faced adversity being a woman in technology? If yes, how did you overcome it? (can be general or state a specific example)

CC: I have had men who have tried to bully me a bit, thinking they could throw their weight around to get me to accept how they wanted to do things. There have been a few meetings when I’ve surprised the guys in the room just by walking in. I often find myself the lone, or one of few, women at tech meetings and events. I overcome it by doing my homework, pondering cross-discipline approaches, and by playing with new ideas solutions in a tech sandbox. Being prepared reduces fear and brings insight. I also don’t let the guys get to me. Talk is talk. I walk the walk.

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