by Charles Roe
DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Tom Bilcze, the Lead Database Designer at Westfield Group. Tom will be giving two sessions at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014. The first session is titled “CA ERwin Modeling Sig,” and the second session is “And Other Duties As Assigned – Embracing New Roles to Grow in Your Enterprise.”
The Speaker Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Sponsor Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.
The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Tom Bilcze on his work and history within the industry, with particular importance on his presentation at the upcoming conference:
DATAVERSITY (DV): What are you going to discuss during your session at EDW14, and what will the audience gain from attending your talk? (Please be specific about one or two issues you’ll be addressing and the benefits the audience will obtain).
Tom Bilcze (TB): Data Modeling is much more than creating an Entity Relationship Diagram and using a Data Modeling tool. What sets a great data modeler apart from a good data modeler is mastery of skills outside of the core Data Modeling skillet. I am going to explore how softs skills often implied or buried in the other duties as assigned job parts can help a data modeler exceed in their role.
DV: What is really important about such a topic in terms of the current state of Data Management and / or how the industry going to transform moving into the future?
TB: Data Management has become much more visible with data being seen as an enterprise asset that can give an organization a competitive advantage and contribute significantly to the bottom line. This visibility requires the data modeler become involved in more diverse teams. It challenges the data modeler to deliver value in their job to a wider audience. This is where the modeler needs to embrace roles outside of their comfort zone.
DV: Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry, past work experience, and how you got started in the data profession?
TB: My first exposure to databases and Data Management came in the late 80s after thirteen years as a mainframe application developer and systems analyst. I left my safe job and ventured into the unknown world of IT consulting to work on large projects.
I quickly found myself working on a variety of CASE tools and became the “data guy” on projects. Data Modeling, which was one of my many duties, became my primary duty and love. I left consulting after four years to become a full-time in-house logical data modeler.
In the following years I was fortunate to work in the transportation, manufacturing and insurance industries on a wide variety of projects. The bulk of my work has been in the Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence areas. I have a strong interest in Metadata Management and selling the value of Data Management to the enterprise.
DV: What is the biggest challenge happening in your particular area of Data Management at this time?
TB: The reports of the death of Data Modeling are greatly exaggerated. Speed and methods of application development combined with rapidly changing technology challenge the data modeler in their role. Data Modeling can be seen as an archaic remnant of IT development from the past. The truth is that Data Modeling is more valuable today than it has ever been. This challenges the Data Management team to evolve their roles and processes to add value to these new development methods.
DV: How is such a change influencing your job?
TB: As a data modeler, my role is much more than the creator of the data model. I create artifacts reach different audiences within my enterprise. I expose these artifacts to enable more client self-service. Integration and standardization of data artifacts is a high priority. In addition to these challenges, my work must be done in a faster, more responsive manner.
DV: How have your job, and / or the work you are doing at your organization, altered in the past 12 months? How do you expect it will change in the next 1-2 years?
TB: Although I remain a key database design resource in IT development project plans, I find myself working more frequently and closer with non-database team members to help them understand our corporate data and how they can integrate and incorporate it within their job, workgroup and processes. I see this trend becoming even more prevalent in the next few years. The deployment of and easy access to more metadata across the enterprise will be a priority to allow a better understanding of our corporate data assets.
DV: Are there any other emerging technologies you predict will affect your job function in the future?
TB: Big Data will have an impact on all Data Management professionals. We have spent the last 50+ years accumulating and managing a vast amount of data that is exponentially growing. The challenge for data modelers will be structuring this data in a way to provide fast, efficient and accessible analytical access. As data becomes more accessible, metadata plays a key role in making this data understandable by non-IT and lower level business audiences.
DV: What’s your favorite “Data” or “Data Management” quote?
TB: “I think mauve has the most RAM.” Dilbert’s Pointy Hair Boss – This is the closing line of the classic Dilbert comic strip where the boss tells Dilbert we need a SQL database. Dilbert is thinking that it is something he read in a trade magazine and does not have a clue what he really needs. This hits home many years after the publication. So often we jump on the buzz word bandwagon without really understanding the need, benefits, and consequences.
DV: How do you explain what you do for work, at a cocktail party, or to your grandparents?
TB: I take some credit and loyalty cards out of my wallet. I ask, “How do you suppose these cards know who are and how much you spend?” The typical response is, “They all need to save the data somewhere.” Well, I am the person who is the architect for the house where that data is saved. You can now thank me for those extra coupon savings!
If you are interested in attending Tom’s workshops at EDW2014, please see the conference schedule at: http://edw2014.dataversity.net/agenda.cfm?confid=79&scheduleDay=PRINT
His first session is on Monday, April 28, at 6pm and his second session is Wednesday, April 30, at 10.45am.
About Enterprise Data World:
Enterprise Data World is the business world’s most comprehensive educational event about data and information management. Over five days, EDW presents a diverse schedule of programming that addresses every level of proficiency, including keynotes, workshops, tutorials, case studies, and discussions.