Data Chief Podcast
THE DATA CHIEF | EPISODE 32

First Command’s Darren Pedroza on Being a Data Activist and Leading your Company Through Digital Transformation

Darren Pedroza

VP Enterprise Data and Analytics

First Command Financial Services

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EP32: First Command’s Darren Pedroza on Being a Data Activist and Leading your Company Through Digital Transformation
EP32: First Command’s Darren Pedroza on Being a Data Activist and Leading your Company Through Digital Transformation
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Darren Pedroza is the Vice President of Enterprise Data and Analytics at First Command Financial Services, with a mission of helping military families reach their financial goals. In addition to being a data and analytics savant, a major part of his success in this role is his acute understanding of how to transform a data strategy to keep pace with changing times and business needs. 

On this episode of The Data Chief, Darren explains how First Command transformed its data and cloud strategy to be more flexible, agile, and democratized. Darren also touches on a host of topics, including Databricks, what routinely leads to bad data, and leadership best practices. Enjoy!  


 

Key Takeaways:

  • Future-proof your cloud strategy: Your cloud data strategy shouldn’t end at scale. Focus on flexibility, agility, and democratization by adopting as many cloud-native tools as needed and consistently upskilling non-technical business users. Additionally, you want to be intentional about your build vs. buy strategies and make sure the vendors you partner with become allies.
  • Remember that good data doesn’t just happen: All data has a lifecycle, but there are two unique challenges that plague companies when it comes to their data collection: silos and poor user experiences. The best data collection applications are the ones that have a simple workflow, and a clear and pleasant user experience.
  • Align your team to your tech stack: When going through digital transformation it’s important to make sure that not only are you partnering with vendors that can integrate across multiple platforms, but also compliment the skillset of your team at hand.

Key quotes

Any business leader, or most business leaders are going to say, ‘We need to generate more meaningful insights so that we can grow revenue, decrease expenses, penetrate the market further,’ but what a lot of executives don't have the insight to is, ‘How do you do that?’ Not just how do you do that, but can you really tell me what I just said? Can you really define that for me? Because I have an idea of what I want, but I don't really know what I want. That's the biggest challenge for a CDO.

The role that cloud is playing, I don't want to be cliche, but a lot of it is about scale. For a small company, we do have a data center. That data center does take time to manage and effort to manage and people to manage. What we're seeing is by moving to Azure, we're actually enriching our infrastructure staff, their lives and their careers.

The power of looking at data from a pipeline perspective as opposed to a traditional warehouse perspective has really changed our game. The role of the cloud with our data strategy is all about flexibility, agility, and democratization.

The idea that data has a life cycle and evangelizing what that lifecycle is across the company, how it impacts applications, how it impacts data flows, how it impacts our partners, how we’re impacted by our partners has been really the biggest rock to keep pushing.

There’s two root causes to bad data; inevitably there's going to be data silos, even companies that have a great master data management, and single sources of truth, because the tools like Excel and Access and things are so easy to export data, and create your own version of the truth. Suddenly, you have reconciliation challenges across the company. The second part is user experience is not easy, so having a simple, clear, and really pleasant user experience is key to collecting clean data.

Everybody loves talking about data until you start talking about data.

Any business leader, or most business leaders are going to say, ‘We need to generate more meaningful insights so that we can grow revenue, decrease expenses, penetrate the market further,’ but what a lot of executives don't have the insight to is, ‘How do you do that?’ Not just how do you do that, but can you really tell me what I just said? Can you really define that for me? Because I have an idea of what I want, but I don't really know what I want. That's the biggest challenge for a CDO.

When I think about a CDO, I think that you could be highly successful as a CDO and not have a technology background, but you need to have had a lot of technology exposure. You could be a highly successful CDO and come with a technology background, but you'd have to have been exposed to business strategy to be successful.

Bio:

Darren Pedroza is the Vice President, Enterprise Data and Analytics for First Command Financial Services, where he oversees the implementation of data governance, enhanced reporting and analytic solutions. Darren also leads a team of data professionals, while also helping to drive innovation and change.

Prior to joining First Command Financial Services, Darren spent nearly 15 years with Fidelity Investments, rising to the role of Vice President, Technology and Shared Services prior to his departure. Darren resides in the Dallas-Fortworth Metroplex with his wife and family.

 

 






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