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Roundtable Discussions: “What is the Career Progression for a CDO?”

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 months ago
  • Author:by Matthew Jones
Navigating the Path of a Chief Data Officer:

In the rapidly evolving landscape of data-driven decision-making, Chief Data Officers (CDOs) play a pivotal role in shaping an organisation's data strategy and driving innovation. I recently attended Xcede’s first roundtable event at C-Suite level hosted by Luke Adams, who was joined by nine esteemed CDOs who shed light on the intriguing and diverse career progression of their role, emphasising the importance of autonomy, reporting structures, and individualised career paths. As an outside observer, it was fascinating to witness their varying backgrounds and experiences in reaching the C-suite level, prompting the question of whether a standardised career progression structure for CDOs would be beneficial.

The Natural Gravitation Towards Progression:

From the onset, it was evident that the attendees of this roundtable had a natural inclination towards progression and pushing the boundaries of their roles. Having achieved a certain level of success, their aspirations and drive motivated them to seek new challenges and opportunities for growth. This enthusiasm, in turn, fueled discussions around the future of the CDO position and its significance in relation to other C-suite roles.

The Diverse Reporting Structures and Career Backgrounds:

One of the critical points of discussion during the roundtable was the reporting lines of this C-Suite position. It became apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to where the CDO should report within an organisation. Some reported directly to the CEO, while others found themselves under the purview of the CIO, CTO, or CPO. This diversity in reporting structures raised questions about the level of autonomy granted to CDOs in executing their data strategies and leading their teams effectively.

The roundtable participants represented a variety of backgrounds, ranging from traditional data and analytics to machine learning and strategy. Notably, one attendee showcased a unique trajectory, having transitioned from a data science background to a CDO role relatively quickly, more or less 6 years. The differing backgrounds demonstrated that there is no set formula for becoming a CDO and highlighted the versatility of the position.

Is there a need for a Standardised Career Progression?

During the discussion, the topic of whether a structured and generic career progression for this role would be beneficial arose. While some attendees believed that a structure could be advantageous in certain contexts, others argued that each organisation's unique needs and projects might not always align with a predefined path. For instance, some CDOs found success with data engineering embedded within their teams, while others saw it positioned independently. As such, it became clear that a one-size-fits-all career progression might not be feasible for CDOs.

The roundtable conversation with Chief Data Officers provided invaluable insights into their career progression and the challenges faced along the way. As data continues to drive decision-making across industries, the CDO role remains a crucial and evolving one. While the desire for career advancement is universal among these executives, the paths to reach the C-suite differ greatly based on backgrounds, reporting structures, and organisational needs.

Rather than attempting to impose a standardised career progression, organisations should recognise the uniqueness of the role and empower individuals to carve their paths based on their strengths and the organisation's specific requirements. Embracing this individualised approach will not only foster personal growth but also enable CDOs to make a more significant impact in the ever-evolving world of data-driven leadership. As we look to the future, it is essential to remain adaptable, open to change, and willing to explore new avenues in the journey of becoming a successful Chief Data Officer.

Working with Xcede:

By hosting these roundtable conversations with distinguished C-suite level executives, Xcede has honed its expertise in understanding the intricacies of hiring Chief Data Officers and other senior roles at this level. These events have allowed Xcede to gain comprehensive insights into the evolving demands of organisations and the qualities required in top-level candidates. With this wealth of knowledge, Xcede possesses the ability to identify and recruit the perfect match for a company's specific needs.

To work with Xcede, submit a brief today, and one of our consultants will be in touch!​