Helen Johnson: Committed to Empowering Enterprises with Intelligent Data Management Solutionsby Analytics Insight October 16, 2020
Data Dynamics is the pioneer of unified unstructured data management software. Working with 26 of the Fortune 100 companies worldwide, Data Dynamics enables organizations to analyze, move, manage, and modernize their data anywhere. Data Dynamics accelerates the adoption of hybrid, public and multi-cloud strategies, and builds higher quality SLAs. The company also improves business process modernizations by providing a platform for both infrastructure optimization (on-premise & cloud environments), privacy risk management using analytics (machine learning & AI), and automation.
Leading on a Strong Foundational Background
Helen Johnson, CTO of Data Dynamics, is an experienced and accomplished IT Executive with a proven background as a goal-driven collaborator by successfully leading technology strategy, innovation, and development for large global corporations, including: AIG, Thomson Reuters, RBS, Bloomberg, and FactSet. Helen held various positions ranging from an Application Developer to CDO and now CTO.
As an innovator with a career track record of exceeding standards for performance and efficiency, some of Helen‘s expertise include:
- Broad experience in application and platform development, data governance, client services, product management, and project management.
- Ability to translate client needs into product specifications and build production services, and development teams in a global landscape.
- Define and drive corporate data strategy, operationalization models, application and risk management platforms, global transition, and technology projects.
- Multifaceted leadership that uses broad-based analytical skills to provide communication and coordination in the technical arena.
Helen is very grateful that the company she first worked in had recognized that many of the new hires were immature when it comes to management. Henceforth, they hired outside consultants to come in and provide management training. She mentioned that the training was in 3 parts: 1) ‘Are you sure you want to be a manager?‘ 2) ‘Coaching‘ and 3) ‘Facilitation’ and each two-day training class was enlightening. Helen thinks that there is a misconception as most people assume being a manager means they are in charge, and they get to call the shots. People don‘t tell the manager that he/she is really dependent upon everyone on the team because they now have to rely on others to do the work that they are responsible for. Delegating responsibility is a hard thing to learn at that age. Hence, being shown early, what is necessary to build an effective team to tackle problems has been invaluable to Helen.
Breaking the Barrier of Gender Difference
When Helen first started in the industry, there were not many women in IT. There were only seven women out of 80 plus students in her computer science course at graduation, which is less than 10%. Helen remembers that when she got offers from companies, but her colleagues in school didn‘t, her classmates automatically assumed that it was because companies needed a ‘woman.‘ She recalls that there was no recognition that she got the job because she was smart, hard-working, and highly motivated.
Her first job was being an application developer which was a newly created position at the company. The year that she started working, there were only six new hires, who the company had recruited from the country’s top CS schools. Helen recalls being told that “of course, I was an application developer as that was less technical as it was fuzzier.“ Her most vivid memory is being told that they could not understand Helen because she did not fit their understanding of “women” engineers.
A Good Leader Listens to People‘s Concern
Helen believes that transformation is challenging for most individuals and companies. Many do not do well with the unknown, and it causes undue stress, and anxiety which doesn‘t always bring out the best in people. Henceforth, Helen believes that successful leaders need to be good listeners, have empathy, and help facilitate conversations for any transformation. She adds that in IT, people tend to focus much more on the technology and its implementation. They forget that technology is usually the easy part but bringing people along the journey is hard. Helen cautions that if leaders don‘t take the time to listen to people‘s concerns and address them, they do not get their buy-in and build an effective team.
Being at Customer‘s Shoes to Get Innovative Ideas
Helen told us that she gets to innovate new things by ‘dreaming.’ She presumes that innovation comes when leaders take a step back, listen, and understand customer‘s challenges and issues before they even look at their existing products or processes. Helen reckons that a leader‘s job is to help improve the company‘s processes and get more value out of their data assets.
Identifying the Right Approach through Disruptive Technology
Helen believes that disruptive technologies have had a tremendous impact on innovation over the last few years. She says that almost every company is looking to get into AI/ML, Cloud, and Big Data. The challenge is identifying the right approach, one that provides efficient access to the data while protecting it and the company from harm.
Helen said that about ten years ago, the CIO primarily needed to have a firm understanding of technology and that was good enough. She now questions leaders on how they build their processes to deliver the services necessary to support the business. Helen believes that to deliver value to the business today, leaders need to understand the business problems and solve it by recognizing the value of the data better. That includes the risks associated with the data from a legal and compliance perspective. She adds that to stay ahead, leaders need to partner with CDO (Chief Data Officer), CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), CPO (Chief Privacy Officer) along with CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and Network team. Eliminating the silo approach and unifying data management to address infrastructure, analytics, privacy, and compliance together is the only way to accelerate business objectives.
Transforming Enterprise‘s Way of Data Storage
Helen thinks that Data Dynamics is in the midst of a massive transformation. The team is pivoting from a company known for its ability to migrate data in the storage space into a company that will help customers better understand and more efficiently manage their unstructured data.
Helen mentions that she joined Data Dynamics because of the vision of Piyush Mehta, the CEO. She states that when he approached her almost a year ago asking for her opinion for a new product, he was looking to launch, she loved it. Helen likes the vision of building a platform that aids people to understand what they have in the unstructured space with an eye on how they catalog, manage, and, more importantly, protect it. She thinks that it is very compelling. Helen adds that her experience from working as a CDO and Data Scientist, led her to the conclusion that there is a massive need for a new enterprise approach to this.
Advising to Learn, Listen and Adapt Limitlessly
Helen advises women leaders to learn, listen, and adapt constantly. She insists on not limiting themselves to what they “think they can do”, but to aim for what they “want to do” and challenge themselves to accomplish it. Helen guides women leaders to surround themselves with people who will support, mentor, and sponsor them. She concludes by suggesting that leaders always to be true and be the best version of themselves.