(US & Canada) | Build Relationships So that People Feel Comfortable Asking Questions — Synchrony CVP Enterprise Data Governance Leader

Shertina Mawuenyega, CVP Enterprise Data Governance Leader, Synchrony, speaks with Asha Saxena, Founder and CEO, WLDA.tech, in a video interview about her career trajectory, the focal areas while bringing diverse skill sets together, driving data governance and how data professionals can be resourceful and tell better stories.

Synchrony is a public company that offers financing, co-branded cards, savings products, and online banking across various industries.

From being a technical writer to becoming a data governance leader, Mawuenyega’s career trajectory is exemplary. Shedding light on her background, she shares how her relationship with data started 18 years ago, working for a major fintech company.

There, Mawuenyega held different technical and non-technical roles, which enabled her to become a subject matter expert in the company's data. From experience, she shares how different roles contributed to her data experience.

Further, Mawuenyega mentions pivoting to work as the director of data governance as one of her enlightening experiences. She says that the data office was relatively new when she started, and she appreciates the then-CDO for creating a solid foundation for data governance and data management as a whole.

Speaking of her role, Mawuenyega says that it involved formalizing the data governance foundation across the company. This required dealing with data literacy for which her background in instructional design came in handy.

Delving further, Mawuenyega states that, having a trainer mindset, she loves educating people on how data can be used as an enabler. She preaches that data is a business asset, why it is critical to have good-quality data and the risk quotient of leveraging data.

Pivoting to the AI front, Mawuenyega discusses her association with the company’s CEO, as the latter developed public-facing principles as part of the AI governance strategy. She maintains this was to educate others on the company’s commitment to ethical practices around AI, and the principles focused on several key areas.

The focal areas of the principles included security and privacy, transparency, accountability, fairness, inclusion, innovation, and social impact. She notes that it was avant-garde of the CEO to come up with the principles and commit on behalf of the organization.

Additionally, Mawuenyega affirms having the right discussions with a team around responsible AI usage, although AI moves slowly in financial services because of the risk involved.

When asked about strategies to bring together diverse skill sets, she states that this challenge can be overcome by ensuring a common understanding level across the organization.

In any organization, data has its own language, says Mawuenyega, and she focuses on the concept of data fluency to bring together organizational diversity. She strives to ensure that people speak the same data language; however, it needs some education, depending on where one stands with data understanding.

According to Mawuenyega, it boils down to building relationships and making people feel comfortable asking questions. She admits that the domain is uncertain, and people fear topics involving data and AI governance.

By being relatable, it is possible to understand what is important to people and get to the root of what is being done, says Mawuenyega. While data governance is seen as a bottleneck, in reality, it is an enabler, and data literacy is key to it.

It is about empowering people to leverage data while making sure that the data is trustworthy for insightful and accurate business decisions. As a data governance leader, she stresses putting proper measures in place for quality data, mitigating risk, and promoting responsible usage to reach organizational goals.

For people working in data, Mawuenyega advises that one need not be an expert at everything. Instead, one needs to be resourceful, she says, and know where to fetch answers from.

The cue again is to build relationships to be seen as an enabler and partner across the organization, says Mawuenyega. Therefore, it is critical to be able to listen well, learn the underlying goals that people are trying to accomplish, and sift through them.

One of the fundamental skills to grow further is the ability to tell stories, affirms Mawuenyega. It is crucial to control and create a narrative and understand the difference between a story that one wants to tell and what needs to be told.

In conclusion, Mawuenyega advises newer data folks to try and influence, even without authority, be curious, and take ownership to resolve their curiosity.

CDO Magazine appreciates Shertina Mawuenyega for sharing her data and leadership insights with our global community.

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