Dr. Bryan Pendleton, Chief Data Officer, I&A (Intelligence and Analysis) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaks with Adita Karkera, Chief Data Officer for Government and Public Services at Deloitte, about key organizational successes, a bi-directional approach to educating the workforce, data needs assessment, soft skills in young professionals, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the differences and similarities between private and public sector CDOs.
The Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A) is a unique member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). I&A specializes in sharing unique intelligence and analysis with operators and decision-makers to identify and mitigate threats to the homeland. Deloitte Government and Public Services helps the government to drive large-scale, complex transformation programs, designed to future-proof public services.
In the beginning, Pendleton reflects on some of the key successes as an organization. The first one, he discusses, is publishing the first data strategy that truly aligns with the federal data strategy, IC’s data strategy, and the I&A’s strategic plan.
Pendleton refers to it as a “monumental task” as it is tailored to meet the workforce needs and advance intelligence missions. Next, it boils down to correct implementation of the plan and measuring the progress and success against it.
Embedding data scientists with a multidisciplinary team for rapid solutioning, while working alongside intelligence analysts has played a key role in driving mission value, reveals Pendleton. This mission value is embedded in the hybrid model, with the team that can bring together an end-to-end automated advanced analytic pipeline, to deliver capabilities for the intelligence workforce.
The partnership does more than just deliver value from the mission perspective, asserts Pendleton, considering it to be a part of the department’s data acumen and literacy effort. He maintains that working together enables them to speak each other’s language and understand their capabilities better.
Moving forward, Pendleton affirms that while there is a need to educate the intelligence workforce on data lingo, lexicon, and capabilities, there is a similar need to educate data professionals on the tradecraft and work of the intelligence workforce. He maintains that the approach is bi-directional and would enable the entire workforce to identify opportunities better and contribute to mission work.
Commenting on data acumen and literacy, Pendleton shares that one of the great successes has come out of partnering with the Intelligence Training Academy to create the Data 101 module. He affirms that this module is now a part of the basic intelligence training course that all analysts of the workforce would go through.
Pendleton also mentions partnering with the intelligence training academy to create an advanced course for analysts who aspire to gain higher data skills and knowledge.
Emphasizing key initiatives, he talks about conducting data needs assessments across the workforce. He wants the workforce to tell him about the data they need but does not have access to.
In continuation, Pendleton mentions that there is a level of complexity in it as it operates on three fabrics of technology where data might exist in the unclassified, secret, and top-secret level fabric.
To accurately identify correlations between different data sources, it is critical to have access to the right data on the right fabric. This calls for a thorough assessment of data needs based on mission requirements. Further, Pendleton mentions doubling down on embedded data science capabilities within mission centers.
Another area that he is excited about is the soon-to-be-deployed DHS Artificial Intelligence Task Force. Pendleton notes that the Intelligence community has massive capabilities when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. He is considering ways to be the bridge to bring intelligence community capabilities to the department and leverage investments already made to advance departmental initiatives.
Dr. Bryan Pendleton, Chief Data Officer, I&A (Intelligence and Analysis), U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Next, he advises young professionals to understand what they are passionate about. He maintains that passionate people are always better at work. Highlighting the skills aspect, Pendleton confirms that technical skills are easier to learn and perfect, whereas, soft skills are harder to adopt and mature.
Emphasizing soft skills, he notes that one must build capability and skill in this area and practice them, as these are the foundation upon which all work gets done. Elaborating further, Pendleton affirms having a solid trust-based relationship with his entire workforce including senior leaders and partners across the Intelligence community.
He urges all the potential leaders-to-be to give equal importance to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and practice all three together. For example, he says that while hiring, organizations must understand that it is not just about the diversity of the workforce but also about including those people practically and giving them a seat at the table.
Even the youngest interns get a seat at the table and the freedom to express their approach to problem-solving, says Pendleton. This derives the best solutions to the toughest organizational problems.
When asked about the differences and similarities in the CDO roles in the public and private sectors, Pendleton affirms that they are more similar than different. The key difference, he says, is that the key driver for private sector CDOs is profitability and revenue generation. This is the reason why data exists within private organizations.
Whereas, for the public sector CDOs, it boils down to enabling analytic insights. The currency of the DHS is supporting Intelligence analysis, he says.
Speaking of similarities, he mentions aspects like data governance, budgetary constraints, challenges in recruiting technical talent, and attaining the balance between developing employees.
Sharing an instance, he recalls speaking with a CDO from a medical institution. After listening to his stance on data governance and the lifesaving consequences of data sharing, Pendleton realized how it is the same with Homeland Security.
Explaining further, he states that there are similar lifesaving or threatening consequences if data is not shared properly and governance, privacy, and civil liberties issues are not worked out well.
In conclusion, Pendleton opines that in both sectors, governance, compliance, and oversight matters are treated as enablers, that enable saving lives or protecting citizens of the nation. That way, CDOs in both public and private industries are more similar than different.
CDO Magazine appreciates Dr. Bryan Pendleton for sharing his insights with our global community.