(US & Canada) VIDEO | We Need to Learn From Each Other — US Department of Energy CDO

Rob King, Chief Data Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy and Vice Chair of Federal CDO Council speaks with Katya Mijatovic, Principal Data Scientist and CDO Magazine Editorial Board Member, about upskilling the workforce for AI, adopting new tools, and the challenges around implementing safe data practices within the energy space.

A significant part of King’s keynote was about the role of academia, the private sector, the government, and the industry in developing data culture and literacy. He says that industry players need to learn from each other and need not reinvent the wheel. Collaborating effectively, in turn, benefits American citizens and the government.

Speaking about plans for upskilling the workforce with knowledge about AI and utilizing data safely, King says that it is one of the factors that drove him to be a member of the Federal CDO Council. He emphasizes the need to invest in broader data skills and competencies and the significance of equipping the entire workforce with the tools and skills to treat data as a strategic asset.

King underscores the importance of roles such as data engineers, stewards, governance leads, and consumption specialists, likening them to the offensive and defensive lines in football — crucial for success but often overlooked.

He argues for the professionalization of these foundational roles, which are typically sidelined despite their critical importance in effective data management. King also advocates for creating career pathways and recognition within the data sector and building a cohesive community.

Furthermore, he stresses the importance of promoting data literacy across the workforce — the necessity of training employees not just in interacting with data but also in understanding its broader context and potential applications. This includes education on ethics, records management, cyber hygiene, and data literacy to ensure that employees grasp how their data interactions contribute to organizational success.

When discussing challenges within the energy sector regarding safe data practices, King reflects on his role as the inaugural Chief Data Officer for the Department of Energy. While still acquainting himself with the full scope of the energy portfolio's mission, he acknowledges the exceptional talent present in science, research, and technology. He perceives his role as an integrator and collaborator, aiming to harness this collective expertise to advance scientific research being conducted at the site and lab levels.

He envisions CDOs as facilitators, akin to the moon lifting all boats in a rising tide, enabling the secure and streamlined sharing of data and research across the sector without building redundancy.

Expressing enthusiasm for the agency's proactive stance and recognition of the importance of the data initiatives, King highlights the eagerness to capitalize on data assets for AI applications and to foster collaboration for achieving economies of scale.

When asked about technologies he is looking forward to implementing within the organization, King emphasizes the immediate need to focus on metadata. He sees vast potential in constructing a robust data fabric, consolidating and standardizing metadata to understand the source and lineage of data. This, in turn, facilitates identifying areas of duplication and the need for standardization, ensuring data quality and consistency essential for building non-invasive data governance and pipelines to support AI models.

King highlights the opportunity to reduce storage costs by deduplicating data, allowing for reinvestment in critical mission areas. He underscores the importance of integration strategy due to the federated nature of data across various platforms and applications, both on-prem and in various clouds. To address this challenge, he plans to leverage API engines and data exchanges to transform and standardize data for applications in use cases and AI models.

Recognizing the complexity of the Department of Energy's operating model, King further stresses the necessity of innovation in integration strategies. His approach involves prioritizing metadata and APIs while collaborating with Chief Artificial Intelligence Officers (CAIOs) on strategic use cases to ensure accurate and complete data informs foundational models.

CDO Magazine appreciates Rob King for sharing his insights with our global community.

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