Using your data platform to get promoted

How your data platform paves the way to becoming a CTO

Alvaro Encina
By Alvaro Encina
Apr 13, 2020
Using your data platform to get promoted

Data is the single most valuable resource driving your company today. But it can also become your company’s greatest obstacle to digital transformation.

If you’re an engineer, you’re in a position to champion an organizational shift stemming from data-driven decisions. That is, if you can manage to spin straw (data-as-a-black-box) into gold (data that’s actionable by almost anyone, even marketing). 

This blog covers the tactics employed by my data-engineering customers that turbocharge their personal careers, including getting lucrative CDO and CTO titles. They have done so not via political strong-arming, but through pure merit in enabling data-driven decisions. 

And for those not interested in climbing the greasy pole, this will certainly increase your earning potential, get you placed on the projects you choose, and give you more favorable visibility within your organization. 

Whether you’re looking for a promotion or seeking to steer your own projects more autonomously, this blog encourages you to seek out and champion inclusive technologies that help democratize data as a lever for career advancement.

Your teams are starving for data


You don’t have to look hard to find internal customers (marketing, sales, finance, manufacturing etc.) who are desperate to operate their group in real-time. These teams need help!

Here are some examples:

  • Sales & Marketing need real-time insights into their campaigns to optimize spending and tune and adapt pricing

  • Supply chain managers want real-time demand forecasting to ensure they have exactly the right quantity of stock, in the right place, at the right time

  • Security professionals want predictive alerts set for activity that might represent a breach

If you’ve built a data platform, you’re in an incredibly powerful position to turn your business into a real-time operation.  

So isn’t my problem solved?

If it were only this easy. Simply building a data platform isn’t going to promise you a promotion.

This is where every engineer needs to make a tough, but valuable, decision. Rather than focusing on what to build, it’s time to seek out how you can onboard new users and business use cases onto your platform. 

This is challenging. Engineering and Business teams live in different worlds. They speak different languages and think differently. There’s a natural suspicion because neither one of you really knows what the other does. Not to mention,  you have both had your fair share of failed projects when it comes to data. 

This is not exclusively an engineering problem. Business teams are notorious for changing their minds, and guilty of being sold “game-changing” technology on the golf course.  

See the big picture. Data brings people together. 


Data is a difference maker. It silences the hype, and helps to remove ego out of decision making.  When leveraged fully, it brings people and teams together for collaboration. When decisions are made collaboratively, backed by data evidence, trust ensues and the realm of possibilities expands. But done wrong or confidence lost, this can result in flamed out platform teams, frustrated business units and fired project owners.

No pressure then!

Get more from your data platform

No one said this would be easy. You’re going to need to give your business confidence that you can reduce their costs and risk, increase revenue and/or make them successful in meeting their objectives. 

So here are some quick tips to be the champion with your data platform. 

1. Understand & focus on right use case

Don’t get too hung up on the technology. Just make sure you understand the use cases and find technology (off the shelf if possible) to support it - rather than adapting use cases to support the technology.

And don’t feel you need to address the sexiest use-case.  The most unglamorous problems can provide the biggest return to the business and be quick to implement. 

2. Never eat alone


There’s an expression in sales, never have lunch alone. Everyone needs to eat so why not eat whilst learning about the challenges one of your colleagues has in another part of the business. 

So get out from your desk or cube, show-and-tell what you’ve achieved and ask them about their business and data headaches. 

3. Find quick wins

Demonstrate value very quickly. Don’t spend months building something to then find out it’s not what they wanted or their requirements have changed. 

In some cases, give them 40% of what they need, enough to give them some value and for you to get the feedback you need. Then iterate. 

Expect to fail sometimes but as they say: fail fast, fail cheap, fail forwards!

4. Give them direct access to data

No one understands their data like they do. Let your internal customers see what data exists and explore it using tools and practices that they are familiar with. Seeing their data will give them ideas of what they can do with it. 

5. Speak in terms of outcomes, not technology 

A business user doesn’t need or want to know whether underneath the hood it is really Rabbit or Kinesis or Kafka or even Heinrich von Kleist. 

Talk to them about outcomes and how they can use the technology to achieve them. 

dilbert presentation to manager

6. Make it sustainable and repeatable

If your data platform is successful, you’re going to get lots of demand, so prepare yourself for how you might scale up. This will require finding a method of deploying real-time applications that is efficient and consistent. 

7. Don’t put them in jail - compliance matters

This is where so many fail - so don’t make compliance a show-stopper. 

Business teams have strict compliance requirements that they cannot compromise on (lack of compliance leads to dismissal, PR disasters, fines and even criminal punishment). Understand them right from the beginning and be prepared to have to integrate with their tools and processes. They will need to know their data is secure, who’s accessing it, who approved it.

Offering solutions that are stuck together with glue and custom development isn’t going to give them confidence. 

Might not help you eat lunch, but you can otherwise be the hero of your company with and DataOps over your Apache Kafka and Kubernetes data platform.  Download it now. 

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