The Top 5 Chief Data Officers Of 2016

We take a look at our 5 top Chief Data Officers of the past 12 months


The Chief Data Officer (CDO) role has been developing for the past few years, with many companies creating the position to help deal with the huge influx of data they are seeing. It is often an overlooked position compared to some of the more traditional boardroom stalwarts like the CEO and CFO, but plays an essential role in companies today.

However, many are doing amazing work and we wanted to pick out 5 who have particularly impressed us in the past year. This isn’t necessarily going to be about new innovative ideas or approaches, but more about what they have achieved and what their role says about them.

DJ Patil - U.S. Chief Data Scientist, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

In a commencement speech given to the University of Maryland in May 2012, he gave a detailed account of his failings, one of which was taking calculus at a community college - ’It was then I realized that I wasn’t just stupid; I was really stupid.’

This ‘really stupid’ guy has gone on to become arguably the most famous CDO in the world, having worked for Linkedin, Ebay and the department of defense before accepting the role at the White House. Although he may not be the person who comes up with the latest new technologies or new innovative ways of utilizing data given his work for the government, he is undoubtedly the most highly-visible data leader in the world.

So rather than discussing his work, it is worth noting his impact just by being himself, continuing to spread new ideas around data and informing data policy in the most powerful office in the world.

Tom Schenk Jr - Chief Data Officer for the City of Chicago

Chicago is one of the most forward thinking cities in the US regarding their use of data.

They have become known for taking proactive steps for use with their data. For instance, they have opened up one of the world’s most open data portals, giving citizen data scientists the opportunity to make big differences in their city. They have also approached the accusations leveled at their police department through adopting data to investigate them and data to prevent them in the future.

Most of this comes from Tom Schenk Jr, Chief Data Officer for the City of Chicago, who has been in the role for the past two years and is central to the embracing of data by the city. He also writes about data in his free time and the intricacies of its use. Tom is the epitome of somebody who is bringing his passion for what he does to his job and this shows in how the city has embraced data.

Helen Crooks - Chief Data Officer at Lloyd's of London

The insurance industry is one that runs on data. Without it, they would be unable to evaluate risk effectively, establish culpability, or even make a profit.

At the center of this is companies like Lloyds of London, who are one of the world’s best-known insurance companies. Not only that but they are also one of the most advanced in terms of advising on insurance. Helen Crooks is pivotal to this and the company’s CDO.

She has worked her way up through some of the most advanced data companies in the world, including taking a leading role in one of the defining data projects in the UK of the past 3 decades, the roll out of the Tesco Clubcard scheme by dunnhumby in the mid 90’s. She has also worked at Virgin Media and Tesco before taking the helm at Lloyds of London.

Given the current turmoil around the world with wars and political decisions turning previously stable markets into roller coasters, it is testament to her experience and skill that she is excelling at such an important data-driven company looking to predict every change.

Meeta Yadav - Chief Data Officer, Blockchain at IBM

There are two things that have had a huge impact on data in 2016, one has been the increasing prevalence of AI and cognitive computing and the other is the spreading realization that Blockchain may well be a new dawn for how companies utilize and store their data.

Unsurprisingly, there is one company who has been instrumental in both - IBM.

Big blue are never far away from data innovations. Take Watson as a prime example of their drive for constant improvement. They have recognized this with their blockchain efforts and appointed Meeta Yadav as Chief Data Officer, Blockchain. With her background in academia at NC State, before working on IoT architecture and CTO Innovation, Technical Assistant to CTO of Middleware at IBM, she is more than qualified to do what will potentially be one of the key roles in developing blockchain for the wider data community.

Steven Hirsch - Chief Data Officer at IntercontinentalExchange Group / NYSE

2016 has shown that money genuinely makes the world go round, with where money is being spent, local jobs being lost to other countries, and huge currency fluctuations impacting companies across the world. At the centre of all of this unpredictability has been stock market fluctuations representing what they mean and acting as a watermark of the overall state of all public companies.

The NYSE tracks every trade, every stock and the tiniest movement in every company. It looks at all potential factors that could have impacted a movement and holds all of the historic data from some of the world’s most important stock exchanges. In charge of all this data is Steven Hirsch, a man who has overseen the data initiatives of the organization for the past 9 years, seeing it through recessions and seismic global shifts.

Having worked in the position for nearly a decade Steven is one of the longest serving CDOs in the data world and having worked with him several times, we can testify to his knowledge and passion for data. You can watch Steven’s presentation about Empowering the Data Scientist on Innovation Enterprise On Demand for free.

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