Interview with Maressa Bekker, Head of Data Quality

Interview with Maressa Bekker, Head of Data Quality, Investment Banking

Maresa Bekker is a Data Quality Pro member and Head of Data Quality for a major South African Investment Bank.

In this featured interview she provides various insights on her current role and views on the data quality profession.

Data Quality Pro: What is your current role and involvement with data quality at the moment?

Maresa Bekker: I am currently Head of Data Quality at an investment bank, where I am responsible for establishing and managing the data quality structures required to improve the quality of reporting against requirements and lower business risks caused by improper, incorrect or inadequate data.

Data Quality Pro: Where are you based?

Maresa Bekker: Johannesburg, South Africa

Data Quality Pro: How did you get started – can you describe your career path so far?

Maresa Bekker: I started as a mainframe operator while studying part time on my BSc Computer Science and Math Degree.

After completion of my degree, I worked as a developer (VB, C++) for a few years and then got the opportunity to work for a pharmaceutical company where assisted in running the entire IT functionality. After this, I concentrated on data design and BI. I spent a few years as a Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence consultant in various industries for before becoming a data architect. This, together with the data modelling, BI and development background, laid the foundation of my current role.

Data Quality Pro: Are there any particular data quality skills that you draw on repeatedly?

Maresa Bekker: Integrity, integrity, integrity. 

Having done development and data modelling myself, I know the shortcuts developers tend to take with data and the lack of build in data management controls within the SDLC. My mission is to correct this and make data a first-in-line consideration for every new project.

Data Quality Pro: Which areas of data quality would you like to improve and why?

Maresa Bekker: I see two main issues. Firstly, as stated above, proper data quality control and data design are often overlooked in projects. Data Quality needs to be imbedded in the total SDLC – from inception to delivery.

Secondly, the governance body for data quality in any business needs to have exclusive focus and must be sponsored and initiated by the business. If it is something from IT by IT, it usually fails.

Data Quality Pro: Can you share your longer-term career plans?

Maresa Bekker: I’m busy developing an end-to-end framework for data quality that I hope to implement in the next year.

Data Quality Pro: What lessons would you give to someone looking to break into the DQ profession?

Maresa Bekker: It’s very difficult to study for this. 

Yes, you can do DAMA certification etc, etc, but at the end of the day it’s experience and common sense that counts. It will help to start in a company with working Governance in place, or a strong team that can take them there and learn from them. 

Every environment is different, with different challenges and obstacles to overcome. Often you will have to rethink strategy and change your focus in order to meet business where they are. Start small and build on your wins.

Data Quality Pro: Are your skills marketable and in demand do you think? What type of companies typically approach you?

Maresa Bekker: Yes. 

Especially in the current financial environment. Banks and financial institutions are under growing pressure to show that they have Data Governance structures and controls in place to ensure the safety and quality of their data Introduction of King III, Basel II and III and local regulations make it more important for specialists in this field to be deployed in order to establish and sustain these functions without putting too much overhead on already strained resources.

Data Quality Pro: Has social media and the internet helped you professional? If so, how have they helped?

Maresa Bekker: Sometimes. I’m not a big blogger, so I seldom post – but if I’m looking for something specific, I will make use of the information out there. 

I keep an eye on conversations and threads and very often I have used some of the ideas discussed in some of the groups.

Data Quality Pro: If you could start your DQ career again, what would you have done differently?

Maresa Bekker: I could have specialised more in data warehousing and BI and upped my SQL skills.

Data Quality Pro: What’s your biggest frustration when delivering data quality solutions and services?

Maresa Bekker: Getting buy-in and commitment from Business. If you have this, the rest is easy.

Data Quality Pro: What data quality training, publications or other educational resources have you leveraged to develop your skills? Which had the most impact?

Maresa Bekker: I use DAMA DMBOK a lot, but also purchased various books on Data Quality Management and Enterprise Architecture.

Websites I use: