It is 2:00 AM and the office is dead silent except for the tinny radio in the distance far away down the cubicles, playing the roots reggae of the cleaning crew. You see the cleaning team almost as often as you see your family these days. You are sitting there, absolutely refusing to go home until you get to a level of clarity around the performance issue which has crept into a recent Data Lake deliverable. Your support team is on it and looking but you get the sinking feeling they might be looking at the wrong areas, so like any diligent hacker you are looking at the logs yourself. You have made some progress, some clues but nothing definitive, the new tools and the new platforms leave an almost infinite number of areas to examine, lot of rocks to look under. There is more to do tomorrow, and morning meetings, so you decide to send a summary email to your team and call it a night. As you are packing up, you get 3 emails from other team members, responding to your findings. As you read them quickly and try not to get drawn into another 3 hours of analysis you smile and say to yourself “I guess they are as crazy as I am.”
Congratulations, you are a member of the Data Guild. It is not a real organization, just a concept. There was no ceremony with placement of a sacred sword on your shoulder, no arm patch indicating your rank, no hazing, no banquet hall induction dinner with rubber chicken. It is not like being in Men in Black. It has little to do with being a member of DAMA. You are a member because you personally believe that there is a data innovation revolution in progress, you believe that you are part of something bigger than you, and you believe that bringing the best out of your enterprise’s data, using traditional and now leading edge techniques, is a group effort. You understand and are proud of what Open Source communities have done. You “get” the Maker Culture.
You are also proud of and amazed at your data colleagues, who are all pulling together to make things happen across multiple enterprises across the globe. Here is the key thing— you are probably as much virtually tied to The Guild as you are to the organization you work for. This is not a question of loyalty, your organization exists for a reason, and so does the Guild: they are not in competition with each other. You are just as likely to reach out to someone you know from the open source community or a former colleague working elsewhere, or Stack Overflow for a solution to a problem as you are likely to reach within your organization.
How is The Guild different from the multitude of open source communities, the multitude of LinkedIn Groups, the multitude of vendor conferences with “birds of a feather” sessions? Well, let me express this in data terms: we need “community metadata linkage” across all of those sub groups, so that we can recognize the power of the broader movement which is moving data innovation forward. We need to be having these conversations about innovation, and about all of our roles, at a bigger and broader level. In medieval times, there were craft Guildswhich allowed some degree of affiliation, protection and development for those with specific skills. To be fair, these early organizations also conflicted with freewheeling merchant organizations, which is where the parallel breaks down (or doesn’t, depending on your point of view).
Here are some proposed principles for The Guild (which generally draw from Open Source Community principles):
- Recognize that you are part of a broad community, not just part of a particular narrow data discipline
- Recognize and celebrate data innovation success and the people who make it happen
- Recognize and celebrate our community and the communal interest in leading edge data solutions
- Seek contact with other members, and not just virtually—go to Data meetups, Hackathons, and other events
- Help each other with difficult challenges, and do not always look for monetary compensation—Karma evens out contributions over time
- Give back to the community as your capabilities and skills allow, either with code or by other means, in person and virtually
- Invest time in learning/early adoption of data innovation, for the benefit of your enterprise and for your personal growth
- Engage the people in the community genuinely and personally-- not just to get a piece of valuable code or advice
So, welcome to the Guild. I am working on the coat of arms—I imagine a stylized image of an office building with one light on, below a stylized image of an old IBM disk drive bathed in a hazy cloud of ones and zeros.
Elevondata (www.elevondata.com) is a leading edge data management advisory and data lake solutions company. Vin Siegfried is one of the founders (and a member of the Guild) and can be reached at email@example.com.