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Roberto Maranca, VP data excellence, Schneider Electric

Roberto Maranca

Path to power

 

Twenty-five years ago, almost to the day, I walked out of “Federico II” Naples University with a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering, which were five very tough years for someone with a more scholastic background of Latin, Greek and Philosophy. I sadly never worked as an aero engineer, but a few blue-chips decorate my professional crest: Nissan, Ford, General Electric, Lloyds Banking Group and now Schneider Electric. I started as a multi-purpose IT guy, evolved into an IT relationship manager and, over the years, I have managed almost all areas of IT from mainframes to business intelligence and IT governance. Then one day, five years ago, I converted wholeheartedly to data after a long gestation. I know now that data is all I wanted to do and, after a couple of chief data officer roles, my current data excellence position has got all the cards to be a pillar of that data revolution we all talk about.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

Being nominated among the DataIQ Centurions for the third time in a row, of course!

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Even if they are telling you they understand data, chances are they really don’t. If even if they tell you that data is important, chances are they are not ready to pick up the bill for it. Check thoroughly for understanding and even more thoroughly for agreement.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

2018 was a strange year for me, leaving Lloyds. I might sound cheesy, but I had a reality check on what is really important: family, friends, wellbeing. It was the year in which I tested myself with a bit of consultancy and decided to leave financial services for good. Then I met Schneider, whose mission and values really resonate with me, closing the last quarter with a level of activity that I would have not expected only a few months in a new role, but which is a good omen for 2019.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

Hopefully, this is the year in which we will stop thinking that there is an AI panacea that will magic away all our longstanding problems and will instead embrace completely the fact that converting to data-driven culture is exactly that - cultural change. I think the litmus test should be how many of the Top 500 company’s annual reports to shareholders incorporate words like “data excellence” and “data ethics”.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

Organically and inorganically. To drive cultural change, one ought to be in tune with the company’s culture. So if a coherent and affirmed heritage in data is lacking, you need to plant innovation cells from outside, but get too many and the risk of rejection is high. Thus, it is crucial to grow talent from within, focusing on seemingly banal factors, like data job families and career paths, employee data training and certification tracks, data communities and communication, communication, communication. It requires senior management determination and resilience, but it is a much cheaper, effective and sustainable solution.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

Digital neo-humanism: the more we study data, the more we find the human being with our millennia-old yearnings and frailties. There is a stronger awareness that to answer the big questions we face, big data is not enough. So I see human sciences fusing with digital sciences to mark the beginning of humanity’s digital future.

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