Professional development

Data governance: Is it the career for you?

Kimberly Doyle
September 28, 2021 by
Kimberly Doyle

No matter what type of business you’re in, data itself is a vital commodity. Without a healthy dose of data, organizations struggle to conduct business effectively or efficiently. Data management is a very broad field that focuses on data and data quality across its lifecycle. Within data management is data governance, or the rules, responsibilities and processes that specify how data may be accessed and by whom.

In recent years, numerous executive-level job titles have evolved within data management. chief data officers are one example. These high-ranking positions are data managers tasked with bridging the gap between technology and business. Their goal is to help their organization leverage data and, as a result, gain a competitive advantage. Chief digital officers are charged with using digital information and modern technologies, such as cloud, to create business value.

What should you learn next?

What should you learn next?

From SOC Analyst to Secure Coder to Security Manager — our team of experts has 12 free training plans to help you hit your goals. Get your free copy now.

Within the field of data governance, there is also a wide variety of job titles, including data governance officer, manager of enterprise data governance and data risk specialist. LinkedIn has 31,000 open data governance opportunities currently. Salaries vary depending on job responsibilities. For example, reports typical U.S. salaries of:

  • $59,400 and $90,100 for data governance specialists
  • $96,583 to $125,508 for data governance managers
  • $200,120 for jobs with data governance skills, such as chief information security officer (CISO) or chief technology officer (CTO)

What is data governance?

Data governance is defined by Gartner as the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure the appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, consumption and control of data and analytics.

“Appropriate” is a key term here as the protection of data has risen to critical levels while cybercriminals continue their relentless pursuit to disrupt, steal and ransom data. Further compounding the risk is evolving government regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley and many others that require data to be safeguarded. Non-compliance results in costly fines.

The goal for most data governance officials is to reduce risk while also perpetuating the increasing value of an organization’s data. To accomplish this, there are a host of areas to cover off on. The Data Governance Institute recommends you start your strategy by establishing a Data Governance Framework, or a structure that classifies, organizes and communicates the activities involved in making decisions about and taking action on data.

Within such a framework, certain risk management controls get identified and this is where Rita Gurevich comes in. She is CEO and founder of Sphere Technology Solutions and they are experts in access control and, more specifically, entitlements which are the permissions issued across all data. This may include group drives, Sharepoint sites, mailboxes, public folders, application data on a local C drive and more.

“You would be shocked at the gaping holes that exist at large enterprises when it comes to entitlements and it’s absolutely a major problem when an intruder enters your four walls and finds open access,” Gurevich says.

What do data governance managers do?

Governing data across its lifecycle is a big job and for most organizations. It’s hard to know where to start despite understanding its importance and value. The first step, according to Gurevich, is having the capability to collect data from wherever it is created and stored and organize it all into meaningful buckets.

“You need to organize the data in a way that it can be digested by outside individuals, not just technologists but the business community. Pulling reports with millions of rows of information, static lists of locations and entitlements isn’t actionable.”

Showing data in a way that is relatable to other business influencers outside of IT is how actionable plans get formed.

Another important piece of information data governance specialists should remember, Gurevich says, is all the answers don’t live in one place. Figuring out who owns the data and therefore who should and should not have access isn’t the decision of IT and their rows of data. Determining access, whether or not data is still needed, and other decisions must be sorted out from a wide variety of sources and people.

And entitlements change often, Gurevich notes. “The obvious examples are you have summer interns, people change roles, leave the organization, enter the organization. You need good housekeeping” to stay on top of how an organization and its data evolves.

How do you get into data governance?

Data governance positions vary in experience requirements, but generally, they are not entry-level positions. Time spent working in access control, privileged access and even network security is beneficial. Usually, a strong foundation in computer science is a good starting point.

Additionally, for Gurevich, those with a background in infrastructure and an understanding of storage systems and messaging platforms have an advantage. Understanding the technology makes it easier to understand vulnerabilities and how entitlements work. Her recommendation is hands-on experience.

FREE role-guided training plans

FREE role-guided training plans

Get 12 cybersecurity training plans — one for each of the most common roles requested by employers.

“Go manage an infrastructure. Go work on a storage team or a network team. You’ll learn so much organically about data, about governance and about security,” she says.

At Sphere, they look for talented, motivated-driven individuals who aren’t afraid to think outside the box and offer new ideas. “This is still a very new space, so we look for independent thinkers and outgoing individuals who are hungry for information, to learn, and to help others.”

To learn more about a career in data governance with a focus in access control, watch the Cyber Work Podcast, Data governance strategy in 2021 with Rita Gurevich.



Kimberly Doyle
Kimberly Doyle

Kimberly Doyle is principal at Kimberly Communications. An award-winning corporate communicator and content strategist, she has focused on enterprise technology for more than a decade. Her consultancy has led her to support in-house corporate communications teams for numerous technology goals including cybersecurity, SaaS and cloud management, data exchange, enterprise pricing and business analytics.