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Data Architect: Loretta Mahon Smith, CDMP, CBIP
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Categories: Data Analyst/Architect

Name: Loretta Mahon Smith, CDMP, CBIP

Title: Data Architect

Company: T. Rowe Price








What organization do you work for?
I work for T. Rowe Price (
www.troweprice.com; NASDAQ: TROW), an investment management firm offering individuals and institutions around the world investment management guidance and expertise. In my 25 year career with the company, I’ve supported all of our lines of business and channels as part of information technology. Currently, I am working in an area called T. Rowe Price Investment Technology. As of January 1, 2008, T. Rowe Price had over $400.8 billion under management and was ranked one of the "top twenty-five" Investment firms in the world.[1] Currently, there are over 5,000 people employed by T. Rowe Price around the world.

What is your main role/title there?
I’m the Lead Information Architect for our Retirement Plan Services (RPS) line of business and have the title of Assistant Vice President of TRP Investment Technology.

What do you find challenging about your job?
I support projects by analyzing data requirements and developing data designs. I also provide guidance on strategic data initiatives. As a data architect, I have to balance the long-term maintenance needs of the enterprise data environment against specific project deliverables and dates. Sometimes, this puts me in the position of recommending changes in scope or deadlines, which is never an easy task.

What have you found that makes your job easier?
It’s critical to have a in depth knowledge of data analysis techniques, keep up-to-date on technical trends in the data management industry, and perform independent research on emerging trends, but that is not enough. At the same time, I watch the retirement plan market for changes that may impact the type of data requirements needed for our clients and plan participants. Overall, being prepared by having a thorough understanding of the subject matter is the one strategy that I’ve have found, which allows me to quickly absorb new information, synthesize it into our conceptual framework and translate it into a data design in our rapidly changing environment. That base of preparation also allows me to identify opportunities to improve our data management infrastructure while supporting project work.

How did you get started in your role as Data Architect/Analyst?
I began working at TRP right out of college, doing training, service and support for a new kind of office equipment, a personal computer. At that point, we were using Apple II and the very first IBM PCs in Baltimore. The company did not have an in-house data processing department; but when I saw that we were creating one, I transferred into it. I was a member of our initial standards committee, helped draft our first (and second and third) project lifecycle methodology, performed all initial change control functions, and wrote our first “data processing chargeback” system. Then we bought DB2, and I realized that the business knowledge I’d gained during my PC support days was an advantage in describing the data portion of requirements. I started to focus on data in 1988, helped write our first data dictionary application, and then spent a few years as a DB2 database analyst. From 1993 through 1999, I had the privilege of being one of the first part-time professionals in the company, allowing me to balance home and work before most companies were offering that option. Since coming back full time, I’ve been focused on the strategic, conceptual, logical, and first-cut physical data modeling for all of our RDBMS platforms (DB2, Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server and more) that is required to create well-formed application systems. Most recently, I’ve supported the creation of Data Stewardship functions around some of our most critical data stores.

What advice would you like to pass on to junior Business Analysts?
My strongest piece of advice is to never stop learning and always make the time to share what you’ve learned with others.

A second, almost as important, piece of advice is to learn the skill of facilitation along with your other technical skills. Time is the most precious resource most IT professionals have. If you are able to lead focused requirements gathering meetings that yield clearly defined and actionable requirements, you will be able to complete your data designs more quickly and both project leads and developers will want to work with you!

Finally, work toward a certification in your chosen profession; not only will it show others what you have learned, but achieving it will give you the confidence to move from a junior to a senior level position. Become involved in the professional organization that aligns most closely with your specialty. Currently, I’m Vice President of Programs for the Data Management Association – National Capitol Region (www.dama-ncr.org) where I have identified a series of continuing education topics that are now part of our chapter’s regular meetings. We have invited speakers from IIBA, and these meetings are open for a guest fee to any IIBA member in good standing.

What does a day in your current job look like?















If you were to learn a new skill or competency what would it be and why?
Lately, I’ve been working on improving my communication and leadership skills. Having a great idea is good, being able to sell it is better, but helping to create an environment which promotes and sustains it is the best.

Feel free to provide any other info about yourself or data analysis which you believe might be relevant to business analysts.
In some ways, what I do is a highly focused aspect of business analysis. In others, it is a much more infrastructure-level, strategic data management function. I am not a business analyst by title...I am a data architect. I'm a member of IIBA, because of the overlap between the BA and DA professions...and the synergies between the two practices around the capture and definition of data requirements. I consider one portion of my job being a data analyst so the editor of Modern Analyst asked me to tell my story.

My certifications come through the ICCP:

  • Certified Business Intelligence Professional, Mastery Level - CBIP
  • Certified Data Management Professional, Expert Proficiency Data Warehousing & Data Management - CDMP

While I see business analysis as a complimentary discipline to data management, as is project/program management, I think that growth can come from either direction. A business analyst who finds the most satisfaction in working with the data and developing storage solutions may grow into data management as a specialization. Or conversely, a data analyst who is more interested in the movement of data may grow into a BA.
If I were asked to describe the difference between the two practices, here would be my answer:

A business requirement is a sentence; most of the time a person who leans toward data hears the nouns first, and a person who leans toward process hears the verbs first….both are necessary and complimentary!

[1] http://www.vault.com/nr/finance_rankings/imngmnt_rankings.jsp

@ Tuesday, February 23, 2010 8:03 PM
Comments from the following blog entry: http://www.70620.com/loretta-smith-interviewed-on-modernanalyst-com.html

@ Tuesday, February 23, 2010 8:03 PM
Comments from the following blog entry: http://www.70620.com/loretta-smith-interviewed-on-modernanalyst-com.html

@ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:07 AM
Comments from the following blog entry: http://www.dataversity.net/women-in-data-management-interview-with-loretta-mahon-smith/

@ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:07 AM
Comments from the following blog entry: http://www.dataversity.net/women-in-data-management-interview-with-loretta-mahon-smith/

@ Tuesday, September 11, 2012 3:07 AM
Comments from the following blog entry: http://www.dataversity.net/inspirations-for-women-in-data-management/


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