Sowmya Kandregula Talks Data Governance and Its Importance in 2021

Sowmya Tejha Kandregula

Last summer, the Association for Cyber and Data Governance (ADCGappointed Sowmya Tejha Kandregula to its Advisory Board. It was emblematic of the rise of Kandregula, a senior data governance leader with 15 years of experience in the industry. 

“His impressive track record of successfully delivering client solutions for large and complex projects spanning multiple domains across different geographies will be an enormous value addition to the association,” Carlos Solari, chair of the ADCG advisory board, said at the time. 

Kandregula’s focus in 2020 has been on the growing a set of data demands, including the changing landscape of privacy laws such as General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), increased movement of data onto the cloud, and a greater dependency on quality governed data for machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. 

We sought out Kandregula, a frequent contributor to A&G, for an interview to learn more about his technology practice. 

Question: Tell us about your background? 

Answer: I was born and raised in Vishakhapatnam, a city located in southern India, popularly known as the “City of Destiny” for its beautiful coastline. My dad and I used to go for our morning jogging sessions by the beach. Watching the sun rise over the sea was special and I always wondered what was on the other side.  I completed my Engineering degree majoring in Electronics & Communications from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Technology University (JNTU).  

My first employment was a process analyst for a startup before moving to Bank of America as a business analyst within their anti-money laundering unit. 

Q: How did you get into a niche space in data governance/privacy? 

A: In 2011, the City of London Telecommunications (COLT), a UK based telecommunications giant, had acquired Collibra, a data intelligence platform, to address its enterprise data governance needs. Collibra platform connects IT and business to build a data-driven culture for the modern digital enterprise. I was the first resource ever to be trained by Collibra team on their platform. Subsequently, I implemented a data governance framework for my client (COLT), which included defining business glossary, managing physical and logical metadata and an overall reference data lineage. This project marked the first successful implementation of an automated data governance project in the world using Collibra. 

Since then, I have consulted and helped various fortune 500 companies across the globe in implementing data governance/privacy projects. The overall budget value of these projects is over $200M. 

Q: From your experience, how has the importance of data governance grown in the past few years? 

A: Data has become the most important pointer for making strategic decisions. And according to IBM, the United States incurs a yearly loss of $3.1 trillion due to bad data. Data Governance is the process and procedure organizations use to manage, utilize, and protect their data. With enterprises all over the world moving in the direction of data driven decision making, data governance has emerged into an all-important business function. Basing your decisions off of accurate data will enable leadership to make proper and confident decisions in alignment with the overall strategic vision.  

Q: What was your most memorable experience implementing a data governance project? 

A: One of my early engagements as a data governance specialist was with an American multinational financial services company. I was instrumental in building an Enterprise Data Governance Center (EDGC) in compliance with the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision‘s (BCBS) regulation number 239 that establishes the banking standard on risk data aggregation and reporting. I was able to deliver the result within a 10-month timeframe while the original timeline was about 18 months. This project encountered several issues and was at the risk of undergoing a scope revaluation when I stepped in and took it through the finish line. I received a commendation from the senior leadership for my efforts. 

More recently, I managed and led enhancements for modules such as – Privacy by Design (and) automation of Data Subject Access Rights (DSAR) in pursuance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) regulations along with governing the COVID-19 Data Sets for a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business, the first of its kind.  

Q: With a changing landscape of data privacy, what are the future prospects in this space? 

A: Modelled after Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was implemented in 2020. CCPA aims to protect customer data and give control to a customer on how his/her data is being used. Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and North Dakota are taking cue from California to come up with their own privacy laws. I will not be surprised if the US comes up with privacy legislation at the national level in the near future. If that happens, we are likely to see lesser data breach incidents, which in turn will increase customer confidence. 

Q: You also serve in advisory roles at various associations… 

A: I serve as an Advisory Board member at the ADCGwhere we play a crucial role in guiding organizations towards data governance, data privacy and cybersecurity in lieu of the changing landscape of privacy laws such as General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).  

I am also the Chairman – Advisory Board at the International Journals of Multidisciplinary Research Academy (IJMRA), an internationally renowned open-access publication whose objective is to bring in a high-quality intellectual platform for researchers across the world. 

Q: You have mentored more than 2,000 individuals and students across the world in the field of data governance/privacy? Where did this passion come from? 

A: When I was in my 12th grade, I used to teach math for 9th and 10th graders. At that time, my dream was to become a math professor, but like they say, destiny had other plans and I got into Information Technology space. In the early days of my career, I served as a coach to many team members. Whenever I visit India, I made it a point to conduct academic seminars at my alma mater. Later, I began to receive invitations from various universities. Slowly, this turned into a second nature for me. To date, I have mentored over 2,000 data management aspirants across the world. The fact that I am able to provide a sense of direction to individuals gives me an immense pleasure.  

Q: How would you recommend one start their journey into data governance/privacy? 

A: There are no specific prerequisites to begin data governance journey. Sound analytical skills and a penchant for learning are good enough! Many folks feel that IT background especially programming is required but that is not a true statement. Around 40 percent of the students I have mentored hail from non-IT background – accounting, biology, communications including college dropouts with zero to minimal experience at programming. But over the years, they have blossomed into wonderful data governance/privacy professionals. I also recommend being willing to stay current by reading through the latest articles/publications will enhance an individual’s knowledge especially with regard to data privacy landscape.