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How Military Leadership Formed Data Governance for Monica Jones

Wed 14 Feb 2024

Ahead of Big Data & AI World at ExCeL London on 6-7 of March, we had the pleasure of speaking with Monica Jones, Chief Data Officer at the University of Leeds.

Monica shared insights into her remarkable journey from a British Army officer to spearheading data initiatives in academia, underscoring the pivotal moments that have shaped her career and her approach to data governance.

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Military Foundations

Monica’s professional journey began in the British Army where she embarked on her career as an officer after completing her degree and teacher training at the University of Sheffield.

“My first career was as a British Army officer … I discovered that you could actually be a teacher in the British Army. So I applied,” Monica recounted.

Her time at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which she describes as ‘the undisputed best leadership academy in the world’, laid the groundwork for her leadership skills and introduced her to lifelong friendships forged during rigorous training.

“It was an amazing experience … It just gave me an amazing bedrock,” Monica reflects on her time in the military, highlighting the enduring impact of these early experiences on her career trajectory.

Transitioning to the NHS

Fast forward to 2004, and Monica found herself in the National Health Service (NHS) where she applied her leadership skills and growing interest in data to improve patient outcomes.

“I started working in cancer research … and then moved much more into the data and enterprise architecture,” Monica shares, tracing her path through various roles within the NHS.

Her work, particularly in improving data quality and integration across healthcare services, underscored the critical role of data in saving lives and enhancing healthcare delivery.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the NHS, and it still is very much at the core of what I do now,” Monica reflects, bridging her past experiences with her current role at the University of Leeds.

Steering Data Strategy at the University of Leeds

The year 2019 marked a significant shift, as Monica transitioned to the University of Leeds, bringing her extensive experience to the academic realm.

Tasked with developing and implementing a comprehensive data strategy, Monica set her sights on transforming data from a burdensome asset into a strategic enabler.

“I wanted the data strategy to be within the context of our overarching ten-year University strategy … It had to describe where we were and where we needed to get to,” Monica explains.

Her vision for the data strategy was clear and ambitious, aimed at laying down a roadmap to streamline data management and foster a culture of data literacy and governance across the university.

Big Data & AI World and Beyond

As Monica prepares to share her insights at Big Data & AI World, her journey from the military to the forefront of data governance in academia serves as a powerful narrative on the transformative potential of data.

Her story underscores the importance of diverse experiences in shaping a data-driven future, highlighting the critical role of leadership, strategic vision, and collaboration in navigating the complex landscape of big data and AI.

Monica’s upcoming participation in Big Data & AI World is a platform to share her expertise and a testament to her commitment to fostering a deeper understanding of data’s potential.

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