What are thought leaders made of?

As a specialist recruitment agency to the Information Management and Analytics world, we follow industry thought leaders to keep up to date with trends and industry advances. We are always fascinated with the quality of information and communication coming from those at the forefront of the industry and so we decided to speak to three of the thought leaders we admire the most: Howard Dresner, Mike Ferguson and Chris Bradley.

We wanted to know:

  • How they became thought leaders
  • What it takes to become a thought leader
  • The real responsibilities of being a thought leader
  • Their advice for aspiring thought leaders

Our top thought leaders have provided us with fantastic insights into their world and exactly what makes them tick. Now we are pleased to unveil our findings in a series of articles that reveal how they made it to the top and became the leaders we all love to follow.

In this first article we are sharing exactly how they became thought leaders. Was it a deliberate or organic process? Are our favourite thought leaders self-proclaimed or was this title bestowed upon them?

Take a look at what they had to say:

Howard Dresner – Chief Research Officer and Business Intelligence Author

“It was not intentional by any means, but more of a natural evolution. Early in my career I taught at the university level and realized how much I enjoyed being a subject-matter expert and educating others. That experience served me well as I moved into the software industry –initially as a developer of technical curricula and trainer, and ultimately an industry analyst.”

Mike Ferguson – an Independent Analyst and Consultant specialising in Business Intelligence/Analytics, Data Management and Big Data

“When I first started my career, I had no intention of becoming a thought leader although that changed as my career progressed”

“Once I joined Codd and Date in the ‘80s, it was kind of expected that you should lead people through the new phenomenon called ‘Relational Databases’. Also since I was working with pioneers like Dr Ted Codd and Chris Date, the quality of these mentors was so high a standard that I felt almost obligated to try to get to the highest quality thinking in this field. I guess that was what drove me into that way of working and researching. When I was at Teradata in the early 90’s I also felt the same way. I was there to try to contribute to the advancement of the technology and had a role in a team that was responsible for ‘pushing the envelope’. So in that sense, working with other thought leaders took me into this.”

“After Teradata when I joined Colin White as his business partner, he was not only a great friend but without doubt another thought leader. Colin was also a mentor to me in my eyes as he was 11 years older and so high quality in his own right that once again I was driven to raise up my standards and work with him to lead thinking in the field we operated in. So I think for me it has been other people who have given me that incentive to be better and always raise the bar. Now that I work on my own, I still take the attitude to never stop learning. There are always smarter people out there than me, but I think it is good to work with others that you yourself regard as leaders as it drives you to reach their level and beyond.”

Chris Bradley – an Information Management and Data Governance Evangelist and Independent Data Strategy Advisor

“No, this wasn’t something that I deliberately set out to do”

“It most definitely happened by chance. Bizarrely I even got into Information Management originally by chance. After studying Chemical Engineering at University world events killed off my Chem Eng job before I’d even started it (it was September 1979) & rather than wait another year I went into “IT”. I was fortunate enough to work with leaders like Richard Barker & Tedd Codd and got an insight into what we now call information management long before it became a hot topic.”

“I worked on modelling and with Database systems way before relational came into view and those foundations gave me an insight into why getting the core things right is so vital. It amuses me to this day about many of the “new” things some people talk about which actually have been around for years. As far as becoming a “thought leader’ that too was part by chance, as I consciously decided to write papers, present at conferences, sit on standards committees and so on.”

Who are your top thought leaders? Is this a status that you’d like to have? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Do you have what it takes to be a Thought Leader? Find out in part two of the series which I’ll be sharing next week.

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

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