On Product/Data Owner Work : an Interview with Samantha King

This is an interview with Samantha King, who has worked for Manulife Financial in a variety of roles including analysis, data governance, and management, done by Naomi House of INALJ. This is part of INALJ’s 2020 series on non-library jobs for library workers. Samantha has provided us with further insights into her work as an Electronic File Analyst and a Business Analyst.

On Product/Data Owner Work :
an Interview with Samantha King
part 3 of 3

Q1:  Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand what Product/Data Owner work is and how LIS folk can get into this field. Can you tell us more about the job? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got your MLIS (if you have one) and what you do?

(You can read Samantha’s initial answer to this question in part 1 of her interview, On Electronic File Analyst Work.)

My current role is as a Data Owner, which is just a Product Owner, but with data as the product.  Because Agile roles aren’t commonly understood, a general summary of what the Product/Data Owner does is:

  1. Speaking to the business to understand their needs and priorities
  2. Breaking down needs into manageable chunks that can be completed in a single development cycle
  3. Translating those needs and priorities to the squad for development
  4. Speaking to other product owners to collaborate and coordinate
  5. Brings squad concerns back to the business and any executives involved for direction

Q2:  Now can you tell us how You personally got into doing this type of work?

This is the result of seven years of experience across Manulife.  My three and a half years experience in Group Retirement, plus my three and a half years experience with data-based projects have finally combined into this role.  It requires a knowledge of the business, a knowledge of data, and a knowledge of project work.  Having some solid technical knowledge helps too. 

Q3:  What makes this a great field for LIS workers and likewise, what do you think makes LIS workers strong candidates for hiring managers in this field?

This is the sort of job where you will never get bored.  Depending on how strong your squad is and how much freedom you’re given, you can try to build almost anything the customers can dream of.  It relies heavily on relationship management, requirements gathering, and organization of information, which are all fields that can be learned at least partially through an MLIS.

Q4:  What is the best way to get your foot in the door or your first job as a product/data owner? 

Like with being a business analyst, getting into product ownership usually requires an understanding of the business as well as a background in project work.  Working in any business gives the opportunity to step in and help with projects, so focusing on that is a good idea.  Often, the best path is to go from business analyst to either a consultant or scrum master role, and then on to becoming a product or data owner.

Q5: Finally what are some of the most important skills / certifications / etc that LIS folk can do to prepare them?  Any last tips?

There are designations and certifications, but I think having BA and Project Management certification or at least training is far more critical.  Agile squads tend to run differently depending on which company you’re in (and sometimes inside each company), so companies often have training on the specifics of how they work.  If you do want training, find out if your company uses Scrum, Kanban, or a combination, and then pursue that particular training through a reputable professional development program.

Interviewee Bio

Samantha graduated from Western with an MLIS in 2012.  Since 2013, she has worked for Manulife Financial in a variety of roles including analysis, data governance, and management.  She is currently a Data Owner responsible for the personal information of millions of customers.  In her free time, Samantha enjoys volunteering, going for hikes, and of course reading. Pronouns are she/her.

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Views expressed are those of the interviewee and not INALJ or their employer. Photo provided by the interviewee and permission granted to use it for this interview.

All INALJ Library and LIS jobs may be found here. How to Sponsor or Post a Job information here.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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