Not About Data Governance: My FatherÕs Son

I have written many articles over the years about data governance.  Some people tell me that I have a passion for the subject.  This will not be another one of those articles. Although data governance and particularly “Non-Invasive Data Governance™” is a pretty hot topic, I am going to take a step back and write about something I should be more passionate about. And okay … there is a little bit about data governance at the end.

If there is something I am not, that is thankful.  Or should I say, “thankful enough.” I look at the life I lead, my wonderful wife, my terrific teenage daughters, my magnificent mother-in-law (had to throw that in), the place we put up and where I preside, the fabulous family and the friends I favor (needed an F word) … you get the point. My first thought should be – I am very thankful – a lot more than I am already. Okay, I will start being very thankful today. Perhaps you should do that too. With Thanksgiving here and holiday season hovering, there is no time like the present.

From time to time, I come across someone that knew my parents growing up in the middle class neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My parents were quite social but not to the point of excess, not in the least.  They were friends with their friend’s friends, and there doesn’t seem to be as much of that going around these days. My parents both passed away in a period of two years and that was ten and eight years ago. I miss them dearly. I do not come across my parent’s friends that often anymore, or their friend’s friends for that matter. Sometimes it is at a funeral for a friend or family member and that is understandable but also very sad.  But … when I do come across someone that knew them, one of the first comments that I get upon them recognizing me as a Seiner is,“You are truly your father’s son.” There is nothing that can be said that can make me feel better.  I am very thankful that I am “My Father’s Son.”

My parents grew up in Squirrel Hill.  So did my wife’s parents, or somewhere thereabout. My parents went to high school together, the same high school where my wife and I went. My Mom was an only child.  So is my wife. I grew up literally blocks from where my parents grew up and I walked (when I wasn’t riding my bike) to Carnegie Mellon University (my Dad’s university) to play tennis on their courts, or to the University of Pittsburgh to go to college (same place that my Mom went).

My Dad was a very successful person. Not in terms of riches, although he had more means then a lot of people but he lived well within them. For example, he said, “We will never need to purchase cable television because we have all the channels we need.” All three of them.  Ultimately, he  changed his mind when the Pirate baseball games moved to cable.  My Dad built my younger brother his first drum set out of an old school desk and some rubber pads.  “We will never have a drum set in this house” was what he stated before succumbing to my brother’s desire to play “real” drums. This ultimately made the room the three of us shared unbearable, precipitating my move up to a closet-sized room on the third floor. My kids share a bathroom between their rooms. How awful can life be for two teenage girls?

My Dad was a publisher and an author, a speaker and a researcher. There are many similarities between what he did and what I do.  He was always looking for a better and more practical way to do things. My Dad was a chemical engineering scientist. I became a computer scientist.

When I started The Data Administration Newsletter back in early 1997, my Dad loved the idea but made it a point to tell me that the first or second issue was not the most important issue. He told me specifically that the seventh or eighth issue would be way more important. The publication was quarterly back then, and my world seemed to spin in quarterly cycles of constructing each new issue in Front Page.  I asked my Dad way back then why the seventh or eighth issue would be so important. His quick response was, “If there is a seventh or eighth issue – you could be in it for the long run.” Ironically, my Dad passed away between the seventh and eighth issue.  The publication is now thirteen years young and has been monthly rather than quarterly for several years, thanks in great part to my friends at BeyeNETWORK.com. My Dad was prescient if anything.

My Dad was somewhat strict but practical with his handling of his children of which I was the middle son, next to youngest. He let me get away with a lot of stuff that I probably don’t let my kids get away with.  Okay … they better not do what I did as I grew up – and it is better that they do not know what that stuff was. My Dad taught me that there were consequences to my actions, and he was always able to get the life lesson across particularly when I wasn’t a perfect angel. I get scared sometimes when I react to something in my house-life and I get the eerie feeling that my Dad would have done the same thing.  And that is without trying.

My Dad (at the age I am now) and I look very much alike. At least that is what people tell me.  He had red-hair growing up, but it seemed to turn brown by the time I remember with tints of red in his sideburns. Then his hair turned grayish to gray and then it became thinner. This what I have to look forward to. My hair is still red, even though a high school acquaintance at an annual get-together last year told me, “I remember when your hair was red.”  Okay, there is certainly a touch of gray (happens each and every day) – but my hair is still red. Darn it!  I never thought that my Dad was extremely good looking but he always looked good, if not a little colored from the sun.

My Dad’s picture appears in the dictionary when you look up the word “practical.” He would never have allowed his daughter to buy a $150 pair of Uggs (ugh!), or allowed his youngest to have a cell phone at the age of 10 (or was it 9).  Even if there were cell phones back then.  In fact ,we had one phone line and one phone number that was shared by my parents and the four kids.  He always purchased practical cars – from the Fairlane, to the Aspen, to the Vega, to the Citations (so good we should have two), to the Fiats.  It wasn’t until we were all out on our own that he bought his Camaro that was lost in a flood (a real highway man’s farewell) 6 months later. He immediately turned practical with his next car. Not surprising. My wife and I own two Toyotas (a mini-van and a small SUV).  This is about as practical as it gets.

My Dad had a passion for tennis and played several times a week. I should restate that. He played oversized table tennis, that is, he played tennis like he played ping-pong. His game included more spin and slice than Bill Clinton’s best stories.  I was always embarrassed by the way he played because it was unconventional and never pretty. I play tennis at least once a week ,and the people I play against ask me “ever heard of topspin?” Sadly I say that my tennis game looks a lot like my Dad’s compliment of slice first, spin second, hit the ball deep (out!) third. Sometimes it is very effective, and sometimes (last evening) it is downright ugly.

By this point you may be thinking, He is his Father’s Son.  Well … duh. My Dad was all the things I can only dream that I am and will be.  He is undoubtedly where I got my passion.  Somehow, I did not recognize that when I was growing up. I am not certain that I fully recognize that now. Does anybody ever recognize what they get from their parents … I wonder? I once told our daughters, “Wait until you have children.”  Okay … it has been more than once.  You may have used that line a time or two in your life.

I am going to bring this to a close here and somehow relate it back to “Non-Invasive Data Governance™.”  The approach that I take to data governance is about as practical as it gets.  It calls for formalizing existing practices while addressing opportunities to improve. It doesn’t call for a large expenditure of money and/or resources. It doesn’t call for dramatic changes in operations. It calls for consequences when formality becomes an imposition. It can be sliced and spun in ways that no other method of data governance can compare. Heck, “Non-Invasive Data Governance™” is something my Dad would be very proud of.  Since, in fact, I am “My Father’s Son.”

To learn more about “Non-Invasive Data Governance™,” please click here.

To read about “Data Governance and Dancing in the Rain,” please click here.

To learn more from the author, please click here.

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About Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. (Bob) Seiner is the publisher of The Data Administration Newsletter (TDAN.com) – and has been since it was introduced in 1997 – providing valuable content for people that work in Information & Data Management and related fields. TDAN.com is known for its timely and relevant articles, columns and features from thought-leaders and practitioners. Seiner and TDAN.com were recognized by DAMA International for significant and demonstrable contributions to Information and Data Resource Management industries. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services, a data and information management consultancy that he started in 2002, providing practical and cost-effective solutions in the disciplines of data governance, data stewardship, metadata management and data strategy. Seiner is a recognized industry thought-leader, has consulted with and educated many prominent organizations nationally and globally, and is known for his unique approach to implementing data governance. His book “Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success” was published in late 2014. Seiner speaks often at the industry’s leading conferences and provides a monthly webinar series titled “Real-World Data Governance” with DATAVERSITY.

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