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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Training for Data Literacy with David Tam

David Tam, data and analytics business partner with HSB Canada, explains his team’s journey with data literacy training.

In this recent “Speaking of Data” podcast, David Tam discusses his team’s journey with data literacy, including how he decided where to find the training he needed. Tam is a data and analytics business partner at HSB Canada. [Editor’s note: Speaker quotations have been edited for length and clarity.]

For Further Reading:

Getting Started with Data Literacy: Two Tips for Success

The Changing Value of Data and the Need for Data Literacy

How to Develop a Data-Literate Workforce

Tam began by explaining that his department -- the data and analytics office at HSB Canada -- is a relatively recent creation in response to a 2022 company initiative that put a greater focus on making the company more data-driven.

“One of the key mandates for the department was to draft a three-to-five-year enterprise strategic road map for data analytics,” he said. “As part of researching that, I attended a TDWI Executive Summit where one of the main points was the importance of data literacy. I saw that that, along with a clear vision statement, could change the way our organization thought and worked.” [Editor’s note: Executive Summits are now called Modern Data Leader’s Summits.]

With this information in hand, Tam went back to his group and formed a data literacy committee with representatives from HR, communications, and change management; he added a consultant as well.

Tam explained that the committee began by asking themselves what it meant to be data-driven. “Twenty or thirty years ago, people were stressing the importance of computer literacy,” he said. “In the same way, we stress the importance of data literacy today.”

The committee identified four elements they’d require to be data literate:

  • Data leadership
  • Data literacy across the organization
  • Data as part of the decision-making process
  • Data maturity

“It was made clear in all our research, though, that data leadership -- starting with the senior leadership -- was the most important of these,” Tam noted.

He went on to explain that his team has made considerable progress since then. He indicated that they have identified four key data personas within the company.

  • Core data seeker. This is the basic user, the foundational learning path for self-service, or self-study courses for all employees.

  • Data storyteller. This persona targets some of our analysts and managers to show them how to present data insights to leadership for decision-making.

  • Data builder. This is a more technical persona. They build the asset -- the dashboard, the warehouse, etc. -- but in terms of literacy, their importance is in how they communicate with other stakeholders. Tam’s team had to make sure they could speak to the laymen in terms they could understand.

  • Data leader. Tam and his team knew about this persona from the very beginning, knowing as they did how important it was to the entire initiative to have senior management’s involvement.

“As part of our program we have ongoing training opportunities for our storytellers and our builders and so far the response has been very positive.”

Tam closed by saying that data literacy is a continuous process -- one that may involve additional training and identifying new personas in order to ensure it permeates the entire organization.

[Editor’s note: Visit for more information about TDWI Modern Data Leader’s Summits.]

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