Stibo Systems honors women in master data management (MDM) and the great work by so many to achieve gender balance and equity. This series brings you interviews with remarkable women in our industry, and we hope their stories will inspire you to chase your passion for MDM and related fields.
For the past 12 years, Kelly Amavisca has worked at Ferguson Enterprises, the largest U.S. distributor of plumbing supplies, PVF, waterworks and fire and fabrication products. Last year, she stepped into a new role as Director of Enterprise Product Data. She was charged with bringing together the different teams working with product data across the company to ensure they were using the same set of tools and following a consistent set of standards. Today, Kelly leads product MDM initiatives across the $18 billion enterprise, overseeing the onboarding, management and enhancement of product information for more than 1.5 million products. Since 2015, the company has used Stibo Systems’ Product MDM to onboard, manage and syndicate product data across channels.
How did your previous job experience help prepare you for your current role?
Prior to joining Ferguson, I worked in supply chain roles at other companies for several years – first, at a third-party logistics provider and then at a leading seafood company, where I managed several different supply chain activities. When I moved to Ferguson, I started in a role in ecommerce, where I was responsible for researching products and loading product data onto what is now our flagship website. As my level of responsibility grew, I eventually was responsible for the product content team, as well as online search experience. I didn’t realize at the time how much my supply chain background and all the time I spent researching products for Ferguson.com would help me become effective in my current role, and it continues to serve me well now that I am responsible for all enterprise product data across supply chain, ERP and ecommerce.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I sit on the business side of MDM, not on the technical side. So, my day-to-day responsibilities involve a lot of organizational change management, meeting with our stakeholders to understand their pain points when it comes to product data and where we need to incorporate some data quality measures, in addition to driving product data governance. I’ve also got partners in IT that I work with daily that help enable everything we’re trying to do to streamline how we onboard and manage product data. So, it’s a lot of planning, roadmap development, change management and metrics measurement.
What attracted you to a career in master data?
At first, I think it was the introvert in me that liked working with product information. When I joined Ferguson, I was working in ecommerce collecting and managing product content for water heaters and HVAC equipment. It involved a lot of product research, and I learned so much through that. I enjoyed being heads-down, in a spreadsheet, trying to clean up and organize the data to drive the right online user experience. Later, we started to broaden our scope and work with other teams across the company. I enjoyed identifying the best things the teams were doing and seeing how we could expand on that by implementing clear processes and data quality standards. It really spoke to the nerd in me.
What do you like most about your job?
The people I get to work with every day. Data is not just about data. It’s the underpinning of everything we do as an organization, so I have to work with people from all areas of the company. And, personally, I love my team. I may be biased, but I think I have the best product data team in the industry. I also really like familiarizing myself with the tools. I get to work closely with the technical team and enjoy being able to speak intelligently about some of the more technical aspects that I never would have been exposed to if it weren’t for this job. Learning to communicate a business need and then working with our technical team to devise a solution can be really fun. I learn so much from the technical team every single day. On the business side, sometimes we get very intent on hitting a metric and achieving it in a specific way. We’re lucky because we have a strong technical team that can challenge that thinking and suggest more efficient or automated ways to achieve it.
What do you see as the biggest barriers for women in the master data field?
I’ve seen more and more women in this field over time. At Ferguson, I am lucky to be surrounded by a lot of strong leaders, both male and female, and most of the senior leadership on my team are women. That being said, I think the barriers to a career in master data are probably the same barriers that any professional woman in any industry encounters. I asked my mentor once for some advice, and she said if you’re adding value and are contributing to the organization, nobody can keep you out of the meeting room. In my experience she was right. But the key is we have to have people, women and men, who recognize our contributions and advocate to include us in that meeting room. I personally have been blessed to have that.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in master data?
Don’t let the feelings that you are not being heard or not making progress discourage you. One of the hardest challenges for me is that master data is still in its infancy at most companies. So, you may have to work even harder to be heard and get buy-in on MDM across your organization. Build a network, find your advocates and just keep pressing forward. And for those women in master data that are on the business side like I am, don’t let the technical pieces intimidate you. You’re the subject matter expert on how the business works with and uses product data; no one is going to know it better than you do. So, speak up!
How did you change the perception of MDM within the company?
As a team, we had to educate ourselves on what it meant to embark on an MDM program. Then we had to find sponsors from the executive level all the way down, identifying the people who believed MDM was important and could support it. It can very easily be turned into a technical initiative and it’s not. It’s far more about organizational and business process change. While technology certainly enables MDM, if you don’t go through the organizational and the business process change and you don’t have organizational support, then any MDM initiative is going to fail.
How does your organization promote gender equality?
I’ve been lucky to see the company evolve over the years and take positive steps to promote gender equality. We have several female leaders from the Director level on up, and we have corporate initiatives that promote workplace diversity and inclusion. Over the years, I’ve been a member of many different women’s organizations at Ferguson that have focused on everything from community events to coaching and mentoring other women. I think we’ll continue to evolve as an organization and make positive changes.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
My husband and I love the TV show Parks and Recreation. During quarantine, we’ve re-watched the series several times. It’s such a funny show and speaks to both of our senses of humor. My husband tells me I’m like the character Ron Swanson, so for Halloween I dressed as Ron Swanson, which was fun. I won first prize in our costume contest at work!