Member Spotlight: Laura Downey

By Jessica Lombardo posted 05-02-2018 14:46


Laura Downey BannerAffectionately known as the TSA Lady at AIIM18, Laura made quite the impression in AIIM's Deep Learning/Machine Learning workshop and roundtables with her thoughtful insight and challenging questions. As an industry professional with over 25 years of experience, she's well poised to share back her insight--look for her work in AIIM's WIIM community, emerging tech talk, and hopefully on stage at AIIM19! Connect with her here.

Laura L. Downey, PhD
Branch Chief, Applied Architecture in the Enterprise Architecture Division
Transportation Security Administration

Where do you live in?  Northern Virginia in the Washington DC Metro Area

How long have you worked in information management?  25+ years in technology with a significant portion involving information and data activities.

What does your work entail?  As part of the Enterprise Architecture Division, I lead five areas including information/data architecture and management, system architecture, application architecture, network architecture, and security architecture.

Do you have company support?  We have support for various aspects of information/data work with a focus on data modeling, structured data, and traditional data management.  Records management resides in a different organization.

How are you helping drive the goals of your office through your work?  The goal of TSA is to help keep the nation’s transportation systems safe.  For enterprise architecture, we support this goal by ensuring alignment of people, process, information, and technology.  We enable informed decision making by providing views across the enterprise to communicate the current state and identify gaps and overlaps in technology and information/data.  We also chart the path forward with to-be views and associated roadmaps.  Our office provides a unique enterprise perspective and how mission capabilities, information/data, and technology fit together and impact each other.   Some of our products include enterprise conceptual and logical data models, defined and measured data management process, enterprise security views, and enterprise applications view.

 What has been the biggest success in your career in information management? There have been a couple.  Being a founding member of the division and determining that 4/10 branch staff would focus on information/data architecture and management, with two being senior positions.  Establishing the first set of enterprise information/data standards at TSA.  Consistently placing in the top three on the DHS Data Management scorecard and recently driving significant changes to the scorecard to focus more on information management and unstructured data.

What’s your current biggest work challenge?  Truly understanding the depth and breadth of the information/data landscape and making sense of it to deliver critical information to decision-makers.  I proposed and executed some studies to gather information on repositories, volume, content, and structure.  This will help drive critical decisions for info/data management and application of technologies e.g., search, DLP, AI and others.

You recently attended AIIM18—in your opinion, what were the highlights of the conference?  For me the keynotes were some of the best.  Loved the songwriting!  I was one of the ones up on the stage singing away about “data, so much data…..” and contributed the “train running right over you” concept. LOL!  Originally from Texas, a country song with a train was familiar.  John Mancini’s keynote and his anecdote highlighting the importance of cross-channel information management was another favorite.  I really resonated with the final keynote by futurist Mike Walsh and I am contemplating getting a t-shirt that says “I am an algorithmic leader!”.  

You also took a precon while at AIIM18, How to Leverage Deep Learning & Machine Learning, a course that will be released online in May. What were your thoughts and takeaways? The workshop provided the key technical takeaways I sought at the conference.  The overview on the different kinds of machine learning (ML) and the various approaches was very good as well as the associated practical applications and case studies.  As a bonus I was not expecting information on RPA and Blockchain but really appreciated them being included.  I had already been contemplating applying ML and this gave me more background.  I also came away with the intention of looking for some quick wins with RPA too.  As soon as I returned I met with my staff to share information on the workshop and the keynotes.  I also think AIIM should consider developing an “Applied Machine Learning Specialist” designation.

What are the top 3 things you have gotten out of being a member AIIM?   I have been a member since 2008 or so and first sought out focused training on information architecture, organization, and search.  The three main benefits for me so far are:  1) Training and certifications (first an IOA Master and currently a CIP); Knowledge sharing on IM approaches and current state of the industry (surveys and reports); I often share nuggets with colleagues or dive deeper into a topic; 3) Expert leadership in the IM community e.g., the intelligent information management framework.  I am also looking forward to participating in the newly-formed WIIM group too!

Coming back for AIIM18 and looking at your career, what are you goals for this next year?  1) To review the results of the information/data studies I initiated and recommend a path forward to better manage and exploit mission information/data.  2) To adopt/tailor the intelligent information management framework for the organization.  3) To produce a series of enterprise information/data views to support decision-making.  4) To engage others and apply RPA and ML in the enterprise.   Bonus:  present at AIIM19 on enterprise architecture and how it either contains information/data management (my case) or is a critical enabler of information/data management.  Yes I’m a Type A overachiever:)

Thanks so much for sharing Laura! Can't wait to see what you accomplish in the next year!