The digital overhauls underway across corporate America are better positioning tech chiefs for the CEO role. Sandeep Swadia, however, went in reverse. He left his post as the top executive of the bot-detection and cybersecurity startup White Ops to become the chief data and trust officer at The Trade Group. At the advertising-tech company with a $8.6 billion market cap, Swadia will work to ensure that customers have full ownership of their data. The move highlights the growing importance of the roles as organizations seek to use the troves of stored consumer information to improve efficiencies, both for the company and the end customer.  Click here for more BI Prime stories.The digital push across corporate America is giving tech chiefs a clearer path to the CEO job than ever before. But Sandeep Swadia opted to go in the opposite direction.Increasingly, chief data officers, chief technology officers, and chief information officers are the ones managing the sweeping digital overhauls at large corporations. It is giving them immense oversight and visibility across the enterprise, authority that creates a new level of prestige for positions once relegated to addressing help tickets on computer issues.The roles are becoming so important that in Swadia’s case, he said he turned down other offers, including one to become the CEO of “a very cool startup,” to be the chief data and trust officer at The Trade Desk, an advertising-tech company with a market cap of $8.6 billion. That meant jumping from his previous role as CEO of the bot-detection and cybersecurity startup White Ops. “It just came down to this very personal question: How do I have a broader impact on millions, if not billions, of humans around me?” he told Business Insider. “It was not an easy decision. It took me a while.”The move shows not only how critical data is as organizations seek to, among other things, employ artificial intelligence and other advanced tech to better serve customers, but it also demonstrates the importance of having a dedicated person to manage those efforts and the prominence of the position.Leading those initiatives often requires a vast array of skills — from understanding how data can be employed to addressing operational deficiencies and changing the culture to one that supports the adoption of artificial intelligence and other advanced tech.That’s why Swadia says tech heads need to approach the fresh responsibilities with a sense of humility and be in a constant state of curiosity. In a recent interview, he outlined his new role at The Trade Desk and offered up advice for future tech leaders.’This role is bigger than the CIO’The positions of chief data officer and chief trust officer are relatively new within corporate America. While different, they often dovetail off the work done by chief information officers. For Swadia, however, the position is much more significant.”This role is bigger than the CIO,” he said of the chief-data-officer position. “More and more companies will start thinking about the role in the way we are thinking about it.”At the heart of the position is transparency, ensuring that all consumer data used by The Trade Desk is ultimately controlled by the consumer and advocating more broadly to define privacy and security standards that can be employed across the advertising industry — what Swadia refers to as the “collective North Star.” “If you think about all three core stakeholders — the consumer, the advertiser, and the publisher — the connecting thread here is data and, more importantly, the responsible use of data. And that’s where I think these roles become very important,” he said.Read more: A CIO who jumped to CEO says future women tech leaders need to take these 2 steps immediately to position themselves for promotionsA large part of his job will also be helping The Trade Desk succeed in emerging markets while still adhering to the core philosophy of protecting customer and consumer information. With the rise of connected TV — including streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu — and the new advertising opportunities available, Swadia says the industry has an obligation to ensure that those platforms are built with “the same transparency and trust” as traditional viewing. To accomplish all this, Swadia is spending his first 90 days on the job on a listening tour of all the interests he must balance in the new role, including employees and clients. Specifically, Swadia is looking for areas ripe for improvement on the data side that would have the most immediate and widespread impact on operations, as well as how best to tout The Trade Desk’s vision for an open programmatic environment.  Be humble, be curiousAs they lead digital overhauls, tech leaders are having to interact with all areas of the business, from finance and customer service to supply-chain operations.That means those chiefs need to be flexible, according to Swadia. “If you have the propensity to say, ‘My way or the highway,’ you will probably flame out very quickly,” he said.In fact, Swadia said chief data officers shouldn’t even have a playbook for the position or demand that things be done a certain way “because by the time you finish that sentence, the reality has shifted dramatically,” he added.A constant state of learning is also critical, as the parts of the job a tech leader doesn’t know is “always going to be 10 times more than the stuff you think you know.””When you are a CEO, you have these blind spots and because everybody tells you what you want to hear,” Swadia said. “I’ve been very fortunate that [my mentors] have always told me what I don’t want to hear.”The combination of the roles of chief data officer and chief trust officer is a trend that is likely to continue as pressure builds on companies to better protect consumer information while trying to harness it to improve efficiencies — both for the organization and the end customer. 

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