Governing Body Spotlight

Governing Body Member of the Minneapolis CDAO Community

Sonia Keeney

Director - Data Enablement


Sonia Keeney, director of data enablement at Kindeva Drug Delivery, has 14 years of experience working in high-growth companies and building products, teams and processes from the ground up. She is also known for her DE&I involvement, having acted as a regional founder and president of the multi-award winning diversity council at Athenahealth and assisting with creating a DE&I function at Bind.

When not working or being harassed by her cat, you will find Sonia at Allianz Field. Being from the U.K., she is a little fanatical about football (soccer) and is a member of the MNUFC Dark Clouds supporters’ committee. 

Learn more about the Minneapolis CDAO community here.

Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.

My path was definitely not linear. My career started in the U.K., where I obtained my home office surgical license and became a behavioral neuroscientist. I switched to biotechnology; a career change that took me to Japan. 

There, I acted as a liaison to establish a new campus for an international university in addition to owning a research project. This work ultimately led me to the U.S., where I conducted research for the NASA Mission to Mars project, before switching to healthcare IT. 

I gravitated toward healthcare data strategies and analytics. It felt like a natural transition. I was able to use my experience in using data to tell compelling stories and to view the bigger picture. My knowledge of behavioral neuroscience allowed me to identify stakeholder and coworker behaviors, and to modulate my approach accordingly.

What is one of your guiding leadership principles?

I strongly believe in creating a safe and collaborative environment for my teams. It takes some time and effort to build trust but when it's achieved, employees are more likely to provide input and ask questions, challenge opinions, to take responsibility for errors, and to give each other grace.

What is the greatest challenge your particular C-level role is facing today, and how are you addressing it?

With high-growth companies, we have a tendency to build processes as we are using them, resulting in varying levels of data quality. This is often compounded with limited resources to train business units on data literacy, which results in decreased confidence in the data to make business decisions. It's not an easy challenge to tackle. 

I am crafting a communication strategy to help alleviate the issue. This involves communicating the high-level issues to stakeholders to raise awareness and providing multiple channels for end users to learn about responsible data usage and to ask questions. A longer term goal involves clear labeling for reports and datasets to easily determine whether they have passed a verification process.

What is the key to success for someone just starting out as in your C-level role?

I had an amazing manager and mentor when I started at Kindeva so I'm going to repeat the advice that he gave me. Set up time to meet as many stakeholders as you can. Build your network and create a picture of the current landscape. You'll find that everyone has a slightly different perspective and that will help you to prioritize next steps and build a strategy.

How do you measure success as a leader?

Being in charge of data, my go-to response is “via metrics and key performance indicators.” I think success as a leader involves a multitude of factors that are hard to summarize. 

I can give you an example of when I recently felt successful: My department was faced with a sudden change in strategy. They talked through how they felt about the change and discussed pros and cons, before coming up with next steps together. They demonstrated flexibility and resilience and a willingness to roll their sleeves up. I don't know if that was 100% down to my leadership, but I was very proud that day.

What is the value of being a member of the Evanta community?

My answers in this interview have a common thread in highlighting the advantages of working together. With Evanta, I'm able to learn from my peers, discuss current challenges and share my own knowledge.

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