SAP Champions Spotlight Interview: Dell Stinnett-Christy


The SAP Champions Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from SAP Champions and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

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Logical creativity comes in many forms. For example, are you able to solve the puzzle of 4 lines 9 dots? If so, post your answer and any comments below!

Instructions: Draw four straight lines to connect all of the dots. The challenge is to avoid lifting the pencil off the paper. Start from any position you want, but the main requirement is to draw everything with a pencil stuck to the sheet. Where one line finishes is a starting point for the next one. Also, you cannot go through the same line more than once.

Once you have the answer, take a screen shot and post it in the comments (below). Let’s see how many community members can post an answer and comment on logical creativity!

Why share this puzzle with you?

By connecting the dots, we can consider an analogy of finding the best path to a winning solution or outcome. By using our logic capabilities, we are in a better position to think clearly about knowledge, experiences, making connections, and developing new innovative ideas.

For Dell Stinnett-Christy, SAP Champion and Associate Director in the Enterprise Data & Analytics Practice at Protiviti, logical creativity represents an essential part of her professional and personal interests. As a board member for The Handweavers Guild of America, and expert in designing data structures and writing computer programs, she finds many rewards in sharing logical and creative outcomes for clients and community members.

It was a pleasure to connect with Dell and find out more about her journey!

Stephanie Marley (SM): It’s very interesting that you started with a degree in Computer Programming at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and then went back to school a number of years later to get your Master’s in Data Sciences from Merrimack College. What is it about business intelligence, design thinking, and User Experience (UX) that inspires you in your career journey and your current role as the Associate Director of the Data & Analytics Practice at Protiviti?

Dell Stinnett-Christy (DS): I actually started playing with programming when I was about 9 years old. My dad, who was working at Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) at the time, brought home a book from work about programming in BASIC, handed it to me and basically said, “Here, have fun!” I would go into work with him some weekends, first at DEC and then at Data General, and play on the computers.

I finished my bachelor’s degree in 1983. Looking at the history of women in technology, I was in school at the point in time when women who were joining the computer science degree programs were pretty much on equal footing with men because few people had any experience with computers. PCs were just coming on the market as I was finishing my degree.

One of the classes I was able to take when I was in college was a graduate seminar in database design. The whole concept really “clicked” for me, and I decided I love playing with data. So, after I got out of the US Army, I was able to find my first job programming and working with data. That lead to more application and database design, and from there into reporting. I started working with Crystal Reports in @1997-ish – long before it was purchased by SAP. That lead to working in BusinessObjects (BOBJ), also before it was purchased by SAP and from there into consulting doing BOBJ installs, upgrades, migrations, and writing utility apps using the various SDKs available for BOBJ.

In about 2018, I was feeling stuck in the BOBJ world and wanted to learn something new that I could work on until I retire in 2027-ish. I went back to school to get a Master’s in Data Science because I like playing with data and it seemed like a set of topics that are new and expanding and would keep me busy. I was 58 years old when I finished that degree.

Now, with my recent promotion to Associate Director, I’m not only continuing to work with my clients on various projects, but I’ve become one of the people responsible for developing a responsible data use strategy that we can bring to our clients.

SM: Above and beyond your professional expertise, you have a hobby that you have taken much further. You’re a board member for The Handweavers Guild of America (HGA) whose mission is to educate, support and inspire the fiber art community of all skill levels. How did you get involved both as an artist and helping create opportunities for artists?

DS: I’ve been involved in various types of “fiber” art since my grandmother taught me how to do embroidery when I was 6. I’ve always been fascinated with weaving and had played with little things over the years, but really expanded my skills when I started taking floor-loom weaving classes at the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild in 2003. In the time since then, I have taught several beginner and novice weaving classes – I LOVE teaching! I’ve also spent a lot of time volunteering for HGA at various events. So, I was quite tickled when they asked me to join the board several years ago.

Also, I find that through the weaving and quilting, I do use the same part of my brain as when I’m designing data structures and writing computer programs. The “logical creativity” aspect of both is very rewarding and is part of what makes me love the work I do.

SM: How did you become an SAP Champion? What has the experience been like for you so far?

DS: For the last 20+ years I have been answering questions about Crystal Reports in various forums and questions about BusinessObjects for almost as long. When SAP bought BusinessObjects and moved their forums over into the SAP Community, it was a pretty natural thing for me to answer questions there.

I was one of the first couple of folks to finish the “Grand Master Solver” mission when the SAP Community was migrated to its current form. Additionally, I was asked to become a Moderator a couple of years ago because I’m one of the few folks who are active in the Crystal forums. I think it’s very helpful to have someone who knows the product as well as I do to help support folks in an area where they don’t have a lot of experience.

I was also a member of a behind-the-scenes “SAP Community Reputation” committee for several years. I think all of this work was what prompted my nomination as an SAP Champion. Being an SAP Champion has been an interesting experience. It was cool to be invited to some Champions and Mentors viewing sessions during SAP TechEd, and there’s lots of great information that’s available to help me promote the SAP Community to my clients and others.

SM: As a self-proclaimed “data wrangler,” you have been outspoken about AI ethics. What are 2 or 3 examples of tips or best practices that you encourage when it comes to building ethical, responsible, and trustworthy data for an organization or supply chains? How can AI ethics improve people’s lives?

DS: It’s interesting that you should ask this! I’m currently helping my employer build a set of responsible data use strategies that we can bring to our clients. It’s also been one of my “soapbox” issues since I studied it while working on a Master’s in Data Science a couple of years ago.

Currently, many countries have regulations around data privacy which have come about because of companies misusing personal data, either intentionally because there was no regulation, or through ignorance and lack of thinking about the downstream effects of what they were doing.

I think one of the most important tasks in the area of ethical data use is developing an awareness of the topic, remembering that just because something can be done with a data set, it doesn’t mean that it should be done.

I think another thing that’s necessary in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is explain-ability. AI and ML models are essentially black boxes where only the data scientists know how they work. These models need to be documented in terms that business users can understand. Not only so that the users can trust what the models are doing, but also so that the models can be explained to auditors.

Finally, it’s really important to be aware of the possibility of hidden data bias. An example of this comes from a bank where they had 20-30 years of historical data that they used to train a model to identify levels of risk for mortgage applications. Being aware of historical gender and racial bias, that information was removed from the data used to train the model.

SM: You mentioned that you LOVE working with various SDKs (Software Development Kits) for two products: SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite (BOBJ) and SAP Crystal Reports. What are some of the areas that you track and find impactful such as data visualizations and analytics, dashboards, sample code, deployment scenarios, and latest releases?

DS: Most of the work that I do with the SDKs is back-end utilities that don’t deal with any visualizations or analytics. For example, the Central Management Server (CMS) database is the “brains” of a BOBJ system. However, most of the significant information about objects in the system is stored in a proprietary format and cannot be easily extracted by just running a query in the database. Instead, you have to use one of the SDKs to get the information.

Several years ago, my “Dell needs to learn Java” project was to use the BOBJ Java SDK to extract information from the CMS and output it to either .csv files or to a SQL Server database. This program pulls not only the information that’s easily available through the BOBJ QueryBuilder tool, but it also pulls information about object security and relationships between objects and outputs it in a format that’s easy to use. I, and a number of the people I work with, use this tool for things like security audits and validating migrations to new systems.

Because I have a wealth of code using many of the BOBJ SDKs, I was asked to beta test the BOBJ 4.2 SP4 release where all of the security libraries were updated to make sure that it didn’t break anything.

As a result, I answer questions and provide code snippets in the SAP Community.

SM: Clearly continuous learning is part of your MO (mode of operation). What suggestions do you give students and recent graduates who want to get a high-quality job and make the most of their investment in education?

DS: Don’t rest on your laurels – just because you know how to do something well, don’t let that be the only thing you know how to do. Odds are that within a few years there will be major changes to the software you’re working with, or the software will become obsolete.

Always keep an eye on current trends in technology and explore what seems interesting. I finished a Master’s in Data Science when I was 58 because I want to stay relevant until I retire – you’re never too old to learn new things.

SAP Community

– Call to Action –

Logical creativity comes in many forms.
Are you able to solve the puzzle of 4 lines 9 dots (see instructions above)?
If so, post your answer and any comments below!

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