Harnessing the power of data to help organizations innovate

"Innovator at Work" Kulsum Lopez on collaboration, problem-solving, and the opportunities accessible data creates.

When Kulsum Lopez worked at the Houston Health Department, she was struck by the power of data to deliver operational efficiencies. Constrained by city budget limitations, Kulsum realized she could leverage technology to deliver digital transformation and enhanced public services.

It was a pivotal moment in a long career that has wound an organic path through many fields, including health and wellness, manufacturing, education, and the energy industry. Along the way, Kulsum learned that no matter the industry, one commonality wove through: You could reap the benefits of advanced technologies like AI/ML and analytics when there’s usable and relevant data as the underlying foundation.

At Dell Technologies, Kulsum is a product manager for AI & Analytics workloads, which includes solutions like the Dell Validated Design for Analytics — Data Lakehouse.  A data lakehouse supports organizations with business intelligence, analytics, and AI/ML through a unified platform for reliable, quality data. She leans on her passion for data and its uses across a variety of industries.

We can solve problems, create real impact and drive human progress with teamwork. – Kulsum Lopez, product manager for AI & Analytics, Dell Technologies 

A problem-solver at heart

Kulsum started out with a degree in health and wellness and addressed challenges in that space with a problem-solving mindset. It was an approach that her father, an engineer, noticed. “He said, ‘This tinkering way of solving problems would make a good fit in engineering,'” Kulsum was intrigued, and this launched her path forward to complete a degree in engineering which then later led to a career in management.

“I absolutely fell in love; this is my playground,” Kulsum says. “We can solve problems, create real impact and drive human progress with teamwork.” As product manager, Kulsum is solving those problems while juggling the responsibilities of motherhood. Being a mother has rebooted Kulsum’s perspective with respect to work. “It has definitely fed my ‘why’ because I want a beautiful world for my baby boy to live in,” she says. “Being time-bound means switching to agile processes so you can create and drive innovative solutions, while also continuously improving upon deliverables,” she says.

Laying a data foundation

From Dell’s Innovation Index, 2023

Agile processes are also what today’s enterprises need. But they face a worrying conundrum: They need data to drive decisions, deliver efficiencies and give them a competitive edge.

However, data silos and the explosive growth in complexity and diversity of data often derail the best-laid plans. Previous options have fallen short of their promise. Data warehouses can’t handle the variety of data—including unstructured data from IoT sensors and videos, for example. A data lake fills the gap for handling unstructured data but lacks key features such as enforcing data integrity.

From Dell’s Innovation Index, 2023

At a time when 66% of Information Technology Decision Makers (ITDMs) are not able to move and track data, according to Dell’s 2023 Innovation Index, which polled 6,600 global IT and business leaders, the solution to gridlock is necessary now more than ever.The data lakehouse is a solution for that. It handles a variety of data while supporting consistency. “As a unified system, it enables advanced capabilities like business intelligence, machine learning, analytics; it lays the foundation,” Kulsum points out. It’s a game-changer.

A data lakehouse is not just about doing neat tricks; it configures the enterprise landscape with an eye toward efficiency, Kulsum explains. Feeding from one source decreases repetitive work and breaks down silos. Applications for data across industries become clearer. For example, analytics can help deliver better patient care, help the financial industry detect fraud, and help the manufacturing sector maintain equipment uptime.

Innovation at work

Despite how critical innovation is for today’s enterprises to stay competitive, only a third of ITDMs say all innovation efforts are based on data insights, according to the 2023 Dell Innovation Index. This is a problem because all processes need a rock-solid foundation.

Kulsum leans on “Test Fail Learn” as pillars that drive innovation. “If you’re pursuing perfection, then you fall into a [trap] because it doesn’t exist. You have to create, put something out there and have a growth mindset to continuously improve.”

A growth mindset to continuously improve is the very quality that Kulsum embodies: Keen to stay current with the latest evolution of technology, she’s working toward completing a master’s degree in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Innovating as part of a team is key”, Kulsum emphasizes. She especially appreciates Dell’s Inspire program, which team members can convey kudos so colleagues can be publicly recognized.  “Dell creates an environment where innovation can flourish”, she says. “I believe that to innovate, we need a very strong ‘why’; The Dell culture sets the precedent for our purpose – to make technology accessible and enable human potential.”

Innovators at Work is a series on Perspectives profiling Dell team members who drive innovation by combining ideas and technology to create life-shaping impact. The series is inspired by Dell’s Innovation Index, which provides insight on what global decision makers are doing to create innovation resilience in turbulent times.