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Satyen Sangani, CEO and Co-Founder, Alation

Describe your career to date

I spent my early career and academic training steeped in data. After studying Economics at Columbia and Oxford, I was a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley and Texas Pacific Group. I spent most of my day looking at or processing data.  

I then transitioned to tech, working at a friend’s startup during the dot.com bubble. Even though I did not quite know what I wanted to do in tech, I realized that I enjoyed building things more than I did analyzing them. I next spent a decade at Oracle where I managed the financial services warehousing and performance management business, allowing me to help banks glean insights from their data while fueling my data curiosity. As I served clients at Oracle, I observed a pattern of data inaccessibility and wondered, “How do you connect people with questions to colleagues with answers?” I ultimately realized that this was a massive opportunity – and worked with my co-founders to build the industry’s first modern data catalog, Alation.  

Alation helps more than 550 organizations across all industries build a data culture and improve data-driven decision-making with trusted, governed data. The company crossed the $100 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) threshold in 2022 and 40% of Fortune 100 companies use Alation.  

Alation was recognized in eight analyst reports in the past year and was named Snowflake Data Governance Partner of the Year for the third consecutive year and Databricks’ Data Governance Partner of the Year. Alation leads with our people-first philosophy, and we have expanded our product offerings accordingly as customer needs evolve. 

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your clients and on the industry as a whole?  

I think there are two big challenges in data, and I see both as massive opportunities in the industry. First, I think that many institutions got caught up investing in data for the sake of data. Many data programs strayed from developing straight line relationships to the business to deliver value and return on investment. Data leaders will have to drive and define return on investment in their projects and initiatives more than they ever have.  

Second, the tech megatrend for 2024 is generative artificial intelligence (genAI). AI has siphoned interest and budget away from data projects and every data team is being asked about its AI strategy. Feeding AI ungoverned and bad-quality data will compound this garbage-in, garbage-out phenomenon and produce results that organizations simply cannot rely on.  

For AI to be effective, it needs to be fueled by trusted, governed data, with users across the business empowered to find it and know that it is trusted. Data and AI leaders will have to invest in trust and governance. 

How are you developing the data literacy of a) your own organization and b) your clients? 

We are constantly developing data literacy within our organization. Our Alationauts have led data literacy training courses internally, taking employees through in-depth explanations of data definitions we use at the company. Additionally, we rely on Alation ourselves, with Alation at Alation (A@A) for short, to self-serve important information and promote a data culture at every level of the business.  

We recently launched our Data Culture Maturity Assessment, helping organizations link data initiatives with business value. This allows companies to further their data literacy, measure the value of their data culture, and determine the steps needed for improvement. For example, one user shared that they now have a clear roadmap for areas of improvement so they can quantify to leadership the business value of investing in data initiatives. 

How are you preparing your organization and your clients for AI adoption and change management?  

As the fascination with and adoption of AI grows, companies are finding they are unprepared for AI, which relies on trusted and high-quality data. When it comes to their data, they cannot find it, do not know who to talk to, or cannot even confirm if it is trustworthy. Furthermore, complying with GDPR, HIPAA, and upcoming AI regulations is nearly impossible.  

In response, Alation launched ALLIE AI in 2023. Building upon Alation’s core machine learning capabilities, ALLIE AI is a co-pilot for AI engineers, data analysts, and data stewards. ALLIE AI allows organizations to save time and scale data initiatives more quickly, democratize trusted data, and advance new AI initiatives. Customers rely on ALLIE AI to accelerate time to value so technical and non-technical users alike can leverage the full potential of their data.  

Alation also helped customers lay a data-driven foundation for AI, including GXS Bank. By choosing Alation, GXS Bank was able to create a single source of trusted data, with 300 GXS users accessing Alation for trusted data. They achieved over 3,000 SQL queries executing on Alation Analytics in 12 months and conducted 5,500 data searches. 

Satyen Sangani
has been included in:
  • 100 Enablers 2022 (USA)
  • 100 Enablers 2023 (USA)
  • 100 Enablers 2024 (USA)