Witad Awards 2022: Reference data professional of the year—Maureen Gallagher, Bloomberg

As a child, Maureen Gallagher often asked herself—and others around her—a very simple question: “Why?” Growing up, she began trying to get answers on her own, and found joy in solving mysteries.

Her attraction to data and analytical problems led her straight out of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University in 2010 to Bloomberg to begin her career as an analyst, where she immediately helped to rebuild the data giant’s syndicated loans database. In the past 12 years, she rose swiftly through the ranks to become the head of enterprise reference data, overseeing all of Bloomberg’s security master, entity, and corporate actions products.

Reference data, which is data used to classify and sort other forms of data, is often viewed as less exciting than market data or alternative data. But Gallagher isn’t sold on this view.

“What makes reference data interesting is the fact that it’s always evolving and how you can keep up with that ongoing evolution, not only in the cases of how reference data is used but also in the technology of how it’s consumed,” she says.

Had she not been enchanted by data and its complexities, she might have become a doctor—Gallagher studied pre-med when she started college—but her inclination to help people never left her.

“People are such a big part, and it kind of ties into the ‘Why?’ and what I enjoy doing. Helping others understand ‘why’ or supporting them to solve their own challenges is important to me,” she says.

She has an impressive track record of understanding and meeting clients’ needs. Bloomberg has taken home WatersTechnology’s best reference data provider award every year since Gallagher joined the enterprise data group in 2018.

That’s due in part, she says, to her refusal to take “no” for an answer and her repeated advocacy for building the best solutions she knows her company can produce. Of course, the double-edged sword is that she also finds it challenging to say “no,” herself.

“I always want to take on more and give everything I have,” Gallagher says.

Striking that balance is an ongoing challenge for her, but she credits a large network of leaders and fellow advocates who have helped her overcome such obstacles and grow from them. “You don’t grow by just doing the things you’re good at, right? You have to be challenged,” she says.

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