A man in a green shirt with glasses smiles at the camera with arms folded. Behind him is a large brown table and a plant against a white wall.
Donal Lyons. Image: Fidelity Investments

How this project manager’s automation role has evolved

28 Jul 2021

Fidelity Investment’s Donal Lyons discusses his move from operations analyst to project manager and how automation has changed his team’s work.

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Despite having the title of team lead, Donal Lyons says he would feel more comfortable describing himself as a project manager.

At Fidelity Investments, Lyons’ team works on a blend of critical data management and project-based data analysis and automation. He says when he first joined the company, the team was completely operations based, meaning most of their time was spent performing data validation and data updates as part of various reports querying the data.

“My role has evolved over that time, such is the pace and evolution of our innovative workforce,” he adds.

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If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

Every morning starts with a short and snappy project stand-up with the team, which helps structure the day ahead. I recently became a certified scrum master, which puts me in the perfect position to lead these stand-ups and gauge where the project group stand in relation to our targets as well as identifying if any assistance is needed.

From there, every day varies which keeps it interesting. Sometimes I’m on video calls with my colleagues in the US, India and the UK. I also lead Fidelity Ireland’s chapter of the impact sustainability group, where I lead monthly meetings and co-host webinars alongside external speakers on different topics helping associates become more sustainable in their lives.

This is something I’m extremely passionate about and the experience I have learned via this voluntary role has helped enormously in my day-to-day role.

What kind of projects do you work on?

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to learn and develop in robotic process automation (RPA) before leading other automation projects to remove manual tasks which increased efficiency and reduced risk.

This is partly the reason we have been able to move from an operations team to a hybrid team which now includes developers and project managers like myself. I feel like the typical operations role has now evolved into a role focused on process improvement and automation.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

In the past three years, I have taken a keen interest in process excellence with a particular focus on Lean Six Sigma. I received my yellow belt certification two years ago by undertaking a project removing non-value-add tasks, before receiving my green belt certification last year after applying my skills to a large project where we onboarded a new vendor and designed a new process.

I find myself using these skills every day as I’m always looking for more efficient ways of doing my tasks. Now that I have become a certified scrum master, I would say that I use many of the agile techniques on a daily basis.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

I’m happy to say that I now find myself in a role which I thoroughly enjoy where I feel like I am thriving. I suppose the most unfulfilling days would be the ones where an unexpected issue comes up which diverts my focus and my time.

At the end of the day, I think this is part and parcel of any job, so I find it most useful to be calm and logical no matter what the issue is.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

Always have a structure. I always write out a to-do list and mark the items I want to prioritise. I also think its key to get up and walk around often throughout the day as it helps me maintain focus.

I often find that something simple like running an errand or walking to the café the long way can be just what I need to deflect my thoughts for a while before logging back on with a fresh mind.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

Always be on the lookout for new technologies. It’s an ever-changing world. Newer and better technologies are arriving all the time.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

Through our own research on what tools are now available, we were able to introduce tools within areas such as robotic process automation or numerous scripting and visualisation tools, which have transformed my role as well as the team where we now automate tasks for other teams within the organisation. My role has changed from an operations analyst to a project manager in the space of six years, all while staying on the same team.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The focus on constantly looking at ways to be more efficient. I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects which have automated manual processes allowing analysts the time to work on different types of analysis or learn new skills. This has possibly been the most fulfilling aspect of the role for me – to evolve in my own role and to help those around me evolve too.

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