Ross Manning in a home office.
Ross Manning. Image: Accenture

Here’s what a data engineering consultant does on a typical day

2 Mar 2021

Accenture’s Ross Manning takes us through a typical day in his line of work and how he stays productive while doing the job from home.

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As a data engineering consultant in Accenture’s applied intelligence practice, Ross Manning helps companies get value and insights from data.

Manning, who has a master’s degree in electronic and computer engineering, works with clients who aren’t typically set up to capture, store and process data with analytics in mind, helping them prepare for a more data-driven world.

‘I used to think that engineering could be renamed as problem-solving. Looking back, that idea still holds true’

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

I work a lot with agile teams that operate in short, two to three-week sprints. These sprints are structurally very similar, but it’s safe to say no sprint is like the last – each has its own challenges and surprises. A typical sprint involves workshops with clients, whiteboarding ideas and turning them into solutions that can then be delivered.

This work can range from trying to understand how a large-scale data solution fits within an organisation’s architecture to something smaller scale, like how can we provide one single data attribute or metric to drive a particular insight.

What type of projects do you work on as a data engineering consultant?

I generally work on large-scale data projects. If a client is looking to deliver a project that has a large data element, that’s where I often find myself. The projects I’ve been involved with often start small and grow over time to a much larger size. My experience to date has largely focused on the financial services industry.

Having put aside all financial subjects throughout my education to focus on maths and engineering, I find it ironic that I find myself working largely in the area of banking now. Over the past couple of years, I have gained an increasing interest into the world of financial services and even enjoy listening to podcasts about economics and finance.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Data principles. Accenture has a big focus on training its employees and making sure we have the skills required in the market today. I attended a data-modelling course in Amsterdam pre-pandemic, and it was a great foundational course that I’ve continued to build on in my day-to-day work. Working as a data engineer, the tools, software and hardware we use are constantly updating but the core principles can be continuously applied across the board.

I also use problem-solving. When I was studying at university, I used to think that engineering could be renamed as problem-solving. Looking back, that idea still holds true. I was taught that there’s always more than one way to solve a problem. In my role, we are constantly trying to find the best solution that fits our client’s needs.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

Since moving to working from home, I find switching off mentally to be difficult. I used to cycle 30 minutes each way to and from work. By the time I’d turn onto the last road, I’d be thinking about what I was going to have for dinner and not the current solution I was working through.

That’s changed now since I’m working 100pc from home. It takes a lot of willpower to leave a warm house in the evenings to go out and go for a run or a cycle.

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

The number one tip that I’ve tried to follow is taking a full lunch break. By blocking out my calendar every day, it gives me time to reset and improves my productivity for the rest of the day.

I’m also guilty of focusing on the most interesting aspects of a project. Having and maintaining a prioritised to-do list is the best way to stay focused on deadlines. Again, I block out five to 10 minutes in my calendar at either end of the day to re-prioritise and update my list for the next day.

When you first started as a data engineering consultant, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

I was surprised to learn that the single most important aspect of the role was communication. If you have a great idea or solution and you can’t communicate that to multiple people on different levels, then it will just stay as an idea.

It’s about finding what works in each scenario. For some audiences, a data architecture diagram must be very detailed but for others, a high-level version is more than enough.

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

There has been a massive increase in the demand for cloud solutions, fuelled by Covid-19. While the role always required extensive knowledge of the cloud landscape, I’m now seeing that being applied in the day-to-day delivery of projects.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I enjoy being part of and shaping some of the biggest data projects in Ireland.

One of the aspects of the job that I enjoy the most is working through a solution at a whiteboard, even the virtual one, with the wider team. I find having different people share ideas and identify issues early provides the best solutions.

I also really enjoy seeing meaningful benefits from the work I’ve completed. For example, observing the number of views on a Tableau dashboard and knowing that I helped our clients unlock the data that is driving that dashboard.

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