A Day In The Life of a Data Engineer at Allica Bank

alex tran allica bank data engineer

The role of data at fintechs such as Allica is forever growing. Data empowers every corner of the business. And, as we grow, so does Allica’s data team

But what is it actually like to work on Allica’s data team? And what does a data engineer at Allica Bank actually do?

Let me explain…

What is a data engineer?

My job is largely split between coding and problem solving. As a data engineer, it’s up to us to make sure that any data we gather as an organisation is properly captured, validated and stored so that other teams can easily and effectively use and analyse it.

To begin with, that means working with our data analysts to understand what data they need and why. I can then identify what data we already have access to, what new data we can possibly start to capture, and that what they want to do fits with our data strategy.

Once we’ve scoped out the need, it’s just a matter of building it!

How I got here

I know plenty of data engineers, and everyone has a different story about how they ended up in data. In my case, I was always very numbers-driven! I moved from my home in Vietnam to the UK to study maths at the University of Exeter, before doing a masters in operational research at London School of Economics. 

From there, I was fortunate to get a space on a graduate scheme at one of the big banks in London. This allowed me to rotate through various departments, helping me work out what I really wanted to do. I liked to write about my work, and in the end I was offered a permanent position by one of the managers that had read a blog I wrote about data engineering.

After several years there, I decided it was time to try something new. I wanted to go somewhere smaller and more nimble, and where I could use my experience to make a bigger impact. Also, I was excited to move to a company with a more tech-friendly environment than a traditional bank.

Allica seemed like the perfect fit!

An agile data team

Allica operates using an ‘agile’ working style, with ‘sprints’ lasting two weeks. This means we work fast, make regular small releases, and are constantly feeding back and improving. It’s a very exciting way to work, and it means there’s always something happening.

The technology team's watchword is ‘accountability’. We have a vision of where we want to get to, set by our team leader, but it’s down to us to use our expertise to work out how to get there. I love the sense of ownership this brings with it.

As a team, we’re divided into ‘pods’, made up of a data engineer and data analyst. Each pod is dedicated to a specific Allica product – such as savings accounts, commercial mortgages or asset finance – and will collaborate closely with the relevant product owner.

But that doesn’t mean we’re siloed in our pods. We are supportive and collaborative, sharing ideas and solutions between us, and always happy to hop on a call if someone needs help.

At the end of each sprint, we’ll hold a ‘sprint retro’ in which we’ll come together and reflect on what we’ve achieved and learned. 

There are also learning sessions every Friday, in which a member of the team will do a presentation on any topic they think could interest and benefit the rest of the team. For example, these could range from ‘what is a commercial mortgage’, through to ‘how to write a Python library’.

We make sure, too, to get together in the London office at least once a month. We’re all friends as well as colleagues, so it’s a great chance to go out for lunch, or for a walk, and just catch up. 

A typical day as a data engineer

Every day is different at Allica, but here’s what my day looked like yesterday!

8am – breakfast and the obligatory coffee.

9am – logged on and answered emails.

9.15am – data team stand-up. This is a daily 15-minute call where we talk as a team about our goals for the day.

10am – coding and problem-solving. Yesterday, for example, I helped our risk team fix a data query.

11am – I had a catch with a new member of our team. We got to know each other and I and talked her through some work we’ll be doing together.

Midday – I had my weekly one-to-one with my manager, in which we talked about my work, how I’m feeling, and any support I might need in my work or to achieve my personal objectives.

1pm – lunch!

2pm – I had a call with one of my data team colleagues who is helping me tackle a particularly difficult data challenge.

3pm – finished the tasks I set myself for the day. For example, I might create a data model, work on a data query from one of the teams, or continue coding a new platform or tool that we have in development.

5.30pm – log off and time to relax! For me, I often try and do something physical. I just bought a new mountain bike, so I am using that a lot at the moment. Or I’ll take my skateboard to the local skate park for some air. 

In general, though, I try to steer clear of my computer. There’s no need to spend any more time in front of a screen!

Interested in being part of Allica Bank's data or tech team? Find out more about the team on our technology page.

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