10 Questions with… Alan Konczak, Data Engineering Manager at People’s Postcode Lottery

Hamilton Forth are delighted to be retained by People’s Postcode Lottery to appoint their next Senior Data Engineer. This week, we caught up with Alan Konczak to find out more about his career journey and what it’s like to work at People’s Postcode Lottery.

Alan is the Data Engineering Manager at People’s Postcode Lottery.  He is experienced in working with data and data technology -across multiple industries. He is passionate about continuous improvement and always keen to look for ways in which technology can enhance business processes and make them more efficient, effective and profitable. 

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’ve always been an early riser, so I tend to get out early and beat the rush. I’m usually one of the first in the office in the morning, which gives me a bit of quiet time to catch-up with emails/Teams messages, make notes ahead of meetings I have that day, and plan my time for the day ahead. When I’m working in the office, I also take full advantage of the free breakfast provided.

We have our stand-up meeting at 9:30am each day. This is a daily team chat, where we share what we’re working on, raise issues, ask for help, and share successes. On Tuesday we usually put work to one side and go for a team breakfast together.

After that, I spend my day supporting the team with the various projects we are working on. I attend meetings with stakeholders around the business, to ensure requirements are understood, and delivery expectations are set. I do regular 121s with the team to ensure everyone is working effectively and I also like to get my sleeves rolled up and do some work on the Data Platform myself when time allows.

When work is done, I head home and typically spend the evening being a “taxi driver” for my kids!

 

What were your ambitions when you left school/university?

I studied Computational Chemistry at university, but even before I graduated I realised that computing was my passion and what I wanted to work in. I decided after graduating to find an entry-level  IT role.

I didn’t set out to get into data as such when I first graduated – that came later – but looking back at my time at school/university, I always had an interest in projects that involved working with data, so I guess it’s no surprise that my career went that way.

 

 Tell us a bit more about your career within technology?

From university I joined a large financial services organisation initially in a helpdesk role. I think this was an excellent way to start a career in IT as it gives you valuable insight into non-technical users and the way they think.

From there, I worked as a developer for 3 years on an application that managed problem debt. It was during that role that the 2007 “Credit Crunch” happened, and I found myself being asked to analyse and model a lot of data, to give more insight and support decision making – and that was what really turned the lights on in my mind that I wanted to work in data full time.

I went on to further roles in that organisation as a Senior Data Analyst, then Data and Analytics Manager; before moving on to perform similar roles in other industries – government then retail – before joining PPL last year. During that time I’m fortunate to have been involved in the creation of many new warehouses.

 

During the pandemic, many organisations have accomplished what had previously been thought impossible. What have you learnt about yourself through this crisis?

Like most people, the pandemic put me through many different emotions and changed my ways of looking at different things.

Much as I’ve enjoyed the benefits of working from home, I’ve also come to realise how much I like working in a collaborative office environment. I really missed going to work every day – interacting and having fun with colleagues. It’s the small things like going for a coffee or out for lunch that I missed most.

I think the future should be about hybrid working – and enjoying the best of both worlds.

 

What attracted you to making the move to PPL?

The main attraction for me was the technology that PPL are using. I have spent most of my career working with outdated legacy technology, usually due to lack of investment in new trends.

At PPL it’s different. We use a modern (AWS) stack, and we invest a lot in new tooling etc. to ensure we take full advantage of emerging tech. We also have a culture where people are encouraged to learn new skills, and innovate.

 

How different is it compared to working in other sectors?

PPL is a very fun and modern place to work. The company really does live up to its values around providing a nice environment for people to work in and supporting them grow and develop. You never feel like you’re just a number at PPL, you feel part of a team.

Like any business, there is a lot of work to be done, but unlike in other sectors, the expectations are realistic and you aren’t put under unfair pressure.

PPL also place a large emphasis around learning and development, both in terms of the job you do, and wider skills.

 

What career advice would you give yourself when you were younger if you could?

I would remind myself that it is important to get a job that you enjoy doing, and work for an organisation that you want to work for. You will never be happy if you are doing a job you don’t enjoy or working somewhere where you aren’t appreciated. There’s a lot more to career-satisfaction than just the size of the payslip.

 

How has your leadership style evolved over the course of your career?

I’ve always tried to follow the rule of “treat people the way I’d expect to be treated myself”, and I still consider that to be true. I would never ask someone to do anything I wouldn’t want to be asked to do myself if the tables were turned.

I’ve learned, however, that everyone had different motivators and styles – and it is important to learn what these are when you start working with someone new. The most important thing a leader can do is create an environment where people produce good work, and get satisfaction out of doing it, whatever their ambitions or situation.

 

If you weren’t working in technology, what other profession do you think you would’ve pursued a career in?

Aside from data and technology, I have always had an interest in history. So, I wonder whether I would have made a good Historian?

Perhaps I could have combined the two and brought some data analytics into the role? – there is a lot of data available about past times if you look hard enough.

 

 If you could invite two people to a dinner party (living or deceased) who you choose and why?

One would be the scientist Humphrey Davy. He was one of the most innovative and creative people of his generation. During his lifetime he invented lots of important things and vastly expanded our understanding of the world around us. I’d love to understand what made him tick, and to find out what he’d make of innovation today.

I’d also invite the writer Bill Bryson. He’s well read and well travelled, but also incredibly funny – so I expect he’d be ideal dinner party company. We all need a laugh sometimes.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about the Senior Data Engineer position at People’s Postcode Lottery, you can find more information here.

 

 

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