Statistics New Zealand’s (or Stats NZ for short) vision is to unleash the power of data to change lives. To achieve this vision, Stats NZ is transforming the way we manage data storage and governance and is setting itself up to utilise powerful modern analytics and statistical processing technologies. My team is driving this transformation by developing a platform that uses big data methodologies and technologies. Developing this platform is not enough however, as its requirement to run across several servers introduces all kinds of complexity. The technology behind the platform is designed to run across hundreds if not thousands of servers after all!
My role as a Systems Consultant at Stats NZ is to ensure the successful establishment of this new platform. My day-to-day work, which is part of a much larger project to rearchitect the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), mixes deep technical tasks with communicating and understanding the needs of the business users. The technical side requires me to maintain, monitor and tune the platform whilst ensuring that it is usable and secure. This technical work is complemented by interactions with business users. I realise the importance of approaching these interactions with a flexible and collaborative mindset to ensure that the utilisation of technology results in the delivery of meaningful outcomes. Success means that Stats NZ is able to store, process, dig through and be stewards of its data.
I spent my childhood in Auckland and New Plymouth. While attending secondary school in New Plymouth, I developed a passion for music, both in performance and composition. Music gave me a canvas for exploring creative and expressive processes, and more importantly, it presented me with many opportunities to do so with various musicians. My proudest achievement from this time was making it into the top 20 bands of the 2011 SmokefreeRockquest with Drax Project bassist Sam Thomson.
After secondary school, I decided to pursue a career in an engineering discipline. The Network Engineering major at Victoria University of Wellington presented itself as an exciting step forward and it ticked all boxes. It satisfied my desired to understand the complexities of communication between computers and it was clear that I could do so in a creative and expressive manner. Like music, engineering is both science and art.
At the conclusion of my Masters, I applied for the inaugural cohort of the GovTechTalent Graduate Programme. I accepted a position as one of fifteen graduates that would rotate across three participating agencies over a 24-month period, using digital skill-sets and mindsets to shape the way government delivers its services. My second rotation saw me spend time at Stats NZ working with a small team that was investigating the technical feasibility of implementing big data platform. Since joining Stats NZ permanently in 2018, I have been working with the same team to implement this platform.
The short answer is yes – a network engineering qualification would not be necessary to do my job. Someone would need to demonstrate a few things, that they: understand distributed computer systems at a level that approaches an administrator, know how to take business requirements to a technical design/implementation level (and vice-versa), and are not afraid to learn and unlearn skills. An engineering or computer science qualification is not necessary for this. A qualification assists in providing one with the means to learn and adapt to an ever-shifting technological landscape.
I work in an environment that understands the importance of keeping one’s skills up-to-date and gives us time throughout the week to focus on professional development. This goes beyond going on the odd training course throughout the year. As part of our team’s practices, we can spend half a day each week to perform what we call ‘non-project related research.’ This opportunity has manifested as a feedback-loop on multiple occasions, typically in the form of “I’ve learnt about something related to my current technical problem before…”
Developing and delivering technology solutions means introducing change to the way people work. Adversity to change (especially large change) is normal and is part of an organisation’s immune system. The challenge is that such adversity can grind against one’s passion and energy for their work. Furthermore, it delays gratification from delivering work as it can take time for customers to realise benefits. In spite of this, support from team members, project executives and ‘c-level’ people makes the journey towards delivery exciting and gratifying in its own way.