Arun Das joined PCSG in the Covid-19 lockdown as a Solutions Architect and is supporting projects including HS2.
We chatted to him about starting a new job during a global crisis, the path from Kolkata to Croydon and why his skills are so in demand on today’s mega-projects.
Q: A pandemic always makes for a memorable start…. How has that been?
A: Certainly a different experience. Expressing myself over video call in the interview was challenging and it was a bit odd through the first few days but thankfully my PCSG colleagues booked in video calls with me to introduce themselves. The morning ‘stand-up’ calls we have every day with the entire team have helped me get to know many of my colleagues by face.
Q: A solutions architect – so a bridge between the business and technology side of an organisation?
A: Yes, we take leadership of the technology and work to find the best solutions for our client’s needs – the problems they want to solve and the outcomes they want to achieve.
We identify what would be the best technology practices and architectural governance to meet a company’s mission and vision.
With a huge stack of technology elements and the trend towards cloud migration, it is becoming a key challenge for most companies to make the technology transition as quickly and as smoothly as possible. We help management to take the right technology choices.
Q: A new breed of construction worker then – far from the traditional mould? What skills do you need to have?
A: Yes, we are not in the traditional image of an engineer/ construction professional.
You need to have the depth of technical understanding, an ability to think strategically and an ability to listen clearly to the outcomes your client is seeking. You also need that broad overview and perspective.
You have to do a lot of technical research in terms of the best options in the optimum cost and time. You also have got to have a good understanding of the end to end technology solution from – user security to network, frontend, backend solutions…etc.
You should be good too at putting all your ideas on paper and convincing the stakeholders and business that your idea has potential value.
Q: Communication – making complex stuff accessible – must also be important?
A: Yes, language is one of the keys to success. A solutions architect has to make sure he/she is not using tech heavy words which sound like nothing more than jargon to the business.
Q: Your path into construction has taken you across the globe – and across sectors?
A: Yes I graduated from the West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, with a Masters In Computer Application (MCA), and then worked as a software engineer in Bengaluru.
In Bengaluru, in terms of developing applications, back then, we had very limited options to choose from in terms of frontend design, i.e. Java, JSP and .Net. Backend technology was also restricted, with Sql server, Oracle and Mainframe & waterfall models were the only preferred option for all projects.
The IT industry in India today has taken a complete ‘u-turn’ and is very versatile in term of technology stack and methodologies and there are lots of options to choose from, with development constantly shifting towards the cloud-based model.
Q: After India came the US and time with the telecoms giant, AT&T?
A: Yes I Joined Razorsight as a software engineer where I worked in Dallas, Texas.
Dallas was like my ‘city of dreams’ – it enabled me to develop a lot both professionally and personally. I was based at AT&T’s head office working as a Java developer in their Telecom, Technology Development and Research team. It was a very competitive working environment and we were working with some cutting-edge technology stacks.
I was blessed that I manged to get an opportunity to work with many intellectual colleagues who helped me develop my skills.
Dallas was very trendy and fast-moving. It was almost like living my dream life and it was amazing how quickly those two years went by
Q: When you came to the UK, you spent 8 years working for Santander in various IT roles and then to Sky Betting and Gaming?
A: I was working with ITC Infotech where I found myself supporting Santander as a consultant and then as a lead consultant on many different projects, particularly in the Retail and Corporate internet banking space.
Working in the financial sector provided me with some really good exposure in terms of understanding of the cloud solution, e-commerce and user security models and it laid the foundation for me to transition from development to solution architecture.
Q: This learning from other sectors must be a valuable asset for you?
A: Yes it is good to have this overview – and to remember that all sectors are different so that the solution that works very well for one sector might be a failure for the other sector.
Q: Are you surprised by how far behind the construction sector is on the digital curve when compared with industries such as retail?
A: The sector is a bit slow moving in terms of the technology space as compared to retail and banking.
But I am looking on the positive side as to what technology can render in terms of potential. The value that can be unlocked is tremendous and I can see a huge market in terms of opportunity.
Q: How do you keep abreast of what is around the corner in such a fast moving area like IT?
A: I follow different groups and Architecture squads in LinkedIn, Facebook and other online platforms. That keeps me posted about the latest trends and technologies in the market. The rest is my own research and studying the latest technology and architecture framework articles in the media and understanding how they incorporate potential value to a business scenario.
For more information on PCSG’s advisory and digital services and how we help organisations to embed a data-driven approach to the management of their built assets, please contact Olly.Thomas@pcsg.co.uk.