My day starts in Leopoldstadt, one of Vienna’s central districts just next to the Donaukanal. Although I am originally from Finland, I have been living in various places around Europe for a while, and now Vienna for a year. I have been with Meltlake for 8 months and working entirely from another country has been a very smooth experience so far.
Here are some snippets of how that looks like.
I used to be more into the whole super-early morning, "5AM-Club"-craze. Now, I find that life is generally better when I wake up without an alarm. Sometimes that is at 6, sometimes closer to 8, but when it is the latter, I don't feel bad about it. Aside from the world just being a brighter place after good sleep, I think I still get as much done in the end, working with a clear mind instead of struggling just to keep my eyes open.
Vienna's time zone is one hour behind Helsinki, but on most days, this is barely noticeable. My colleagues are very considerate about the time difference when sending me calendar invites, and very rarely do I have to worry about early morning meetings.
After settling down to my desk and laptop with a cup of coffee, I check Teams, email, and other messengers to see if there are any new fires to put out. After taking note of anything important, I look at my tasks in my personal To-Do as well as any project-specific backlogs, which is usually in Azure DevOps. Then, after forming a picture of what is most pressing right now, I pick my tasks for the day and start knocking them down.
This early part of the day is where I try to get in at least one solid 90-minute block of focused work, where I shut out all notifications, hide my clock and only work on one or two bigger tasks. Some days, meetings make this more challenging than others, but in general I have found this practice of setting "Do-Not-Disturb" -blocks in your calendar is strongly encouraged and supported at Meltlake. It has also been positive to see real efforts at the company to have fewer, better meetings and reduce those unnecessary, soul-draining ones.
Being a Data Engineer means doing all the preparation work that is needed before Data Science, AI, Machine Learning and similar sexy labels can take off. Pooling data from disconnected systems, ironing out any errors and discrepancies, creating new relationships between different data and maintaining historical snapshots. The result is clean data that is accessible to the right people and can be plugged into reports and algorithms without things catching on fire. It is the plumbing of the information age. Not often glorified, but absolutely essential and surprisingly deep.
What excites me most about this type of work is getting an unique look inside companies across the board and across industries. The data models and analytics you create as a data engineer very often end up touching on most aspects of a company, from finances and sales to HR and customer relationships. And while the work is often technical, a big part of the job is having non-technical talks with people, figuring out where companies have their data, and what additional data they might benefit from having.
Although I work a lot with Azure's stack of data tools like Data Factory, SQL and Azure Functions, I also do some work on the front-end side, creating reports with Microsoft's Power BI where the data ultimately supports decision makers in the company. What I am also seeing more and more of is the desire to have company-wide, real-time reporting, where lots of data are made public and transparent for employees at all levels. There is a lot of that inside Meltlake too, which I find really cool!
Creating all these reports, I get to explore and break down what kinds of decisions are being made at top management, what challenges the company is facing and what metrics are important. So, in the end, I get to see the complete pipeline of how and where data is created, how it is moved around and finally made useful and readable. And beyond that, you begin to understand what running an effective company in the 21st century is like.
While Meltlake is still a very young company, you could not tell that by looking at the projects and clients we are involved with. That has probably been the most surprising thing for me so far. Our clients are some of the biggest and best well-known ones in Finland, and with my line of work, the large scale absolutely makes a difference. With greater scale comes greater diversity in the solutions you get to create, and in the customer interactions that you get to have.
By midday, if I have made good progress on my tasks and my calendar is free, I often take some time to either go train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or just go for a run along the Donaukanal. While taking a longer break typically means more work earlier in the morning or later in the day, I am really happy for this possibility to break up the workday. It does wonders for the mind, and I think ultimately helps me get more done with less stress. And on a sunny day, the bright scenery and old architecture in Vienna is simply too good to miss out on.
Another thing I enjoy at Meltlake is the fact that we are more than just a company of programmers. Alongside the Cloud & Data -team that I am a part of, we also have the Modern Work and Business Applications -teams, and larger projects often involve people from all three. So, I also get to learn from smart people about things outside of my own focus, like user experience, work culture and change management. And I find there is a lot of genuine curiosity across team boundaries towards the work that others do.
I have also visited Helsinki a few times since joining the company. I have many friends and family in Finland, so I am happy to have an excuse to go there more often and spend a week catching up, visiting my old favorite spots while also seeing some colleagues at the office. Even as I generally enjoy remote work, it is just a lot of fun to occasionally hang out face-to-face with the people who you work with.
Recently we dedicated a 'Zen and Wellbeing' channel in our Teams for sharing ideas and experiences around maintaining a healthy, enjoyable work-life balance. There have been many good conversations already, and I think that openness about the topic is helpful in itself, by making it clear that there is no need for anyone to push themselves into an unsustainable workload.
As something concrete, the conversation has inspired me to also set up a workday-closing "ritual". This means saving any tabs I want to return to before closing them all, checking my calendar for the next day before exiting Teams, and finally marking my hours, before shutting the work laptop. Even if it is super simple stuff, making it into a routine is what really allows the mind to relax and let go for the rest of the day.
Beyond the workday, there are many things that fill my time in Vienna. The nearest Alpine mountains are just a 90-minute drive away, and one of my closest friends here happens to be a complete hiking-maniac who also has a car. And if I am not hiking or having other plans on the weekend, sitting in one of the city's famous cafés reading a book is always a great option.
Our Cloud & Data team is constantly looking for new colleagues! As an Azure Data Engineer, your job description can be very diverse, as can the solutions you implement. As a consultant in our cloud & data unit, you can develop our customers' business by digitizing, automating and modernizing work methods, processes and tools, utilizing and enriching Azure technologies in customer-specific solutions. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.