Business is evolving through technical innovation and our HackerNest Dallas sponsor, PwC (one of the world's leading and most established professional services firms), is notable for trailblazing new paths in its industry. Their clients range from large global multinationals to small- and medium-sized organizations that seek out the firm to help improve their processes and implement necessary technologies for running their businesses.
In October (2019), PwC announced New world. New skills, a $3 billion global investment in tools, technology, and all 276,000 of their people to disrupt the professional services business.
With a critical, digital eye, they're focused on changing how they work with clients and have been actively weaving nifty new tech and automation into many of their processes. To get some insight into this digital transformation and to find out what it's really like working there, we gently interrogated the very sharp Sasha dos Santos, a software engineer and now senior manager with PwC Assurance.
Sasha: Hi back!
HN: First off, thanks -- we really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. We know you're busy, so let's jump in. You're a software engineer, which basically means you can't walk to the store without half a dozen people offering you jobs. What made you choose PwC?
Sasha: What I really appreciate about my team is having the freedom to choose our tech stack and build technology solutions from scratch. I joined the firm in 2016 as a senior associate in the Assurance practice’s Innovation & Tech team, where we worked to automate and implement workflows of manual tasks. We eliminated many hours of manual work and made notable cost savings. Since then, I've been promoted twice and currently act as a development lead on a team of 12 people.
HN: Neato. What do you do? Do you like your role?
Sasha: I enjoy working with the Assurance team to translate requirements into actionable items for the developers. I work with my Product Owner, Business Analyst, Scrum Master and other development leads to confirm that we have thought through the business problems, defined our requirements, and have some sense of the technical design required to implement a solution.
HN: What's your day-to-day at PwC look like?
Sasha: I'm in the firm’s Assurance Innovation & Technology team and it's never boring; each day goes by very quickly! We use Scrum as our software development methodology. We start with a daily standup moderated by the Scrum Master; as is typical, each developer discusses what was worked on yesterday, what will be worked on today, and highlights any impediments. The rest of the day varies depending on where we are in the sprint, but it's usually spent planning (once every two weeks), backlog grooming (twice a week), or bug triaging (once a week). I spend a lot of my time interfacing with other internal development teams and helping to design solutions. I also carve out time to assist the developers with any issues they may have, as well as work on code reviews.
HN: Ok, so pretty standard fare for any serious tech company. What type of projects do you work on? Is there much variety in what you do?
Sasha: My career with PwC has been focused on the development of internal solutions versus those that are externally client-facing. The emphasis is to help transform the way our professionals perform their day-to-day responsibilities. The first project I worked on for the Assurance practice is now being used in other areas across the firm, such as Tax. What started as a very focused solution for a specific problem became a platform for the extraction of data. In April (2019), I shifted focus to work on a PwC Labs project that acts as a portal for a larger data platform the firm is currently developing. There are many different projects available, so if I ever get to a point where I feel I’m no longer growing, I know I can reach out and express my willingness to work on something new. I’ve never felt ‘stuck’ working on a project.
HN: Do you have much creative control and input? Can you propose your own projects?
Sasha: My team has quite a bit of creative control on the solutions we design, as well as selecting the open source software libraries that are suited for the given task. With my current project, there is an architectural board in place for important decisions, but most decisions really are for the leads and developers to solution among themselves. I’ve never tried to propose my own project, but the culture here is welcoming to new ideas and I feel empowered to speak to my leadership whenever it feels necessary.
HN: How much coding/designing/architecting do you actually get to do these days?
Sasha: The time I spend coding is quite minimal at this point in my career. As I progressed, I found that looking at the ‘big picture’ and coming up with architecting solutions is as rewarding as working on the implementation. I spend around 40% of my time designing/architecting/planning and the rest of it performing code reviews, helping out developers, and interfacing with the business.
HN: Fair. Can you talk a bit about what the firm environment is like in terms of professional development?
Sasha: I’ve been able to attend professional conferences in my area of interest (front-end development)... everyone at the firm has their Development Team, a career coach, and a relationship leader -- people I can reach out to for help with my career and development through the PwC Professional framework. Likewise, I coach more junior developers on the team. I’ve also been given lots of opportunities to network with other people throughout the firm, which can take place in the office, at conferences, recruiting events, and social events.
HN: Are there any projects you're particularly proud to have worked on at PwC? Something cool.
Sasha: I’m very proud of my involvement in a product that automates the extraction of important terms from unstructured data sets. This task was previously completed manually and would take a large number of hours for large datasets. Now, you can simply review the results of the algorithm. This was the very first project that was completed by my team that resulted in saving the firm resources and time.
HN: What skills and attributes do you consider important for someone to be successful on your team?
Having a willingness to be open to new technologies and not choose a solution based solely on your current comfort levels
Communicating effectively with other developers, team members and stakeholders
Understanding the minimum amount of knowledge required to start working with a new technology -- it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling you need to know ‘everything’ before you can get started, but that is rarely the case
Feeling comfortable asking others for help and being honest in bringing up impediments. Sometimes the impediment is that you don’t know how to solution or code something, and that's ok. I would rather spend an hour or two helping a developer than have them struggle for days, getting frustrated
HN: Did you have to change a lot about how you work to fit in? Can you work in the way you want to?
Sasha: PwC has been accommodating by providing me the flexibility with how and where I work, allowing me to decide how I can effectively accomplish my tasks and responsibilities. For example, beyond regularly-scheduled work from home days, I can work from home when I feel I would be more productive to work outside of the office. I am not a morning person and am grateful to have some flexibility on scheduling my regular work hours. At PwC, we use a hoteling system to reserve desk and office space, which allows me to decide what makes sense for a particular day -- I may want to sit next to a certain developer or within a certain team one day and with a different set of people the next. It’s all about flexibility.
HN: Do you have any advice for newbies joining in tech roles?
Sasha: I would recommend being aware of the changing technology landscape; even if your current project doesn’t use a particular piece of technology, it’s important to know what is out there. At PwC, there are new projects starting all of the time and its important to be aware of what is happening in the world of technology and how it may relate to the problems the firm is trying to solve.
HN: Ok, last question! Is there anything else you'd like to share about what it's like working at PwC?
Sasha: I appreciate working at PwC. You have the ability to grow your career at a firm that allows you the flexibility to work on a variety of projects and interface with people from all over the world.
HN: Excellent. Thanks you for letting us pepper you with questions about your experience at PwC. This will really help give our readers a glimpse into what it's like working in a tech role in one of Earth's most established and trusted organizations! Thanks again!
PwC is sponsoring and hosting HackerNest in Dallas - go to dallas.hackernest.com for more info. To check out what our Tech Socials are like and to meet like-minded techies, sign up for this free launch event on December 4th here.