Since joining Infinity Works, data engineer, all-round consultant and charity co-founder Adam Dewberry has worked on varied projects, amassed new skills, and shared his newfound knowledge on the conference circuit.
Adam came to Infinity Works in January 2020, having previously worked in data analysis in an asset management company. There, most of his time had been spent on data engineering not analysis – collecting, cleansing and preparing the data before it could be used by the business. He recalls: “With most of my time spent on engineering and pressures above to get analysis out, I decided it was time to get a job where people understand what I’m doing!”
His first project at Infinity Works was to migrate a database from a client’s on-premise server onto the cloud. As a relative newcomer to cloud architecture, he was paired with an experienced software engineer, Oscar Barlow, who taught him a great deal about writing quality code and building the cloud infrastructure to run it.
In three months, Adam scaled a steep learning curve. He absorbed new concepts. Collaboratively Adam and Oscar wrote the code to migrate and validate the data, stood up infrastructure to run it and used automated deployment pipelines to get the system live. He was introduced to agile working methods and the guiding principles of consultancy. “Within three months, my programming world had doubled!” he says.
Adam continues: “This was also the first time I’d really been focused on delivery. With each customer, you’ve got to understand why you are there: what’s the business’s vision and what you can do to help make it a reality? It’s not all about technology: sometimes it’s development culture and ways of working that need to change.”
Even though he joined Infinity Works at a junior level, Adam was keen to step up – and to carry the learning from his first project forwards. He saw a gap in how they build Snowflake cloud services with AWS and took the initiative to build patterns for automated infrastructure pipelines that would create all the resources needed to automate and deliver data in a real time, event driven way from AWS to Snowflake.
I pitched it to a group of senior engineers and there was immediate buy-in at an early stage, I felt there was support and ideas were taken seriously.
Next, Adam joined the team that was building out the data platform for cinch, the online car marketplace and a super-agile organisation. “Normally these things take months, even a year to build, but we had production reports delivered to the key business decision makers within seven days,” Adam explains. “We knew the AWS to Snowflake challenge was a common problem and immediately we could use the new infrastructure-as-code patterns at cinch and deliver data pipelines within days. It’s crazy how quickly we got there.”
Conference podiums and cross-functional skills
Adam enjoys sharing his passion for tech with a wider audience, and Infinity Works has encouraged and supported him to do this. His first experience as a conference speaker was alongside a company director at a virtual Snowflake Summit during lockdown. The director gave a presentation on the largest Snowflake deployment in Europe (2020) for Sainsbury’s. Adam followed with a live coding session showing how rapid automation pipelines can be achieved: “we went from zero to business reports within five minutes, which is kind of insane.”
Adam has continued to hone his skills as a speaker at DevOps Pro Europe 2021 and his most recent opportunity came in May 2022 at the US hosted World Wide Data Vault Consortium. He and a colleague, Kiran Bhat, co-presented a new way to generate a relational data model that was inspired by work delivered during time at a financial customer. “We cracked a key problem of how to integrate new data and business concepts at scale, automating creating the data model could accelerate a business’s data capabilities to achieve insights by months or a year,” Adam says. “It’s exciting to share that with our industry and contribute back with open source code”
Asked why Infinity Works is such a great place for a data engineer, Adam doesn’t hesitate: “The practices for data engineers here are the best I’ve seen. Whether you want to be excellent at software engineering or an excellent data engineer, you will get that here.” In fact, at Infinity Works, the two roles are often blended, allowing people to cover all aspects of a project that are classically done by separate teams.
“Infinity Works favours rounded, cross-functional skill sets and cross-functional teams,” Adam says. “If I’m going to write some code to do a thing, I should probably understand how to build the platform that’s going to run the code and how I can get those to talk to each other and automate getting that code and infrastructure into live production. You can build up those skills over time, at your own pace.”
Being exposed to leading-edge techniques and technologies is an essential part of the joy he gets from his role. He’s currently leading the build of a streaming platform, using AWS, Snowflake and Apache Kafka. The Infinity Works communities of practice are a superb source of information, and colleagues are endlessly helpful. There’s also a great deal of encouragement for anyone who wants to try a new technology or a different approach.
Projects can be extremely varied, and Adam is fascinated by continually improving how we do things and deliver results. He used event-driven architectures for cinch, for instance, consuming data from an event bus which the product (website) published to and streamed the data to a data lake in AWS and warehoused it in Snowflake – where insights and business decisions are drawn from. The Infinity Works team created all the systems and pipelines to capture, move, store and give controlled access to the data.
Infinity Works joining Accenture has increased the variety of clients and projects, and Adam has been keen to go after the new opportunities. After reaching out to Accenture colleagues he found himself working on an RFI for a fintech company in Israel. “Someone asked for help on a bid,” he explains. “They are security specialists who are new to some technologies which we use everyday, so I suggested we team up. It’s always nice making new friends”
A tech charity that’s close to the heart
Adam is an enthusiastic globetrotter. After taking a physics degree, he worked in Australia and spent the next 18 months hitchhiking and couchsurfing across the Balkans where he enjoyed “a variety of spicy adventures”. This included time in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, making valued friends and family who he visits every year. Getting to know those countries helped him understand their economic difficulties and the lack of opportunity, which gave him an idea for a NGO which could help improve the lives of a few.
“Employment is around 40-50%,” he explains. “Salaries are often 10% of their Western European equivalents but prices of everyday products like bread and milk are the same, it’s hard to make a living and for many life is more like survival.” Given the global marketplace for data and software engineers, Adam saw an opportunity to help people get the right training and qualifications to kick start new opportunities for individuals in programming.
Last year, he co-founded a charity called Srpska Tech with Georgina Shute, a former colleague at Infinity Works. The charity is currently funding two students on four-year computer science courses at the University of Banja Luka is Bosnia, they’re currently fundraising to send a further two students this year and with time widen the opportunities for more. Adam hopes it won’t always be necessary for people to complete a university course: “What if we could put together short programmes which prepare you for the job market? I believe you can teach anyone to code, we’ve proven it here at Infinity Works with the academies that you learn all you need to get going and build software from three months’ training. I spent two hours a week for 6 months over lockdown teaching 5 friends how to program and become data engineers, to change industry and find rewarding new careers – it’s all possible, someone just needs to do something about it.”
With funding initially provided by Adam and Georgina, and support from friends and family, Srpska Tech is now seeking sponsorship from further afield. Adam and Georgina are approaching a range of potential donors and looking at various fundraising options. “Skills we’ve developed at work like how to present and address an audience have helped how we put pitches together, ensuring it’s relevant to the audience – sometimes that means a history lesson about the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s and how young people are still struggling because of the tragedies that happened before their time,” Adam says. “we explain that there are still bullet holes in the houses, people have limited access to higher education from social and family struggles and how a little external help can nudge things in the right direction to provide tangible improvements through education, giving sustainable skills which they can use for a lifetime. This is the difference we’re trying to make.”
Longer term, he hopes the charity will help to stop the brain drain from Bosnia, keeping talented people employed with good prospects and owning businesses rather than feeling forced to leave for central and western European countries to have a future; it should be possible for people to stay and build a good life.
The goal is to give more people opportunities within a technology career. To send someone to university in Bosnia costs about €1000 each year, so it's quite manageable. It’s hard to make positive change for groups of people, but if we start with individuals we can make a meaningful difference.
Recognition, opportunity and fun to boot
Only a year into his Infinity Works career, Adam started working as a tech lead. He got involved with the system design for a bid, and afterwards was asked to run the project from a technology delivery perspective. He seized the opportunity, which gave him his first commercial experience of selling Infinity Works services and delivering the vision.
Now Adam is concentrating on developing as a leader. He has moved into the role of account lead, which he describes as “a role I never thought I’d end up in; being responsible for the overall delivery and wellbeing of our people on the ground is a big deal – surely that should be someone with a decade of experience? If Infinity Works believes you can do it, years served doesn’t matter”. Recently he completed Infinity Works’ leadership course, Building Champions, run by Jamie Peacock MBE, former captain of the English rugby team. At the start of the two-month course each participant set their own goals and Adam decided to focus on relationships and getting the best out of interactions. Not only does he feel better prepared to be a good leader, the course has also helped him validate and focus on what matters the most – people.
With every project, his focus is always on tangible outcomes that benefit the customer. He says that software engineers cut code and deliver products against a specification. But why? What is the point of the task or feature and is it the best use of time to build it? It’s incredibly important for Data engineers to understand the value a business gets from building out platforms and pipelines – not all data is useful, where’s the low hanging fruit and the fastest way to get a return on the time invested to build a system? “As a data person, you always have to think about business-driven outcomes and value.”
However, it is not just about the job for Adam. Equally as important is the camaraderie he has with colleagues and the support they give each other after hours. Adam is a regular player with the Infinity Works London board games network. Before the pandemic, the group used to meet in the office once a month after work, giving employees working on client sites the opportunity to stay connected with colleagues. During the pandemic the sessions became weekly and went virtual which were a lifeline helping to maintain a sense of togetherness. Now, people are back in the room “It’s an opportunity to see friends, connect with new people and go deeper than being ‘just colleagues’. Everyone is welcome and we often invite customers too” Adam says.
At Infinity Works Adam has found a perfect fit in an organisation that shares his values as well as his passion for technology and bringing out the best in people.
Infinity Works care about their people, listen to our needs, invest in our development, and ensure we have a stimulating and supportive environment. It’s a fun place to be with talented people who are doers, and where everyone supports each other to succeed. That’s an empowering environment for anybody who’s ambitious.