My last blog post was published shortly after I had graduated from my masters, I did a bit of volunteering in Spain and then started my first job. Well it's been over a year since that time and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my journey into the workplace.
at a certain time, I had a spark and realised I was enjoying these data analytic side projects far more than my actual Geophysicist role
Applying for job
From about spring 2017 I began applying for jobs, mainly in the UK, but I was also open to anywhere in Europe as I had just spent the last two years on the continent. Still passionate and enthusiastic about Geophysics, that’s the industry I focused all my energy on yet I had very little motivation to put too much effort in as I didn’t see the rush to start something that I would continue to do for the next forty years of my life. One of my classmates did his thesis at the British Geological Society in Nottingham and had a contact in a Geophysical surveying company in England mainly using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) which was the same technology I was using in my thesis.
Much to my surprise, after an initial email with my CV and a brief phone call with the company secretary I was invited in for an interview. I did my research beforehand; Macleod Simmonds founded in 2008 based in Chichester specialising in utility surveys using GPR arrays. The office was quite small, an old converted barn in a remote location far from the closest station so public transport was not great. I spoke with the managing director for about an hour about all the typical interview questions as well as my ambitions for the future. I got an offer and took the pledge despite some hesitation as I knew a smaller firm would provide less opportunity for personal development, but I knew if I put in the effort I could challenge and develop myself.
My first year
For the first few weeks I moved into a family friends of ours, as kids we would visit their house every summer to go to the beach, we even called my aunt ‘Seaside Auntie’, I also went to Surrey University with him and we’d done countless other adventures together; to top it off my mum and his mum went to the same primary school back in Bangladesh. So, I felt very welcome and it provided me a few weeks while I searched for my own place which I eventually found about fifteen minutes bike ride to work and close to Chichester town centre.
At work I settled in fast and picked up the main piece of software that was used to process the GPR data, the only thing that caught me off guard was how causal the whole office was, everyone was making jokes, sometimes I felt were inappropriate/borderline racist/sexist, running of the projects was a bit wishy washy and felt like ‘just get the project done, doesn’t matter how’ attitude. Another divide I noticed among the company was a segregation of the employees; the management consisted of the MD, the secretary was his wife, and the two other lead roles in Operations and Project Management was his best mates, all of whom worked their way up into their position without any degrees which I respected. The next group was the GPR and Topographical surveyors which I fell into who mainly consisted of Italians, Romanians and a few English guys, most of us has degrees in Geophysics or Topography. Lastly, were the Utility surveyors who I personally would say completed the most gruelling work involving lifting manhole covers to inspect them; most of these guys were young English lads, had left school after Year 11 or Sixth Form and were on some form of professional training alongside their job.
About four months into my job I began going out on site to collect the data, initially I was on about 30% fieldwork and the rest in the office. It was nice getting out of the office and I felt healthier too having to walk around for a few hours each shift. The downside was the timings; dayshift started at 6am so that meant usually leaving around 5am in the morning and finished at 2pm, while the night shift started around at 9pm and went on until 5am. The site work times were an absolute killer for me, dayshifts meant I was too tired to do anything when I got back home and night shifts meant I slept during the day and couldn’t go out at night, furthermore, we had conversion days if you were on a night shift and then had to go into office the following day which completely disrupted the sleep cycle too. The only solace to this was the financial compensation as we got 1.5x rates for night shifts which meant I was making a fair amount of money each month. Gradually my site work ratio ramped up to the point where I was rarely in the office.
The side gig
There was an inflection point around June 2018 where I seriously started to question my employment and whether this was going to be my future at a company where I was very unsatisfied with my role. Would things change? It was impossible to predict, but I knew I had the power to change things.
After observing how the company operates over several months and witnessing unnecessary complications to the projects which was a result of poor planning and management, I identified a few areas that we could do things better. I started by creating templates where images from the GPR data could be stored in preparation for the final project report; no longer did we have randomly sized images and various formats on each project. I then moved onto organising how we recorded our data by introducing a standardised dataset naming convention, overhauled the dataset tracking tool and then moved it online so everyone can access the information simultaneously. I built a dashboard which could be used to provide business insights and give an instant view on a project’s status. I built a form to record everyone’s timesheets more efficiently; anything would have been an upgrade from the current method where some staff were printing off an Excel document to fill it in and then scanning it back in to submit to HR every week, for the HR team to then type in all the numbers back into another Excel file (I know… I was shocked too). Lastly, I made a small script which edited the GPR data timestamps files and removed a small line which caused the importing of the data to crash; this meant you no longer had to go through hundreds of text files individually to identify which files were corrupted.
Many of these small projects I did in my spare time at home because I enjoyed it so much. It was at a certain time, I had a spark and realised I was enjoying these data analytic side projects far more than my actual Geophysicist role. Other frustrations with the management at the time led me start applying for new jobs in Data Analyst roles, my main fear was that I was at the company for less than a year and it would look poor on my CV. My morale at the company was at an all-time low so I had very little to lose. I got in touch with Veronica, an acquaintance from Surrey University whom I used to work for organising summer internships for undergraduate students and she put me in touch with Rosh who was doing his PhD while I was doing my bachelors so he was always around the physics department and led many of our tutorials. He was at Deloitte in the Data Analytics & Modelling team, we spoke about the role and it sounded amazing, it was all of my side projects, but now full time. The application process had five stages and I even had to learn SQL a couple of days beforehand for one of the assessments. By the time I had received my offer, I had another offer from CGG, a marine geophysical processing company based in Crawley, it would be doing the same work I did during my industrial placement at PGS during my undergraduate years. Despite CGG offering a higher salary, I wanted to stay away from the oil and gas sector as the job market was very volatile, I knew the work (from previous experience) was very repetitive, the software was bespoke rather than general industry packages and it felt a bit away from the ‘action’ in London. With all that taken into account I accepted Deloitte’s offer without hesitation and was ecstatic.
Coincidently, the organisation I volunteered for last year in Spain sent out a new advert looking for volunteers for a new project which they got funding for. I was fortunate enough to time the whole thing perfectly and went out for two weeks to Murcia again and then flew back and started at Deloitte the next day. It has been just over a year at Deloitte and I still find it incredible that I can say that I love my job to other people and I’m proud of where I work, something that seemed unimaginable at my previous job. I’ve learnt a whole range of new software packages, programming languages and have had the chance to work on cross disciplinary projects and interacted with people from all backgrounds. For now, I will stay here and continue to learn and develop myself, hopefully an opportunity comes to work abroad for a bit. Until the next big adventure, thanks for reading.
Graduated with a BSc in Physics at the University of Surrey and an MSc in Applied Geophysics at the IDEA League.