A day in the life- Wim Olivier tells us what it's like to be a Principal Consultant at Daemon

Working at Daemon is never dull. Whether you’ve been here for two weeks or ten years, there are always new things to learn and new challenges to face. 


Wim Olivier Principal ConsultantNobody encapsulates this spirit better than Wim Olivier, our Data Principal Consultant. Although Wim has only been with us for two years, he’s been in the industry for almost three decades. After all this time, he is still as enthusiastic as ever about the work he does. We sat down with Wim to talk about his journey so far, his daily routine and the projects he is most proud of.


Hi Wim, thanks for talking to us. Could you start by telling us a bit about your career so far?


Of course! I’ve been working in tech for 27 years. I started straight out of school and, since then, I’ve worked my way through the full pyramid of IT layers. I began at the bottom with hardware and then moved up through operating systems, networking, databases, applications and coding. I’ve tried my hand at literally everything! 


My goal has always been to understand how these parts fit together. I want to be able to design, architect, implement and maintain every component. I back this up with a lot of independent study, buying my own books and courses and studying in my free time.  


In all my years in the industry, I’ve never worked for an end user. I think I’m drawn to the consulting side of things because I get bored so easily. End user clients are expected to do the same things every day, and that wouldn’t suit me at all. Whenever I learn something, I either want to implement it immediately or move on to learning something else. 

You’re currently working as a Data Principal Consultant at Daemon. What do you enjoy most about what you do?


These days, a lot of my work revolves around designing projects and guiding people through them. I am the link between the team and the client. It’s my job to manage expectations and make sure the wheels don’t come off!


As a Principal Consultant, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist. The role is more to do with architecture and strategy. It’s about making sure that the right people on the team are assigned to each job so that everyone can do what they’re best at. I’m there to offer help and guidance, and this is something that I take a lot of pride in. 


I want to help my team solve their problems, but I want to do so in a way that encourages them to learn. I prefer to explain concepts rather than physical processes. I try to give people a mental model that they can apply to future problems. I’ll explain how a concept works, but I want them to play with these concepts, to feel them out and to come back with even more questions. I want my team to be constantly learning and improving, and that goes for me as well. I’m very lucky. I get to do exactly what I love! 


Want to join Wim and the team? Take a look at our careers page.


Tell us about a typical day in the life of a Data Principal Consultant


I spend at least 20% of my time studying, then the rest is taken up with meetings, helping team members, writing documentation and planning projects. 40-50% of my time is usually spent face-to-face with clients, although this can vary daily.


I start my days early and the time difference between South Africa and the UK means that I can often get a few hours work done before the first meeting of the day. I love working remotely because it lets me make better use of my time. The hours I used to spend sitting in traffic have become my studying hours. 


I begin each day with two hours of study before work. Sometimes this will be project specific, but often I’ll just be training myself up on things I want to learn. If there’s something I don’t fully understand, I want to improve my knowledge so that I’m ready when the time comes to implement it. I think of it as pre-learning!

 What projects are you most proud of?


There are three main ones that stand out. They’re not necessarily data related, but data is always involved in one way or another. 


The first was back when I worked for Nexio SA. We won a contract with the South African government to build a 22-site countrywide architecture for everything to do with land registrations and transfers. We designed the whole thing, and I was the lead architect. After the sites were built, I visited various towns and cities around the country to provide hands-on support. I got involved with everything from the bottom to the top of the stack. 


The second project was for Vodacom, the South African subsidiary of Vodafone. This involved building the largest data related computer platform ever deployed in South Africa. I spent three or four weeks with Vodafone in the UK and Germany, trying to understand what they were struggling with and the mistakes they had made in the past. Thanks to this research, we were able to roll out the project without any of the problems that previous installations had encountered. 


The final project is still underway. At Daemon we’re working with a large UK insurance company to build a financial data warehouse for regulatory compliance. They contacted us and we wrote them a 60 page audit report, outlining our findings and giving our recommendations for getting things back on track. Less than a week later, they asked us to take over the project completely. We’ve been working on it for the last 13 months, growing our team from two to fourteen people in the process.


Although these projects are very different in nature, they all have one thing in common. We have to understand the client’s needs first so that we can design and build a solution that ticks all the boxes. I really enjoy this problem solving aspect of the job, although I must admit I also take a lot of pleasure in making the sale and closing the deal! 


There’s no escaping the conversation about AI at the moment. What are your thoughts on the topic?


I have no fear of AI. It can be good or bad, just like any technology. If people use it incorrectly, it will cause problems. If they don’t, it won’t. We need to remember that computers don’t think for themselves. They are dumb. They do what we tell them. In the grand scheme of things, we are the creators and they are the tools. Fear is just another form of feedback! 


Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to build a career in technology?


Be clear about what you want. You can’t do everything at once so you have to choose. Pick a goal and do whatever it takes to achieve it. If you can’t afford the right course, try to find a mentor or coach. Failing that, buy a good book or borrow one from the library. Start somewhere, find other people learning the same thing and join up with them. You’ll get much further with the help of others.

Connect with Wim on LinkedIn, or contact Daemon directly to find out more about our current and upcoming projects.

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