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June 25, 2019
ENGINEERING FOR THE FUTURE
By: Michael Grant

Engineering for good

When I joined Accenture back in 2011, the first project I worked on, which is still my most memorable, was an integrated solution to allow radiologists to view and diagnose medical images remotely and efficiently. I was an integration engineer at the time and it was my job within the team to get two different applications, provided by different vendors, to talk to each other. One of them was a visualisation tool that would get the images and present them to radiologists, so they could explore them in 3D and change different aspects of how the image looked. The other part was a system for securely hosting, distributing and assigning those images to the radiologists. Our team put together a complete solution that integrated these two products and would be deployed and maintained by Accenture. I guess it’s memorable as this was my first real work experience after graduating, but the main reason I remember it so well was that I worked on something of huge benefit to people. When we were trained on what the radiologists needed to do and how they were diagnosing from medical images, it became very apparent that this affects real people and it could be me or someone that I love whose image is up on that screen, so the team all really wanted this technology to work.

A lot of what we do here has a huge impact on society and how people live and work. We don’t know what projects we’re going to end up on but often it turns out that you experience working on something that you wouldn’t have necessarily considered when starting out. That was one of the reasons I joined Accenture – the breadth of opportunities.

Engineering with innovation

Now, I specialise in building Cloud hosted microservices. Cloud computing has been growing massively over recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. I think the flexibility, cost efficiency and scalability are massive drivers for innovation, allowing businesses and engineers to experiment more and more.

I’m primarily an engineer with a team who are building and maintaining a microservice style back-end that powers millions of customer devices. I’ve been on this client project for a good six years now, but it’s been one that’s really harnessed the growth of the Cloud during that time. My role has really evolved over that time, too. I started as a technical tester for some of the systems that our team was operating and, back then, these systems used to run in fixed data centres, so we needed to plan capacity very carefully as the client grew to ensure we had enough servers to support them. From there I moved into more of a development-focussed role and at that time the client changed how they dealt with infrastructure by taking a Cloud approach. We transitioned everything from a physical data centre into the Cloud and moved to a microservices approach for application development.

Cloud is really helping to bring more creative thinking to the logical side of my work. For example, if you want to try using a new type of database or architecture, these days you can draw it up on a white board and in an afternoon spin-up a few resources in the Cloud to get a working proof of concept that will show you if something is feasible as well as highlight any problems. Before, we needed to have long design sessions to figure out if something was going to work before investing in servers and databases, etc. Now, as part of the design process we can have an idea, we can test it out and practise using it. The Cloud certainly gives more power for developers and engineering teams to have a say.

I think the use of Cloud and the microservices style are becoming increasingly popular and, for microservices in particular, the automation tooling has been getting better and better, allowing more people to take on the approach. In this approach, you usually have lots of small, loosely coupled applications that are easier to update, test, deploy, maintain and scale than you would get with a small number of large applications. One of the issues, however, is that you end up with lots of different applications that you have to maintain and operate, so you need really good automated tooling to enable you do everything. The whole DevOps movement is really focusing on that automated approach, especially in terms of deployments, application upgrades, rollbacks and continual testing. This means when a developer has completed their code, they can allow the automation systems to check that the code’s working and do the deployment, including to the live environment and roll back if there are any issues – that means you can avoid human interaction for those stages.

Engineering my future

Accenture certainly sees the value of new trends and with the various, large Cloud providers you have now, like Amazon and Google and Microsoft, there’s a big focus here on ensuring people get the necessary training and can pursue certifications. I’ve been able to go for certifications for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and I’m currently at the Associate level. I’ve done a couple of certifications so far and will be looking to round-off my knowledge at that level and complete all the associate certifications, then move on to the professional ones.

The actual work I do comes down to problem-solving, and that is also what drives me. I would say that to succeed here you need to be somebody who is willing to tackle problems that you don’t know the answer to initially. Just persist with it, do a bit of investigation to learn what information you don’t know, and then find it out! Make sure you test things along the way. The reality is that for a lot of the work we do we don’t always immediately know the answer and part of the process is finding out how we get those answers.

I guess everyone always says the same thing, but the people are the best part of working here. The colleagues I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years have kept me at Accenture. People that are very dedicated, focussed, smart and willing to work together – I wouldn’t want to lose this by going elsewhere.

Looking to engineer your own future? Find out more about our opportunities here

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