Successful career change from financial controller to data engineer
(Almost) all roads can lead to data science jobs! After a career in systems engineering followed by finance, 49-year-old Nicolas Souchu joined Safran Helicopter Engines’ IT department as a data engineer a year ago.
This career change did not happen randomly. It was the concurrence of Nicolas wanting to pursue a new professional avenue and the surge in data science career opportunities. Nicolas explains: “After ten years in finance, first as management controller and then as financial controller, I was eager for a change of pace and the chance to work on a project basis. The prospect of working in a technical IT role didn’t put him off. Quite the contrary. Nicolas holds a master’s degree in parallel architectures, and he began his career doing software development for aerospace systems. Later, after moving into finance, his interest in technical things proved valuable when developing a data tool for defining business plans. “I was keen to pursue this avenue,” he says.
This coincided with a boom in data science jobs at Safran Helicopter Engines. A data analytics platform dubbed SHARP had just been rolled out in 2018 to retrieve, combine and analyze different types of data generated by the company’s production and maintenance activities. When the position of data engineer was advertised internally, Nicolas applied. “I highlighted my qualifications and my knowledge of the company, but I was aware I’d need to brush up on my technical skills,” he says honestly.
After being selected, Nicolas worked with HR to establish a two-year upskilling plan encompassing a range of learning pathways, including data engineering, where he was to hone his software development skills and learn about information system management.
“It takes a lot of work and motivation,” he admits, “having to learn several programming languages and the main data protocols and formats, and get to grips with the notions of big data and machine learning so that I can work effectively with our data scientists. But it’s really interesting!”
Nicolas will complete his technical upskilling in 2022.
Nicolas jokes about his job, describing himself as a data “plumber”. “I develop and deploy ‘pipes’ – servers, networks, applications, databases, algorithms, etc., – that are used to transport and transform data so it can be used by the data scientists in our operational departments. For example, one of my very first tasks was to develop an interface with the Safran Helicopter Engines customer portal for generating engine component analysis reports. The interface processes files that circulate between several servers, changing format at each stage.” Nicolas handles some of the developments himself but also calls on outside service providers for other projects. He’s responsible for ensuring all cost, quality and delivery commitments are met.
After a year in his new role, knows he’s made the right decision. “Changing jobs has been a truly rewarding experience, and this kind of opportunity is only available with large firms. If you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, I say ‘go for it’!”
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