Welcome back to Beyond The Data! This month, we’re highlighting Xiong Vang, one of our Senior Data Engineers. He has a passion for data and loves to help his teammates any way he can. It’s so easy to have a rich conversation with Xiong about programming languages, big data, or data science.
Tell us your name, where you’re from, and a little about you.
My name is Xiong Vang. I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. My family immigrated to Minnesota about 25 years ago, where I now live with my wife and our two boys. I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, and learning new technologies.
I hold a Finance B.B.A from the U of M – Duluth and I am completing an M.S. in Data Science at the University of St. Thomas.
What does being a Data Engineer mean? What do you actually do on any given day?
As a data engineer, I work on implementing solutions within an architecture designed by the Solutions Architects. My day-to-day involves communicating with business users to make sure all requirements are clearly understood. Then, I work with my teammates to ensure our solutions fulfill those requirements.
Most of my time is spent building data pipelines and writing data transformation code. I am passionate about creating data pipelines that are reliable, scalable, and maintainable.
What is it like working on the Data Engineering team?
It is amazing how many smart and experienced data engineers have gathered here at phData.
To me, the technology Slack channels here are gold mines. They are full of problems and proposed solutions to all the technologies that we support. I make sure to put aside time every day to read through the discussions happening in those channels and I always learn something new.
What is even more amazing is that everyone on all levels is so willing to help and share their knowledge.
At dinner with my teammates while visiting a customer
How long have you been with phData? What did you do before this role?
I have been with phData for about a year and a half. Before that, I worked as a software engineer. All the software engineering principles I learned still apply in my current role.
In my experience, data engineering is pretty much software engineering with a focus on data technologies.
How have you seen the company change in that time and how has your job evolved?
phData has grown a lot in the short time that I’ve been here. We have added more cloud-based technologies to our toolbelt. Both offices in India and the US have expanded. There have been more opportunities for career advancement.
One thing that has not changed is a sense of community that enables and fosters the free flow of knowledge and ideas.
What is the one thing you want customers to know about phData?
Everyone at phData embodies our core values: psychological safety, curiosity, grit, and community. You will not only get data engineers who are passionate about data technologies and naturally eager to learn, but you will also get access to a community of experienced engineers.
Does that sound like a place you’d like to work? Because we’re currently hiring additional Data Engineers! Take a look at our open positions.
What are the most exciting things you’re working on and how do you see them positively impacting our customers?
My team and I built a Scala Spark application to transform data from a relational model to a document model while applying custom business rules. The application is configuration driven, including the business rule transformations, so that it can be used for multiple data sources. To onboard additional data sources, all the customer has to do is create a new YAML file.
Ultimately, this saved our customer from having to create and maintain multiple custom Spark applications for 30+ data sources.
How do you like working from home? Do you have any WFH tips that have helped you during this challenging time?
Working from home has been great. I find myself more productive at home because the nature of my work requires more heads-down designing and coding and I have a great desk setup. I make sure to take small mental breaks throughout the day.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
This question brings me back to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford. One of the pieces of advice he gave was that if we want to do great work we must find what we love. I followed his advice and found data engineering.
Outside of work, what's your life like? What do you do for fun?
I have two sons, a five-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old. The majority of my time outside of work is spent chasing them around the house, exploring new parks when weather permits, doing arts and crafts, reading the same books over and over again, and making sure my kids eat their veggies. When I have managed to wear them out, I find joy in learning new technologies and studying for certifications.