Gintaras Sakalas: Big data – experiment, discover and improve
- Title Product Owner, Data and Analytics at SEB Global Services
- Education Master’s degree in Mathematics and Statistics, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
- Personal interests experimenting and improving
Gintaras’ mission is transforming SEB into a data-driven company, so he is experimenting with big data and strengthening our technological capabilities. He is also a firm believer that SEB’s IT potential is greatly underestimated, so he has become and ambassador, keen on showing the cool things that are happening in SEB to the outside world. “Before joining, I thought that SEB was old-school, slow in adapting new technologies. I couldn’t have been more wrong,” says Gintaras.
Tell us about your previous career and how did you join SEB
I had worked together with my current manager for quite some time for another company, and then she joined SEB. When we later met for coffee and she asked what my plans were. At that time, I was considering changing my career path, so she suggested to apply for a team manager position that was open in SEB’s Information Platform department, which works with big data. This area was new for me, it was a chance to build something new and transform SEB into a data-driven company, as the concept of big data was only emerging in 2017. That’s why I joined.
We have around 50 people in our department, working in Sweden and Lithuania, still expanding and looking to hire big data engineers. I joined as a team manager, and due to my previous experience I was also assigned with other responsibilities such as vendor management and lifecycle management. As of this year I have changed my position and my current role is product owner.
Tell us more about your responsibilities
I am responsible for our Big Data Foundation product family, which is a part of our Information Platform. I am driving the strategy for this product family, so I have to keep track of all the latest technologies in my area and identify how we can use them. Of course, I am not alone; I have an amazing team of 10 colleagues.
In SEB we have more than 1000 different IT systems. If I had to estimate how far we are now on our journey to a data-driven company, I would say we are about 1/3rd of the way. There’s still a lot to do. It is an immense challenge to get all data we have in the bank to be stored and analysed in one place, we call it the Data Lake. Our current priority is to work on the use-cases identified by the business and build solutions for the rest of the bank – IT teams, business units, analysts, client managers etc., so they can use data to make better decisions. We are scaling the usage, and my team members are training colleagues from other parts of the bank to use our data platform capabilities.
What keeps you motivated and energized?
SEB is not branded as an IT company, but I think it should be. Outside world doesn’t know about the interesting and cool things we do. So I have made it my mission to do everything I can to show SEB as an IT and data-driven company, for example, by giving guest lectures to universities or meeting IT communities. I know for a fact that at least in my area – big data, the rest of the banks are far behind us. Big data is a new technology, and there still are a lot of unknown factors. Finding new solutions, experimenting, failing and trying again – these are the things that motivate me.
Can you tell us about your hobbies and things you like to do outside your professional life?
I am lucky as I can follow my passion to explore new things and experiment in my job. It energizes and motivates me, and I guess the same principle applies to my hobbies. In my free time I also enjoy learning new things. We have a family tradition – each year we are going fishing to Norway. For me it is a way of relaxing, detaching myself from the problems and enjoying the beautiful fjords of Norway. Of course, I am always trying new equipment or new strategies how to catch the big fish. Another tradition for our family is that we are going to sauna once per week, followed by jumping in a cold pool. It is a good way of keeping your immune system strong. Two years ago I started training for Strongman, a heavy lifting sports event. Again, something entirely new for me. I keep myself busy, always trying to keep things interesting, improve and experiment.