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Interview with Omar Berg Torfason – Data Engineer – Rotterdam Office

Data Engineer – The data streams I work with are very diverse. I really like that challenge
Interview with Omar Berg Torfason – Data Engineer – Rotterdam Office

The data streams I work with are very diverse. I really like that challenge

Thanks to technology, the shipping industry is going through a dynamic period. All kinds of tracking devices are finally available for everyday use. Not only have they become affordable, but their power supplies are long enough to last the entire journey of the goods that are being tracked. Connectivity blind spots also no longer exist, as the whole world is within range. This technology is moving fast. So fast, much more opportunities and improvements are to be expected.

The eyes of Omar Berg Torfason (39), a data engineer with Sampskip, light up when he talks about this. All these developments offer a goldmine of data to companies like Samskip. And that is where he comes in. His task is to set up a framework where all these new and old data streams are clean and available so that the whole company can benefit from it.

Do these developments in the shipping industry require a different kind of work, if you compare it to other companies? In many cases, an IT Digital Solutions Team will focus on developing an existing framework. But your work goes further, right?
‘Yes, so what we are doing is not just maintaining existing structures or applying a single programme to integrate new streams, but also deciding which models we need and building those models. In this job, you have to like challenges, you always have to adjust to the demands and the developments in the industry. It is the dynamics of the industry that make my job dynamic as well.

This way of data handling is relatively new to Samskip. That means my colleagues in other departments are not always aware of what the IT department can do for them. So, I have to do a bit of pioneering too, which I enjoy.

And what do you like about the data you work with?
‘I like that our data relate to real containers, on actual trucks. Our data represent freight somewhere in the ocean, cargo for which our customers, like factories, are waiting to use. There is nothing abstract about it.

But what I like most is the enormous diversity of data streams we are working with. That could be real-time locations of trucks, or money flows. Most of these streams are incomparable, that makes it really challenging.’

How do you cooperate with the rest of Samskip?
‘The digital solutions teams provides data reports to various departments, and we are always expanding and increasing the number of reports. Our aim is that in the future, when there is a delay due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, we can provide our Customer Services with all the data they need to provide a very detailed prediction on the arrival of the goods-  so that customers can make possible adjustments. For the Claims department, it can be relevant to know if containers have been shipped level. Finance and management use the data streams to make their long term company decisions. And the larger access to data streams also makes it easier to see which options are the most sustainable. I am convinced that this is going to be more and more important in the future.

For the short term future, I predict that the IT Digital Solutions department will be even more in touch with Samskip offices in other countries. The other offices are dealing with the same questions as the ones we have in Rotterdam. The technology is already there, so we will not reinvent the wheel in each location.

I am originally from Iceland and Samskip is an Icelandic company, but the Rotterdam office is very international.  The language on the work floor is English, although to be honest, it sometimes happens that my colleagues speak Dutch to one another and I have to ask them to switch so I can join in,’ he laughs.

How did you end up in this role?
‘My family moved to Rotterdam from France two years ago, and I actually started out in the Samskip Finance department. Being intrigued by data analysis, I was happy when I got the opportunity to switch to the IT department where I just started this new position. Samskip puts a very high value on skills and knowledge and I have seen young people grow into roles that fit their career goals and capacities, even when their career paths might be a bit out of the box like mine.

There is also an active push for innovation here. Every Friday my team has a brainstorm session where we come up with new ways IT could further help Samskip. This generally leads to concrete projects that small teams will work on.’

He does not only like to work or brainstorm with his colleagues. Every now and then, he enjoys Friday beer with coworkers from all departments. With an unobstructed view over the Rotterdam Harbour, where containers are being loaded and unloaded, it is hard to imagine an office canteen with a more fitting vista.