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A day in the life of an economist – Nigel Pinkerton

This month we continue our series of economist interviews with a chat to Nigel Pinkerton.

With a background in economics, Nigel now concentrates on developing technologically innovative ways of delivering our services to clients.

Nigel is another of our staff who has chosen to live and work away from our main offices in Wellington, and when he is not developing our web-interfaces or building our data systems, he can be found in a pair of gumboots, farming his lifestyle block in Te Awamutu.

Bio – Nigel Pinkerton

Studied at: Waikato University
Resides in: Te Awamutu

Jacqui: Can you describe a typical day at work?

Nigel: Every day is different.  I am trained as an economist and IT Developer, but I’m progressively becoming more of a Data Scientist.  Most days I spend wrestling with big data sets, and deciding how to present the insights to end users.

JC: What are you currently working on?

NP: The amount of data that Infometrics produces has grown exponentially over the last few years, and our current systems for organising and presenting that data are starting to show their limitations. Currently I am working on upgrading the Sector and Regional economic profiles.  This includes both the web interfaces, and most critically the databases so we can help clients quickly get the information they are after and plan for further growth.

In the Sector Profile, we offer the clients a high degree of flexibility in how they interrogate the data. This means we must have systems behind the scenes that can crunch the numbers quickly and not leave the client waiting for the information they want.

JC: What has been your most rewarding work experience?

NP:The most rewarding experiences are those “aha” moments when a problem you have been working on falls into place.  I get a lot of satisfaction from looking at things and asking “how could this be done better”?

While I spend a lot of my time working “behind the scenes”, I enjoy interacting with clients as it gives me a chance to hear their feedback and ideas.

JC: What has been your most challenging work experience?

NP: We were badly let down by an external service provider a few years back, which led to us losing some data and some of our websites being down for an extended time.  We now manage our most critical infrastructure in-house, and maintain several layers of backup.  The actual hardware no longer sits in our office but in the Azure public cloud, minimising the chance our services to clients would be disrupted by an unexpected event – such as an earthquake.

JC: What is your background and how has this influenced your work at Infometrics?

NP: I come from a dairy-farming family.  Dairy farmers are practical people and I have always been happier as a generalist problem-solver, rather than having a very narrow, specialist skillset.

JC: What changes or challenges do you see in the future?

NP: How the New Zealand workforce adapts to increasing automation.  Driverless cars are a reality today, and threaten thousands of jobs.  But it’s exciting to think what those displaced workers may end up doing instead, perhaps jobs that don’t even exist today.

JC: What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

NP: I am based on a lifestyle block in the Waikato, with beehives, orchards and gardens.  People tell me I brew a killer mead.

I enjoy building things, and have added a deck and garden shed to our house.  I think software developers and builders use a lot of the same skills, just different applications.

JC: What is an intriguing fact about you?

NP: I almost majored in law before changing to economics, then considered becoming a detective.  I got the best time in my intake for the police run but by the time I was called up I had settled into my job at Infometrics.

JC: Thank you for taking the time to chat to us Nigel, we certainly enjoy the mead and home-grown honey that you bring into the office!

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