Domain services

A day in the life, Fiona Wharton, Domain Architect, UBS Chief Digital and Information Office

Fiona Wharton is a Domain Architect at UBS in the company’s Chief Digital and Information Office. Based in London, she is responsible for the technological architecture of the financing activities of the investment bank. She worked for UBS for 17 years after a 15-year career as a consultant at Accenture.

6 a.m. I get up early and focus on getting ready before trying to get my teenager out of bed at 7am. If he’s not downstairs by 7:30, I start calling him because I don’t want him to be late. When he appears, we have breakfast together before he leaves on time for school, thus avoiding detention. I live in Hackney and the London office is about 4km away. I’m there three days a week and I usually run, cycle or walk – I try to fit as many exercises as possible into my daily routine to avoid having to go to the gym.

8:15 a.m. Clear communication is important to my job. This means that I usually start the day by prioritizing urgent emails. Most emails come from my UBS colleagues, but I receive external emails, especially when attending a conference, from suppliers and others sharing information that may be of interest to me.

9 a.m. My meetings are starting! Teamwork is essential. That’s also half the fun: dealing with people and complexity. As a Domain Architect for the Investment Bank finance business, my role is to design a master plan for IT systems, working with the business to ensure they have the right technology in place to succeed in his duties. If we get the technology right, everything else in this very complex business can run smoothly. As a business function, Funding serves hedge funds, investment managers, sovereign wealth funds and global family offices, providing prime brokerage, equity trading, clearing (listed products and OTC) and stock lending. Collateral services are also supported. Much like an architect will design a new building, I work closely with the finance company to help them make the best decisions about the structure and style of applications (e.g. microservices and layers) combined with architectural characteristics that include availability, reliability and scalability.

I also ensure that the governance is adequate and that the architecture we implement is fit for purpose and cost effective. My role is in the technology landscape and I’m responsible for around 150 applications whose code base we control. It takes a lot of coordination and a lot of meetings!

10 a.m. I have a meeting with a project manager on moving applications to the cloud to review the challenges faced by the teams involved and discuss solutions to resolve them. Migration to the cloud is an essential part of our overall IT strategy, which will bring significant benefits, including increased agility and speed to market, IT innovation, cost transparency and better use of the infrastructure.

11 a.m.. I have a governance meeting with another team member. This is to confirm that the changes we are implementing are in accordance with established principles and approved architecture patterns.

12 p.m. I make time for lunch and deliberately use that time to engage in personal activities – some “me time”. Once a week I sing with the UBS Choral Society, another day I volunteer at a local primary school and play games with the children to help them learn their multiplication tables. On Fridays, I work from home and play tennis! Other times I either have lunch with a colleague or grab something to eat at my desk.

1 p.m. There is a meeting to discuss the implementation of a new system and discuss how we align it with business priorities. This meeting focuses on content architecture and design: using technology to get from A to B. It’s often some fancy brainstorming sessions and a place where we can get quite creative. I love this part.

1:30 p.m.. The United States is online, and as we are a global team, it can be a busy time interacting with team members in the Americas.

2:30 p.m.. I have a meeting with one of my direct reports where we are focused on reviewing the architecture of a new cloud-hosted application and discussing progress on the target architecture for this area. I’m also a chapter leader at UBS, which means I look after the careers and skills of employees who want to become architects like me.

It takes years to become an architect – that’s what makes it so exciting. You should have experience in various technologies, frameworks and platforms and you should have knowledge of the business. There are different paths you can follow to become an architect – some people start as an engineer and follow a technical path first; others follow a systems development path and learn about individual systems before understanding how the systems come together to create a larger architecture. I went the systems route – I have a background in finance and business, then I taught myself to code and took a job where I worked the full lifecycle of the system development. When I had enough experience, I specialized.

3 p.m. Staying up at date on new developments is essential in my role. I attend a fintech presentation on new technologies, as part of my job is to understand how technology evolves and to ensure that we are constantly thinking outside the box.

4 p.m.. I have a data meeting. We are currently focused on building a data mesh for investment banking. This is an innovative approach that has significant advantages over how we approached data in the past.

5 p.m. I have a design authority meeting with the US team where we are reviewing architecture options and recommending a new application

5:30 p.m.. There is a daily wrap-up meeting towards the end of the working day in London. I don’t attend every day, as this meeting is focused on the people responsible for producing each of our applications, but I will attend if we have had resiliency issues. Resilience and availability are of paramount importance to us, and we work proactively to ensure there are no production incidents.

6 p.m.. My meetings usually wrap up and I have an hour to go through my emails. I usually leave at 7pm and try to avoid reconnecting until the next morning. I used to log on in the evening, but found it wasn’t often necessary because when you’re an architect, you don’t face emergency requests – although I can always be contacted if necessary.

I usually spend my evenings exercising or relaxing. I try to be in bed at 10 p.m., which is much earlier than before. I became much more focused on my health as I got older! On weekends I play tennis, both days if I can go to dinner/theatre or both, meet friends and relax.

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