Lothar Wolf has been working as Data Service Competence Area Manager at EUMETSAT for over 15 years. We went to explore the data archive with him, where he described to us what his job entails and explained the variety of tasks he has been able to work on during this time.
What exactly is a Data Service Competence Area Manager and what are your daily tasks?
To understand the job I’ll first explain how the organisation is set up. Here at EUMETSAT, we have a directorate that heads different divisions divided by “topics” under which you can find specific “competence areas”. A competence area is a combination of different people bringing together skills relevant to a specific subject. In my case, this is data services.
Data services consists of whatever leaves EUMETSAT. Our mission statement is all about operating meteorological satellites and delivering data 24/7 worldwide and so the types of data services we provide include engineering, maintaining and evolving all of the infrastructure elements, software and services related to data dissemination such as EUMETCast, archiving using tools such as the Unified Meteorological Archive & Retrieval Facility (UMARF), web dissemination and web-based visualisation such as EUMETView as well as the data discovery portals such as the EOPortal and ProductNavigator.
Basically, data services could be described as being a bit like providing all the elements for EUMETSAT’s shop window. What we develop is delivered to the operations side of EUMETSAT, who then manage the services and provide the interface to the users.
As Competence Area Manager I am supposed to manage all the services and skills needed to ensure we deliver what we are expected to. We have five sub-teams, each of which contains around five to six people and one of my favourite parts of the job is actually working with these people. We are constantly adapting ourselves to be prepared for the future needs of users and are always restructuring. One of the teams involved within Data Services is an innovation team that helps us to identify new skills and provides us with training plans to make sure we are always on top of the “data services” domain.
My work also involves a lot of contact with our member states, bilateral partners and other international organisations such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide them with support on how data services are delivered to users worldwide.
How does your work impact the organisation?
By nature of the subject, data services have a large impact on the organisation and get a fair amount of visibility — this might sometimes lead to updating policies or strategies. One example was evident when the Director-General endorsed a new data services strategy and set several organisational objectives in order to achieve its implementation. Today it’s all about facing the “big data challenges” and what services we are giving to the users, so essentially data services has a very wide interest also inside the organisation.
The implementation of the data services strategy lead to the data services roadmap. One phase of this roadmap was an implementation of “pathfinders” for new services. It’s because of the work on the pathfinders that we were able to look further ahead and came up with the idea of the WEkEO Copernicus DIAS Service, a cloud-based platform that allows users to get free access to all Copernicus-related data.
How we implemented the new changes also had a severe impact on our ways of working with other departments, such as contracts and legal. Even changes to the data policy were made. The work allowed us to create new opportunities for not only people and industry but also EUMETSAT. As a final step, we are now engaging in an upcoming “European weather cloud”.
However, having said that, it’s important to know and to acknowledge that we are just one part of a big machine — we are the specialists on data services but we work with many other departments, teams and specialists together exploiting the matrix, and without whom the work and success would not be possible.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background?
I began by studying meteorology and then started working for the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD — the German meteorological centre). Later on, I went to work at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) as a software developer responsible for data acquisition and dissemination. During my time there I also played a role in system administration and bringing the numerical weather prediction into operation.
I then started studying computing and by chance, spotted a vacancy at EUMETSAT for the central facility that at the time had nothing to do with dissemination. When I got here, the organisation was restructuring and a dissemination team was created to lead the implementation of EUMETCast, our data dissemination system.
My story at EUMETSAT began with a failure on one of the elements of our first Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) spacecraft that lead to the creation of EUMETCast and I was amongst the few people who made EUMETCast fully operational.
You have some interesting items in your office, can you explain what they represent?