University was not on the cards for Timo. But against the odds, he followed his dream to study computer science and today uses his background as researcher to empower businesses through Artificial Intelligence.

Meet Timo Johann, Advanced App Engineering Associate Manager at Accenture Belgium & Luxembourg.

“I discovered computers and computer science as a teenager while working in a small computer repair workshop. It was the mid 1990s, and the World Wide Web was invented but not yet a place for ordinary users. From the moment I got my first modem and connected to the Internet, I was hooked. Of course, it was totally different back then. I’ve watched it evolve over the years and it’s still evolving. That’s why I like my job. You can be sure things will keep on changing.”

“I left a footprint in science and that makes me really proud”

“I started my university education quite late, at the age of 24. Before that, I was in the army in Germany. I then followed professional training as an electrician, but already with a connection to computer science and robotics.”

“I always wanted to study but I was not sure if I could afford it because I am coming from a working class family without an academic background. Making that step to university was one of the most important decisions in my life. It took me a while to say, “I will do that, and I can do that”, but in the end I’m happy I did! My academic career was my greatest challenge but also my greatest achievement. I decided to follow the complete path, from bachelor to master and PhD. I wrote a lot of publications and many were accepted by international conferences and journals. Several of my publications are still cited by other researchers. I left a footprint in science and that makes me really proud.”

“I still use my research experience now”

“While studying, I also taught algorithms, software engineering, requirements engineering and software architectures at different universities in Hamburg, Trier but also internationally in cooperation with universities from the US, Canada and many European countries. It was an incredibly nice experience!”

“My PhD is about requirements engineering and, in the end, large-scale requirements engineering. Having patience, especially when doing a PhD, is essential. You do completely new things, you often struggle, and you just have to be patient because you are not sure about the outcome. This experience really helps me now. I am more relaxed because outcomes don’t always appear immediately. If you are doing something that nobody did before, you need to look at something two or three times to find the right direction.”

“Today, I use this knowledge and experience to analyze massive amounts of data using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and extract meaningful insights. For example, in an app store, users can recommend an app or write something about a bug or feature that is missing. You then reach a point where all you can see is a mass of data. It’s impossible for a company or a person to analyze this and that’s where we step in. Using AI, we can analyze the emotion of these reviews and then connect them to specific features of an app. This enables us to understand if people liked a feature or not and how, after new releases, their emotions and reviews change.”

“Social skills make the difference”

“As a requirements engineer, you of course need analytical and technical skills but never underestimate the need for social skills. You have to talk to people, you have to have a feeling for their pain points. It’s not only about the information you read in documents or find in technical publications. Social skills make the difference between being just a technical person and somebody who works for Accenture in the field of requirements engineering.”

“A good example of this at Accenture is our AI Hackathon: a global challenge to work as teams to find cool solutions using AI. Our latest hackathon was focused on customer care. I organized the Luxembourg team and we got started with a design thinking workshop to identify what we could do better to support customer care in Luxembourg, with a specific focus on the financial sector.  Already, this workshop was a great and fun team building experience. We then developed a chatbot to help bank customers get the right answers to everyday banking questions or recommendations on financial products. Out of the 14 people in the team, we only had two with any previous AI experience! We all learned a lot. It’s a good example of how important a mixture of skills and perspectives is to succeed as a team and as Accenture. Everybody has a role and the outcomes come from the whole team.”

“Living in Germany and working in Luxembourg, is living the European dream”

“What I love about Accenture is the rich diversity of very professional and experienced people and the international atmosphere. I work with people of all nationalities, especially here in Luxembourg where a high number of colleagues come from other countries. During my academic career, I had the chance to travel and work with partners in a wide variety of domains. I have the same opportunity at Accenture, except now I also work with clients.”

For me, living in Germany and working in Luxembourg is living the European dream. The fact that Accenture is a borderless company means a lot. If you need something and the expert you are looking for is working in another country, you can just call or message them. It’s amazing to see this huge community of people working together around the globe.”

 

Timo Johann (1983)

Studied: Computer Science

Started working at Accenture: January 2018

Relationship status: -

Loves: Rock music and outdoor sports

Gets annoyed by: Any kind of discrimination

Favorite food: Fresh seafood

On my nightstand: Currently, Stiller by Max Frisch

Listens to: Hard Rock / Punk / Metal / Blues

Would like to sit next to in the plane: Rock musician Lemmy Kilmister

Life-changing event(s): Starting my university education

The best lesson life has taught me: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations

What I learned last week: Doing an interview is fun :-)

 

This portrait was written by Magaly Piscarel.