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Thursday, 2 December 2021

My Morning Routine: David Owen, economist at IHS Markit

Meet the guy who makes the Egypt PMI: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is David Owen, economist at IHS Markit (Linkedin). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

I’m David, and I’m an economist at IHS Markit. From where I live in the UK, I cover the PMIs — the purchasing managers’ index — for a number of regions. I studied economics at the undergraduate level at the University of Bath and then again for my Masters degree at the University of Birmingham.

As part of the PMI team, we cover business surveys across the world. I’m involved in all parts of that, so I cover Egypt and many other countries across the Middle East and Africa, as well as the UK. I also work on combining all of our data into different global indices.

Every month, I search through the data and look for the next exciting insight. It really covers a wide range of information, so you get to see the economy from a global perspective, and get to see what the next emerging trend is.

I’ve been covering Egypt’s PMI for four years, ever since I joined the PMI team. The Egypt PMI is often quite a complicated one — you really need to get behind the headline number and look at the sub-indices to tell the whole story, after which it then gives a lot of rich detail on the economy's performance.

I always start my day with a good breakfast [laughs]; a nice big pot of cereal and a piece of toast as well. I’ve got a fairly simple morning routine. I’ll try to do a little bit of reading sometimes. Generally, the Bible, but it might also be a novel or something else. I’m usually out of the door very quickly to head to the office. We’ve been working from the office for the past few months and I love working in the office, so I’m always looking forward to getting there and seeing people.

We worked from home for about 18 months during the pandemic. It was a very long period and it very much turned the job on its head. Working on your own and not as collaboratively as before really called for a different way of working and thinking and trying to develop our products, which was harder in a way when working from home. It’s definitely easier to get distracted by the next news item or something like that when working from home, and not having that “peer pressure” makes it a very different environment.

I’ve found that since getting back, ideas flourish a lot better and we get more work in as a team in the office. We have a flexible model at our office and I very much just want to get to the office and see people. I’m working from home as we speak because it’s easier for calls and Zoom meetings, but most of the time I like to be physically there.

I get my news from the Financial Times, BBC, and I look out for news from Egypt and the Middle East. They keep me away from work sometimes [laughs], especially at the height of covid-19, it was like, “oh what’s going on now, what’s changed.” I’m sure what’s happening now with Omicron is going to affect the PMI as well, so we’re back in the hot seat of seeing the first real data of how it’s going to affect activity.

If we’re running surveys, we’ll be going through the data to start the day. Then, either I or another economist will pour over it and search for the most interesting insights. Then, we’ll draft up our reports, looking over what we did the day before. The focus is mostly on getting the report done.

If we’re past the start of the month, we’re spending the day working out ways that we can develop our product to expand into different places or sectors, and new ways of looking at the PMI. It often ends up being a half-and-half structure, so half of the month we’ll be head down, typing up the reports, and the other half is a bit more creative. And we have a table tennis table in our office. If we’re not head down, then I’ll be challenging my colleagues to a game.

I enjoy the PMIs, and there’s definitely new things coming that I’m excited about. I’ll be working on developing some of the new data I’ve been creating recently. I’ve been looking at how we can harness the qualitative data into new indices, and I’m still working on ways that the data can be developed and improved upon.

I’m a classic 9-5 person. I really value the time off that I have and my work-life balance. And I try to maintain that whilst working from home as well. I always like to end my day with a run, so I try to finish in time to do that. Then I like to just cook some dinner and have some time to relax, especially while working from home, because otherwise I’d be spending numerous hours at the laptop, and not really getting away from it. So I always make time to get away for a little break during the day and make sure I end the day well. Very traditional, I guess.

I’m a massive advocate for the cinema, so I’m down to go to the cinema at least once a week. I went to watch a film this last weekend called King Richard, which is about the father of Serena and Venus Williams, and it was a very interesting biopic, very inspirational. I would recommend that. But in general, films are my go-to place to relax, and just escape I guess to another world. It’s cinema over TV for me.

You know the phrase “you have to be able to walk before you run”? Someone last week told me, “you have to run before you can walk.” Sometimes, you think you’re not as good as something that you are, but you can grow faster than you think. That was really interesting.

I think I’ve found more value in community since the pandemic, in having rapport with people. It’s important to build connections with colleagues and friends, and really keep that strong. When we were at the peak of the pandemic, I felt the need to go out and strengthen my close connections. And also just to enjoy the present.

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