When Max joined Riaktr as a big data consultant, he was not expecting to be thrown into the heart of the tech jungle after only a few months on the job.
But when he was given the chance to shift from the business side to a more technical role, he did not hesitate to take the leap.
About 15 months ago I joined the Craft Apps team, which is Riaktr’s consulting and custom big data solutions division. At the time, I had a solid business degree and prior experience at Roland Berger, a consulting firm.
My first project at Riaktr was for a leader in satellite TV distribution in South Africa. Our client needed to update its entire reporting base, mainly by creating interactive and user-friendly dashboards.
Part of my role was similar to classic business consulting: identify pain points with the existing reporting, understand user needs, and facilitate workshops to design a better solution. But in addition to that, I was also doing operational-type jobs that involved front-end development, such as building dashboards with Tableau, a data visualisation software.
After a few months, I was offered a position on another project, this time in a more technical capacity as a back-end developer. Tempted by the challenge and eager to learn more, I said yes.
In the beginning, the change of environment made it feel like I had been dropped right in the jungle…
I got confronted with a completely new technology stack.
I had to navigate my way through thousands of lines of code.
All while trying to become useful in the team as fast as possible.
No longer could I rely on my business skills to find my way. I was completely out of my comfort zone, but error message after error message, Google search after Google search, tutorial after tutorial, I slowly started to master it all.
I also noticed the added value of having a business background. On the one hand, this allowed me to easily interact with the customer when discussing how to build tech solutions for their business needs. On the other hand, I was made sure that the solutions we developed within the tech team were tailored for the user and adapted to their context.
If I had to summarize the success factors of my transition they would be:
- A high level of motivation. I was willing to learn new skills.
- Helpful colleagues. The management and the technical guys had designed a training plan to guide me in my new function. The plan consisted of online courses and coaching sessions with more experienced colleagues.
- Humility. I learned to not try and run before I could walk.
Looking back, I’m really satisfied with the transition I’ve made and how I’m helping the back-end team today. Learning additional programming skills has given me a more comprehensive understanding of all aspects of tech solutions. The combination of business and IT knowledge allows me to see more business opportunities and assess the underlying technical complexity better than before.
All in all, my advice for business people is don’t fear an adventure in the tech jungle. Go for it, and you’ll build a true professional edge.
And if you are considering moving into tech, I would recommend the following resources:
Maxime Marion is a Big Data consultant at Riaktr. He works between Brussels and South Africa on custom projects as part of the Craft Applications department.