Posted on 20/11/2018 by Greg Clarke
How did you come to join MThree?
My original background is in Marketing, Economics and Project Management. I studied marketing and business for two years for my undergraduate degree and realised I actually wanted something a bit more technical. I then decided to expand my skill set and study a Bachelors degree in Economics and a Masters in Project Management at UCL. Technical skill was a key aspect that I felt was missing from my profile… and MThree gave me the perfect learning opportunity to learn and improve.
My team at Nomura is changing the way business analysis is done, using Confluence and Jira alongside other tools for improved transparency, efficiency and information sharing. As part of my role, I prepare and present demos, write workflows, and collaborate with the IT team, who is responsible for creating added plugins and bespoke improvements for Jira and Confluence to suit our use case. I interact and present demos via Webex or face-to-face to a wide variety of stakeholders and senior managers across various functions and regions to establish the requirements or present prototypes, templates and workflows. The scope of the project has grown significantly. We are now taking steps to implement the new processes in other departments and regions, which is really exciting. I get to share my knowledge, by creating templates, managing the workflow for my department, dealing with any issues encountered by users when using the new business analysis process and even providing training and creating ‘How to?’ pages for the wider public to facilitate the sharing of information.
How would you describe what you do to a non-technical person?
Together with my team members, we are changing the way business analysts and project managers work, using new tools and creative processes based on the automation of traceability. Instead of having everything paper-based and stored in individual shared spaces or drives, we are using new technologies to achieve traceability. It’s more social than the previous way of doing things, which means people can exchange information quickly and efficiently.
My day to day job revolves around business analysis: using some of the tools I helped design, because I’m piloting them. As a BA, I perform data analysis as part of the functional testing for project work for which I liaise with business stakeholders to gather requirements and collate project artefacts - such as the Business Requirement Document, Test Approach, Test Strategy and Test Cases, all using the new process.
What have you learned this past year?
Confluence, Jira, Python, SQL, CSS and how to mockup a UI on PowerPoint are just some of the skills I have learned over the past year. The more I learned, the more I had to learn. Also creating knowledge that can be shared, rather than hidden in multiple shared drives.
What’s the best and worst part of your job?
“The best part is the creativity. When people think about finance, they might not think of it as a creative industry but with all these new tools I’m using in my department, I have had to be inquisitive and creative. I had to do a lot of research to design a functioning workflow that caters for some of the key use cases of my team. I’m more creative than I thought I would be. I like to be challenged, and kept on my toes! This role definitely keeps me on my toes.
The challenging part I would say is that all this learning is time-consuming. In a way, I’m less in control as these are skills that I just recently acquired. So there’s some fear of the unknown, it comes along with the creativity and the drive to learn. But my team are amazing and support that process, which is key.
Tell me what you’re most proud of and a difficult decision that you had to make as part of it?
I was really proud when I completed my portion of a regulatory project. It took a lot of trial and error for the testing phase but it went smoothly. For this project, I used the technical skills acquired through MThree’s Python training, complemented with an online course on Pluralsight and on-the-job learning. I was proud. I called my mum after to tell her!
The difficulty in a finance role is you have to understand the numbers and their significance. It’s not enough to just perform a calculation or test a change, you have to understand what’s going on behind the numbers and their meaning. I still have a lot of learning to do to gain more independence for data interpretation.
What advice would you give someone who’s just about to start their placement?
Learn as much as you can about the financial side alongside the technical skills. You’ll build technical skills in your day-to-day tasks, but the financial side you really have to find time for and work at it.
What are you looking forward to next year?
More responsibilities, more work, more deadlines. The programme will be coming to an end in a years time, and I hope to be given a permanent position, which is something I’d be really looking forward to, and maybe getting a promotion if things go well, but probably in a similar role. Tech has to be there!
During my time at PWC, I’d reach out to the CEO or the business Development Manager of an SME after having identified their products, potential for internationalisation and, the problems they’re solving with their product or technology. The aim was to enroll the business to an export mission to Asia as part of European Commission led programme. It was fantastic to learn about how they were transforming industries and I learned so much. However, I realised that instead of being on the consultancy side where I only saw the change from the outside, I wanted to be on the inside, where I could be part of that transformation. Luckily, when I joined Nomura, my manager was working on this transformation project, which he assigned to me in additional to my work as a business analyst. So that really worked in my favour.
My masters degree covered Project and Enterprise Management in Construction. I came to realise that even in construction there’s this whole world of tech through my placement at PwC working on a business mission for Construction and Building Environment. This is when I came to realise: yes, I want to work in tech.
One of the main reasons I joined Alumni was the training and all the technical skills it would provide which I’d never had the chance to learn at university: Linux, SQL and so much more. I remember at university when I got 19/20 in statistical programming, using Stata13, as part of my Economics course. That’s when I realised, hold on a second, I might be a technical person!
Can you describe the team dynamic and why it’s going so well?
It’s a relatively small team in London, but the team spans across various countries in Asia, including India and China. What I like about the team is that everyone is willing to take time and book a meeting with you and explain what you don’t understand. It’s surprising because everyone has a lot on their plate and they’re willing to give you 30-60 minutes of their day. When I joined, I would go to a colleague with a list of questions about what I didn’t understand, and they would not hesitate to say, go ahead and put some time in my diary. It’s not a “blame” culture, it’s not antagonistic, it’s helpful. It’s an environment in which I thrive. I’m very lucky to have that environment. They all have different skill set and background too: some are very technical, some have more a finance background. The team is also very progressive and open to adopting and testing new tools. We’re all growing as a team, all transitioning to using Python, Gitlab and bespoke internal innovative internal tools. It’s a forward-thinking, technology-driven team. We could do it all in Excel but we don’t, we embrace change.
I am also involved outside of my team in the Nomura Karate Club. I’d never done martial arts before. It’s part of getting into the Japanese spirit. I’ve also joined the Nomura Japan Club as a committee member. I recently organised an origami event and so on. I also collate information and write articles for the Nomura Global Risk Newsletter as a representative of EMEA Risk team: the newsletter talks about new joiners, charity work, departmental meetings, and all sorts of things. I wanted to be sure to learn skills outside my day job, interpersonal things as well as the technical day to day. I’m thinking of joining the German club too.
What else should we have asked you?
I’m passionate about languages. I speak English, French, German, and I’m learning Mandarin Chinese, the same way I’m learning Python. There’s a syntax to Python the same way there’s a syntax to Chinese. So for example, if you’ve got a language degree, you have the mind to learn Python as well as French. It’s the same basic concept. Except instead of talking you get to type. That’s how I approached it, also at my interview. I said, no, I’m not proficient at Python, but I’ve learned other languages quickly and this isn’t any different. You can see your degree differently if you think about it, and try to think about what your mind is like instead.
One of the main reasons I joined Alumni was the training and all the technical skills it would provide which I’d never had the chance to learn at university.