Thinking Big: From EA to BSA to Strategist & Onward
Thinking Big: From EA to BSA to Strategist & Onward

Thinking Big: From EA to BSA to Strategist & Onward

In part 1 of our 'Living Our Values' mini-series, Deniz Berrak explores what the core value, "Think Big", means to her at Architech and beyond.

As a company, Architech lives and works by 6 core values. These values govern how we do business, how we plan for the future, and how we understand and support our team. In part 1 of our 'Living Our Values' mini-series, Deniz Berrak explores what the core value, "Think Big", means to her -- at Architech and beyond.

When I speak to people about what I do – if they’re not in IT – generally, their eyes glaze over and they go into ‘polite listening and nodding head’ mode. If they’re nice – and they usually are –  their next question is “Nice! Did you go to school for IT?” It’s an innocent enough question but the answer always surprises them. For my first degree, I studied History. Then, I went on to study Human Resource Management. Essentially, I was as far from technology as one can get – and yet,I feel that my path to technology was the most organic and logical thing that could have happened. Not because there’s any sort of clear line from HR to IT – but rather because the skills I picked up over the course of my life were translatable enough that they allowed me to evolve from one role to the next.

After school, I decided to move across the globe and ‘work’ [read: vacation] abroad. I was in no hurry to find a job, so when I got the call for my first job interview I reluctantly got myself off the beach and into the office. The position - Executive Assistant (EA) to a CEO - had nothing to do with Human Resources, however after confirming that I could eventually move into an HR related role I agreed to start. 2 companies and 3 years later, I returned to Canada and was looking for a new job. I didn’t have any experience in HR so the obvious thing to do was look for another position as an EA. I was lucky, and within the month I began working at a large Canadian software solutions company.

This was a pivotal point in my career. I knew I didn’t want to do this forever but I decided to give it my all until I could figure out what my next step was. As an EA you’re not technical, but you still need to be in tune with the political landscape of your organization, understand areas of risk and opportunity, and build strong relationships both internally and with clients -- all of which all help your organization function with ease and create the foundation to help grow business.

One day, during my 1-on-1 with my boss, he asked me if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. His exact words were “Deniz, tell me what you want to do, whatever it is, even if it’s brain surgery, tell me. I’m going to help you get there” (#bestbossever). It was during that conversation I broached the topic of becoming a Business Systems Analyst (BSA). It was a growing role at our company and I felt like it would be exciting and rewarding work. My boss supported the decision whole heartedly and, a short time later, I was on my way to becoming a BSA.

It was very much trial by fire. With no technical background, I received a 3-day training course and a set of training CDs covering the basics and then was put on my first ever IT project, responsible for system requirements, use cases, business flows and testing. I was terrified!

At the beginning, everything was intimidating and it took a while before I found my voice. But, eventually, it all worked out.

What I began realizing was that while the context was different, the skills I had developed – understanding risk, planning for exceptions, and building strong relationships with my clients – were the key to becoming as successful as a BSA as I had been in previous roles.

It was just about finding a way to leverage these transferable skills in my new role. It wasn’t easy but in time I began to feel more comfortable and the same skills that made me a good EA helped me become a thorough and methodical BSA.

4 years later, I moved into a role as first a Business Analyst and then Strategist at Architech. It was an exciting new start with a growing company that boasted great perks, a kick-ass team, and cool projects to work on. Here, at Architech, we have 6 pillars that govern our work ethic:

  • Never Fail a Client
  • Be Collaborative
  • Embrace Change
  • Grow our People
  • Do the Right Thing 
  • Think Big

While each pillar is important, the one that resonates most with me is ‘Think Big’. To me, thinking big  means persevere --  never giving up, especially in the face of ambiguity and change. It reminds me to always push further, especially to overcome labels like “non-technical” (which speak only to current skills and say nothing about potential). And, this core value reminds me that all you need to be successful is a toolbox of skills that you can apply to any new challenge that comes your way; be it working in a foreign country and navigating a vastly different cultural landscape, serving as an EA at a fast paced IT firm, learning the ropes as a newly minted BSA, or becoming a Strategist and helping clients solve their business problems using digital solutions.

I didn’t realize my role as an EA would lead me to my role as a BSA and eventually Strategist, but I’m glad that the ‘non-technical’ label (imposed on me by others) didn’t get in my way. Labels limit individuals in their growth -- so if you’re looking to change or explore new career options, focus on your skill set and whether it’s applicable to get the job done rather than whether you think you’re ‘qualified’ or not.

Be open to learning, pushing your boundaries, new opportunities, and always remember to Think Big.

Read more about Architech's Core Values in Part II of our "Living Our Values" mini-series.