Find out how two of our luminary Jurisians threaded their career paths, plus other essential advice to find what you’re meant to do
Do you need a career plan? Yes, yes you do.
You know how when you’re young, your ambitions on your Kad 001 (pupil’s cumulative record card) always involve the usual suspects like a businessperson (whatever that means), a police officer, a firefighter, and/or a doctor? As the years progress, you move on to more advanced professions, such as a lawyer, an astronaut, a musician, and/or, Heaven forfend, an influencer.
The point is, our ideals of what our dream job is, can and will change over time. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a career plan. Most of the time, our plans will fail or at least, be totally different from the original. But as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. In a nutshell, the purpose of a career plan is not necessarily just to set a goal or target to aim for, but instead, the act of planning is an end in and of itself. It’ll set you up to have a planning mindset, for whatever life throws at you in the future.
COVID-19 notwithstanding, it is already daunting for fresh graduates to determine their next turn at the crossroads of their career journey. Throw in a pandemic the scale of which the world has not seen in a century, now things are getting trickier than they already were. Additional variables include whether or not the industry you’re interested in, like say, airline or tourism, could weather such an event should it ever occur again.
But, what if you are passionate about finance and/or information technology (IT)? How then do you set up a career plan in fintech? This is an area where Juris Technologies (JurisTech) might be able to help you with.
Monash Malaysia, sowing the ‘Seeds’ of career growth
Four days before Hari Merdeka, Malaysia’s Independence Day, Monash University Malaysia’s Career Services [Facebook] division hosted a one-hour webinar via Zoom and Facebook Live, to talk about just that: ‘Get a head start! Build your career plan today.’ This is held in conjunction with Monash Malaysia’s Virtual Career and Internship Fair 2020 which ran from the 24th of August to the 28th.
Facilitating and providing technical support throughout the session, was Seeds Job Fair [Facebook]. Founded two years ago, Seeds is a local organisation providing a platform for virtual career fairs and webinars such as this one, for both employers and educational institutions alike. It also connects international students here in Malaysia, with jobs back home.
While Santhana Rajmohan, Monash’s career services manager, was there throughout the session as host, it was our chief operating officer (COO), Naaman Lee, that moderated the talk by fielding questions from the audience of students and graduates of Monash. Joining him were product manager Farhad Shababi, and presales manager Alex Tong, who were the two perfect people to answer those questions, as they are also Monash alumnus. Farhad was from Monash’s School of Business, while Alex was from the School of Information Technology.
The idea of the talk was, during uncertain times, including now, there is always an opportunity – a silver lining – when it comes to finding a career. It is crucial to be able to identify the opportunity fast, stand out from the crowd, and grab it at the right time. That requires vision and planning. So, where do you start, and how do you get a head start? The following are all the topics discussed and questions answered around this theme, edited for clarity.
1. How do I pick a career plan?
Naaman pulled no punches by asking the audience right off the bat,
‘Do you even have a career plan?’
‘If not, should you build one now?’
‘In the era of COVID-19, how does it impact your career plan?’
‘In these uncertain times, should you stick to your career plan, or just grab any job that you can?’
Farhad dittoed, asking, should one have a dream job and reject other offers? Or, should the person just aim for a specific position to become, in a company? Is getting that position even viable in that specific company?
He went on to say that while you need a vision and a career plan, you need to be logical and realistic, too. For instance, if one studied business, the person could work in the accounting or marketing department. Not only that, he or she could work the same job in totally different industries as well. After all, almost all businesses need some form of accounting and marketing.
And therein lies the tip – first identify the field in which you want to profess, for the industry could come later. This is especially true during this unpredictable time, where you must identify which industry is mostly affected in order to avoid it, at least temporarily, while pursuing your career path. Therefore, it is OK for you to start your career in an industry you weren’t eyeing before, as long as the field you’re in is aligned with your goals.
Fortunately, in the financial industry, banks and other financial institutions are still operational. Farhad noted that during the six-month Malaysian loan moratorium, JurisTech’s work actually doubled.
Alex chipped in with a slightly contrarian view, highlighting the vision point, stating that it’s very important to have one, so that one will stay on course. For instance, if you’re into cooking, it does not make sense for you to be a server or waiter. No matter what, you need to determine a way to be a chef, even if it starts with becoming a dishwasher before you could become a cook.
Takeaway: It is important to have vision, to aim for a field that you’re passionate about and/or good at. However, regardless of field, position yourself in an industry that has a future. There is risk in every industry, but you might want to pick one that has a lower risk.
2. How do I set a vision for the future, if I don’t even know where to start or what to do?
Alex jumped in saying that generally, as a student, you don’t usually have a plan. You study what’s required at secondary/high school. You’ll only decide on a rough plan when you need to choose an academic degree, because that’s when it branches out and you actually get to choose. His tongue-in-cheek advice for students: Don’t fail your exams.
For him, he scored rather high in his MUFY (Monash University Foundation Year), after which he decided that he wanted to venture into computer science and ‘stick to computers’. In his software-related field, there are also high expectations such as the ability to solve issues, proficiency in technical skills, etc. He reached a juncture where there were two academic degrees to pick, and naturally, he went with the one containing the subject that he previously scored the highest on.
Later, when it comes to picking a career, he still had choices, like whether or not he wanted to be a consultant, a software engineer, or an IT support technician. Though competent, he’s not into doing tech support, therefore he committed fully into becoming a software engineer. He said there were two main reasons why he picked JurisTech. One, it is a technology company doing actual software development. And two, JurisTech has extensive onboarding and training programmes, the second of which intrigued him, because the training programmes extend to cover all levels in the company, including experience hires as well as existing Jurisians looking to expand their skill set. This shows the commitment to nurture Jurisians into all having a growth mindset.
Takeaway: Stay in school, don’t fail, and score high. That opens up more options for graduates to explore and finally settle on a career path that they’re passionate about, and hopefully, good at.
3. What are the characteristics and skills that employers would look for?
For JurisTech, Naaman explained how JurisTech looks for different things when it comes to senior/experienced hires, compared to junior/fresh graduate hires. Naturally, for senior hires, the hiring process is very elaborate, involving multiple rounds of interviews and assignments, with more parameters to consider including culture fit, and a longer decision time.
On the other side of the spectrum, the junior hiring process is much faster where JurisTech looks for basic and fundamental qualities. One of the things we look for, happens to be CGPA scores, though this is not necessarily to know how well they do academically. Instead, it is to gauge how serious the students are in their studies, how well their ability to learn is, and how hard they studied. Hiring of software engineers though, junior or not, has additional requirements, including knowledge of basic coding concepts, and logical thinking skills.
Takeaway: Experience for senior hires, CGPA for junior hires, and skills for jobs that require them.
4. What is JurisTech’s CGPA requirement when hiring?
Naman stated that we’re not looking for super-high CGPAs, and it’s also seasonal. On a presumably 4.0 scale, it is sometimes 3.2 and above, sometimes 3.0 and above.
Takeaway: Don’t fail your exams (according to Alex).
5. Do you hire expats?
This was an easy one for Naaman to answer. JurisTech’s newly crowned chief innovation officer (CINO), Kiarash Razaghiaval, and panellist Farhad, are both from Iran. At the time of writing, they have both been with us for eight and five years, respectively. In fact, our Jurisians are made out of folks from more than ten countries including Australia, France, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Pakistan, the Philippines, just to name a few.
Takeaway: Resoundingly, yes.
6. In a nutshell, what is the candidate selection process like?
- Submit résumé and relevant documents (cover letter, references, transcript) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Curriculum vitae (CV) will be put through filtering criteria like the aforementioned CGPA.
- If passed the filtering stage, you will be called in for an assessment.
- The assessment has three sections:
- The English and mathematics section
- The logic section
- A smaller, SQL knowledge section. Note that it is OK to know nothing about SQL; this is just an assessment and everyone goes through the same assessment, even for non-tech positions.
- The assessment result will be known on the day itself, or two to three working days later.
- Should you be called in for an interview, the questions and even its length, will be based on the results of your previous assessment.
Takeaway: It goes without saying that one must prepare for the assessment and interview, but don’t fret if you think you didn’t do well during the sessions. After all, that’s the point of assessments and interviews – to find the right fit, not to change anyone.
7. If I have created my career plan, what more can I do to get my dream job in this unprecedented time?
Naaman offered two tips here. The first is to get prepared for the interview, even if the interview is six or twelve months away, ie, you’re not graduated yet or you have yet to apply to that particular company. This is a great way to signal to the hiring company that you’ve already decided to work there way before you even applied for that job. One particular instance that left a big impression on Naaman was how someone he hired (who is still working here by the way), was able to articulate everything about JurisTech during the interview. That showed how she’s really serious, took the time to actually know enough about the company to be able to recall facts, and came prepared.
The second is to pick a subject of interest and own it. The subject in question can be academic in nature, work-related, or even just a hobby. Whenever that subject comes up during the interview, you could then talk about it passionately. This is not merely for signalling purposes, but indeed, it is to show that you can actually be passionate about something, and can work your way towards being good at it.
Alex then highlighted something rather interesting regarding this. He professed that back in university, he scored rather low on his favourite subject, due to the fact that he actually tried to fully understand it, taking up time and effort, while for the other subjects, he merely memorised them for the exams. There is a lot to unpack here, but specifically in this context, a subject of interest or a hobby is something that you must be passionate about, and if you’re not good at it (yet), work your way towards being so. Notice that this is counter to the advice earlier about starting a job related to the subject that you scored the highest on. The difference is, one is choosing where to start, and the other is choosing what to aim for. They apply at different times along your career path.
He concluded that it pays to know what the company you’re applying for actually does, and determine whether or not you could do the job. For instance, if you’re studying to be a coder/programmer in, say C++, you could still easily learn PHP from scratch to be able to work in JurisTech. This is important because in order to know what programming language a tech company uses, well, you need to do your research.
Farhad echoed Alex’s sentiments, where he said that one must figure out what the expectations from you are for that job, prior to the application, and figure out whether or not you’re actually good at them and if not, work your way towards being good at meeting them.
His tip is more related to the question. He repeated that one should always approach it logically, not just during this COVID-19 time. Sometimes a dream job is not attainable or available at the moment, but you must still pick a job that could be conducive for you to work your way towards securing that dream job of yours, eventually.
He also agreed with Naaman’s first tip, stating that it’s very easy to research about companies these days – just visit their website.
Takeaway: Find a hobby. Be passionate about (and good at) your hobby. Be passionate about the company you’re applying for, too.
8. Do JurisTech interns have the chance to be permanent employees?
Naaman immediately said yes, stating that a lot of permanent employees here were once interns, where they were being subjected to the same training and same expectations. Both Alex and Farhad added that interns in JurisTech deal with real-life scenarios, will be able to show their fullest potential, and work on real projects here. It’s an actual job.
Takeaway: Most definitely.
9. What are the internship positions available at the moment in JurisTech?
We accept internships all year round, according to Naaman. There are generally two positions available, software engineer and business/systems analyst, though occasionally we hire interns for other departments, like HR, for instance. The timing and stringency of the hiring process changes. It is a bit tightened now for obvious reasons, so one needs to perform better in the assessment and interview sessions mentioned earlier, to be eligible.
Takeaway: Open all year round. Visit https://juristech.net/juristech/internship/ for more information.
10. I’m an MBIS student, getting a master’s degree. Are there any jobs or internships available in JurisTech for me?
MBIS in Monash is master of business information systems, and Naaman pointed out that the business analyst position is a suitable start for graduates in this area. Or course, one should drop their CV to HR and go through the assessment, the latter of which could help JurisTech determine if the person is eligible to be, say, a consultant, or join the artificial intelligence (AI) team.
He also reiterated what was mentioned earlier, regarding students not knowing what to do after graduating. To that, he said that you must find what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and work as best as you can towards the two, even if your current profession doesn’t meet them yet.
Takeaway: A dream job is almost never an entry-level position. Work your way towards it.
11. What do you look for in software engineering interns other than their CGPA?
Naaman stressed that, while CGPA is used as a means to filter out applications, ultimately, what matters is whether or not you can code. Even if the only language you know is SAP’s advanced business application programming (ABAP), if you can code and ace JurisTech’s logic assessment, that’s all that matters. For what Alex said earlier in this talk, if you know coding already, you could pick up a new programming language easily.
Takeaway: If there are just two things that exams actually test, they are memory and time management. Real life is more than that.
12. What kinds of interview questions will JurisTech ask for the software engineer role? Data structures and algorithms?
Alex, while he joined JurisTech as a software engineer, can be considered a part-time coder now, for he has since joined our presales department not long ago to assist in the ‘solutioning’ process for our clients (which still involves some coding).
He said that our assessment is like an exam with a series of questions. Some are objective, while some will require you to provide conditional (if-then) statements written in pseudocode, a description of steps in an algorithm written in plain English. This is so that your logical thinking skills are tested, without you having to have knowledge in any programming language. Mind you that everyone will have to go through these assessments, programmer or not. Those applying for non-software engineer roles need not worry if they don’t score well here, but we pay special attention in this area for software engineer applicants.
Interview questions are more dynamic, depending on the applied role, and data structure questions may only come up for positions such as a data scientist.
Takeaway: Assessments and interviews are not exams you must ace. It’s more like a way for employers to get to know you more – to see if you’re the right fit.
13. How does one become a data scientist?
While at the time of writing, JurisTech is hiring a Junior Data Scientist, Naaman said that you’ll first need to ask yourself, ‘Why?’ as most people do not quite understand that role.
He randomly likened it to the role of a microwave maker. If you love microwaves and want to work in a restaurant, said eatery doesn’t need a person who can build one – just a person who can operate it. Most of the time, it is not about building the algorithm, because algorithms for XGBoosting and random foresting have been built and available as proprietary or open source software.
Instead, data science is all about numbers and models, about tweaking and manipulating data, boosting the model’s accuracy, etc. More often than not, folks who signed up to be a data scientist get disillusioned because they were expecting something else. But that’s the heart of AI – ‘working with numbers’.
Takeaway: By loving maths and being really good at it. And knowing your way around programming.
14. What do data engineers and data analysts actually do?
A data engineer, according to Naaman, is involved in a lot of data preparation. He or she sets up the data pipeline to process data from different sources, into a desirable format that’s presentable to business users.
A data analyst, generally, analyses data using statistics, presents said data in an at-a-glance dashboard, and extracts data into comprehensive reports, all for the purpose of turning data into insights.
Takeaway: Google is your friend.
15. What does presales do?
Alex, who is now in the presales business unit, is the right person to answer the question. He reminded us that our sales department, like any other (except better), is good with discovering the right lead to contact, maintains a good relationship with clients, etc. The presales team supports the sales team, as presales is made up of product experts who have in-depth knowledge of JurisTech software solutions.
Their in-depth knowledge transcends products, well into other areas including customising and mapping our solutions to customers’ pain points, preparing comprehensive request for information (RFI) and request for proposal (RFP) documents, running demonstrations and proof of concepts (PoC) of our solutions to clients, as well as making sure a project initiation is smooth as they hand it off to the project team.
Naaman added that another way to think of presales is that they’re the technical sales support team for our sales department.
Takeaway: Presales, professional product people preceding purchasing phase.
16. How’s the career growth like at JurisTech?
Farhad made it a point that a great company to work for is not just one with a vertical path to grow, but the option to horizontally switch to another path as well. He said that in JurisTech, there are a number of options for you to choose who you want to be, and it’s easy to grow here if you work hard and learn from your seniors.
Alex joined as a software engineer where he became a technical lead and worked on bigger and bigger projects. Dittoing Farhad, he said that when he wanted to move to presales, that option was available for him. Using his knowledge and experience as a coder, he is now helping presales to ‘solutionise’ the architecture for clients, among other things.
Takeaway: A vertical career growth allows you to master other people, but a horizontal career growth allows you to master yourself.
17. Is employment impacted during this COVID-19 time, and is it easier or harder?
Alex noted that for most industries, employment is negatively impacted, but not necessarily because they’re not doing well. Some are just scaling back and acting conservatively, due to the uncertainty of how the economy will be in the future. As a result, they may not be hiring, whether or not they are in need of people. That said, if there really is demand, and if you have the skill set for a specific role, you will still get hired.
Farhad added that this is a good time to tell whether or not a company is doing well. If they are expanding during this uncertain period, it is a good sign that they will grow even more in a normal period.
Takeaway: This is a difficult one. While it is good to be able to specialise in a particular field and work your way up – a specialist, it is also crucial to be able to quickly learn and do new things – a generalist. Perhaps the best choice is to find out which one you are and stick to it, specialist or generalist. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
18. What is the career progression of a business analyst in JurisTech, and what do you look for in a candidate who doesn’t have a business background for that role?
Farhad pointed out that many folks in JurisTech come from different academic backgrounds. The two-week training after joining will equip you with everything you need to start. However, the real experience comes in when interacting with colleagues and clients, as well as when doing the actual work. Therefore, he said, your career will be built throughout your journey in JurisTech, as you have the opportunity, as a business analyst, to be a consultant or a manager.
Naaman commented that the business analyst role is the most versatile in the company, where one can progress to be a business unit manager, project manager, or subject-matter expert. Senior hires can hit the ground running, while junior hires need not worry if they are meticulous, good in critical and logical thinking, proficient in mathematics and English, etc. The hiring decision is made based on the assessment results as well as the interview. He noted that we even hired a fashion designer before to be a business analyst.
Takeaway: The world is your oyster. You don’t necessarily need to work on what you’ve studied, as what you’ve learned at school equips you to do more than you think.
19. Farhad, how was your journey to find your journey? Did you do any internship?
When Farhad graduated from Monash many Julys ago, he wanted a career in finance, and was hesitant when he first discovered JurisTech, because we’re a (fin)tech company. But this ties back to the first tip, which is to first identify the field of interest – which is business/finance consultancy in his case. Industry comes second, and in this case, fintech is an industry that Farhad would later prove to be proficient in. He joined JurisTech in September in the same year.
Speaking of industry, Farhad also mentioned that he did a three-month internship in an oil and gas company, but alas, somehow the industry and the career growth opportunity in the company was not the right fit for him. But he kept looking, which led him to JurisTech.
He said that his and everyone else’s path to grow here is flexible where we could work with other business units, and if they choose to, have the opportunity to join the other departments to grow further. The paths options are available. The best example he gave was someone in his team who joined as a business analyst, but is now a software engineer.
This is not to say that any particular position isn’t important enough, and we’re just passing through while we work our way to the position we want. There is a reason why such positions exist and everyone plays an integral role in the success of a company. In JurisTech’s case, it is to craft enterprise-class software solutions for financial institutions which will trickle down to make people’s financial lives more enriched.
Takeaway: Find something you’re passionate about, good at, able to help people with, and get paid for. More on this later.
20. Fondest memories of Monash and JurisTech?
For Farhad, he was the president of the exchange club at Monash Malaysia for two semesters, where he met a lot of Monash Australia students while they were visiting. The silver lining to the COVID-19 situation, where he is stranded in Australia while working alongside a JurisTech client on a project, is that he got to meet said Monash Australia alumni again, most of which he still kept in touch with.
Naaman directed a different question to Alex, asking him what’s his fondest memory of working at JurisTech. For Alex, it is the many occasions he spent working with various JurisTech teams, where, regardless of how daunting the tasks at hand were (rushing a deadline, seemingly unsolvable issue, etc), they were able to pull it off, together as a team. The sense of camaraderie extends to hours beyond work, where they would do things like luncheon and even after-work sports together, further reinforcing their work relationship.
Takeaway: People don’t love their organisations; they love the people they work with.
Bonus: How to find your purpose
Many years ago I stumbled upon an ideas.ted.com article called, ‘7 lessons about finding the work you were meant to do’, about finding fighting for your calling. Here, there is a Venn diagram made up of three things:
- Doing something you’re good at
- Feeling appreciated
- Making people’s lives better.
The cross section where the three things meet – that’s your calling.
When trying to look further into this, a more common Venn diagram started popping up – this one from Big Think has a taller order of helping you identify your purpose. It has four circles:
- What you really love
- What you are good at
- What the world needs
- What you can get paid for.
I suppose you could lump the first diagram’s ‘feeling appreciated’, and ‘making people’s lives better’ to make ‘what the world needs’ in the second diagram. In that case, your calling, in the context of the second diagram, is any of the three things: (Guess which one’s preferable?)
- Delighted and fulfilled, but broke.
- Comfortable, but bored and empty.
- Your purpose, or ‘ikigai’.
‘Iki’ means ‘life’, while ‘gai’ means ‘value’ or ‘worth’, and ikigai is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to ‘that which makes life worth living’. Though your calling is to use what you’re good at to make people’s lives better by giving what the world needs, it is important to introduce the factor of you actually loving what you do. And let’s be realistic here; you would still need to be paid for your work, in order to make a living.
A career is anything that overlaps the circle in which you get paid for the work you do. Most people may have two circles overlapping, three even, if they work hard enough, but only a few managed to achieve all four, to have that sense of purpose, at least in their careers. To achieve ikigai, you’d have to plan your way towards it, all while continuously learning, and having the grit to stick to your goals. May you find your purpose. Unless, of course, if you want to be an influencer. The world doesn’t need that.
Takeaway: Identify your ikigai and everything else will be clear. But you can’t easily find it – you’d have to fight for it.
JurisTech (Juris Technologies) is a leading Malaysian-based fintech company, specialising in enterprise-class software solutions for banks, financial institutions, and telecommunications companies in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and beyond.