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4 years ago, before all these hype on Big Data Analytics, right after my MBA, I dream about the digital future in investment banking. I visualized it in my mind, based on what I learnt in retail banking, and credit risk modeling, I feel that it was a possible dream. A dream that was so fragile that it could be popped one day. Or it could be a super-long journey that leads me via fire and pain or even be embarrassed. Looking back, these are the lessons I learnt:
1. Intra-preneur: It is pretty like a start-up, but it's a start-up that you get paid. Getting funding, pitching ideas to non-analytics buyers, sensing where the money goes...all these requires inspiration from start-up entrepreneurs. And very often, I have to pay attention to what pay my bills (my salary) and what I aspire to develop.
2. Ignite the fire within, helping other people successful: To transform a company to digital, I often have to share my codes, visions, how-to with any random person that could potentially be helpful. When you are creating a new markets, you really want to have more competition and ideas, rather than being the only person doing it. Like-wise, I fully understand why Telsa is sharing its design on electronic car to the public - to encourage more entrants to the markets, making rooms for better infrastructure. In Elon's words:'When the boat is sinking, you are more than happy to share the design of a bucket to bail the boat'.
3. Only the perfect solution survive, but good enough solution to start with: I learnt from my Professor Wong in MBA course that only the best solution survives, this makes me continuously pushing my limit. Very often I thought that I tried my best, it turns out that there is still a BIG gap.
4. Choose the right ground to win: Carefully choose when machine is better - Task-wise: highly repetitive, accurate, small transaction value but high volume, or very high values but low volume. Organization-wise: when the data products require highly integration of data across departments/ geographical locations, machine beats human.
5. To walk fast, do it yourself: When I speak to the people on analytics products, most of the "senior" will say I should listen to what they need before delivering it. As I found out, most of the people who said that have never innovated before. The truth is: if you wish to innovate, immerse yourself and understand the pain, but not asking what your customer wants. And very often, I have to do it myself and quickly built the prototype myself to demonstrate the idea. " is THIS something helpful to you?". This causes me to come back to my technical root as a programmer - after years of despising myself with such background. Similarly, when Steve Job launched Ipod, he has never done the survey/focus group. In this regard, learning from the designer really helps.
6. Know where is the real battle that matters: I work in a multinational company - not working near the headquarter. But to make sure that the idea survives, it is important to make the battle in HQ a win. Or helping anyone doing the job there a success.
7. Getting inspired: I got inspiration from Academic Journals, Financial study courses, vendors - very often not from the business consultants - as they do not own the data nor latest idea, they polluniate idea only. I learnt a great deal from Journals because it is basically the result of predictive models. Financial study program such as CFA helps me to understand the "client view" of the world. Vendors keep me up-to-date about peers' practices. Not so from the press...till now, not so many people knows what's going on with Analytics in an investment bank. News and press keep reporting banks investing in fintech - but do they ever know that innovation comes from both inside and outside? and even an outside idea still needs to be internalized? However, business-wise, I must say HBR and Mckinsey Quarterly are my intellectual mentor when it comes to walking this journey.
8. Simple yet sophisticate fabrication: I learnt a lot from the CEO that my product was too complicated. And it is indeed complicated. However, I learnt that people cannot understand it if it is presented too complicated.
I have never thanked the university that nurtured me into this monster - Hong Kong Polytechnic University's double degree program (no longer exists after 4 years) - BSc in Computing and BA in Management. I felt like a programmer when I first graduated and immensely frustrated - spending more time than necessary to be a programmer- yet competing for job that any person with one degree can apply. At last, I got to feel the use of it as I have to articulate business ideas, yet needing to build the work myself. I felt like a freak when I first graduated and now enjoying the seed planted 10+ years ago. So I really think that business student should learn hard-core programming at least for one year (not one course....).