Where’s the Blueprint?

On the first day of every semester, your professor or instructor hands you a syllabus, usually including several key dates on which you need to deliver assignments, take exams, and give presentations. Not knowing the content of the course, a few gaps in understanding will surely exist, but generally you have a pretty good idea of what is expected from you before you embark on a semester-long adventure. You might even have heard a lot of things about the course from friends who have taken it. If you are fortunate, your professor or instructor will also give you plenty of practice exams and examples of assignments to guide you on what you need to do. All these things are done because let’s face it, everyone benefits from certainty. The professor does not want many surprises in what they are receiving, and the student does not want surprises in what they must deliver. Due to many professors’ vast experience teaching these courses semester after semester, there is really no reason to mess around too much with the structure of each course.

With the pandemic last year, the academic world got a bit of a taste of what happens in an environment where certainty is simply impossible. How do I meet for a group assignment? Where can I find my professor if I need them? When is it safe to start going back to the classroom? Professors who had taught classes in similar ways for many years were forced to adapt drastically, and students who had been used to turning up to their classroom had to adjust as well. However, as the world opens back up, this situation will soon be mostly resolved and many things will return to the status quo.

In the business world, and particularly in fintech, the reality is much different. Uncertainty is ever-present. It is an inherent part of how the industry works. From the entrepreneur who must establish a vision, to the investor who must find a way to project that product’s success, it is rare to find a blueprint for how to operate in fintech. You must be prepared to deal with whatever cards you have in front of you, and to be successful, you have to be different.

This goes right down to my job as an intern. On my first day of work, I was a given a data entry assignment. In theory, the assignment was tedious but straightforward. I had received event registration data and I was meant to manually pick out who had been absent so that they could be notified. But as much as I am prepared to work hard, you can sometimes save yourself a lot of effort by working smart. Sometimes, even when there is certainty, you need to be the one that takes the risk and decide to challenge the status quo. So, I did not just manually copy pieces of text from one spreadsheet to another. Instead, I decided to code a program that would do it for me. Did I know how to do that? Absolutely not, but I was confident that I could learn how to do it and implement faster than doing it the traditional way. Indeed, I was able to write a program with about 50 functions that not only satisfied the requirements of my assignment but was fully customizable so that it could easily be implemented for similar tasks in the future.

The second week, I had to do something entirely different. I was reassigned to a new boss, and I was tasked with writing a part of a report to the European Union for one of Finance Innovation’s clients. It was completely different to what I had done the week before, but I did not let that affect my performance. What was interesting about this assignment is that my English skills, which I had come to take for granted since learning it more than a decade ago, were a huge asset to the team. That is not to say I did not have to use French. Indeed, French was how I communicated with my team, but usually, my knowledge of French is what has made me stand out in the past. So, the script was entirely flipped. My new boss was so impressed with my work that they will have me check over the entire report before it is submitted.

Next week, I will be working on finalizing that report, but after that, I really do not know what the future holds for me. I might go back to my previous boss and do some work for him, I might continue with this team, or I might be assigned to someone entirely different. Whatever the case is, I just know that I am prepared to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead of me.