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A day in the life of a TrustBuilder business analyst

Talent finds its way to TrustBuilder from all over the world. Last year, Peter Surňák left Prague for Belgium and joined TrustBuilder. Belgium was new to him, and TrustBuilder was new to him, but he settled in quickly. As a business analyst, Peter helps design and develop the best possible products for our customers.

As a business analyst, Peter talks to the product owner at TrustBuilder to understand what new features are required, discusses the exact needs, thinks about what is involved, and then describes what needs to happen to architects and developers. “I will explain to them what needs to be done, I try to structure it and they process that in a meaningful way into product features.”

Would you describe your job as a translator then? As an interpreter?

Peter: It goes further than that. I think I add more value than just translating from one party to another. I primarily help people think about what they want and why they want it. You can compare it to going to a shop to buy something and the shop assistant will ask you all sorts of questions to find a product that best suits your needs. If the shop assistant asks you all the right questions, you may end up with a completely different and better solution than what you set out to buy. That is the kind of value that I try to add.

How will a customer notice if you did a good job?
Peter: If the customer can have a smooth flow through the product without seeing any gaps. If everything works and they are happy with the way it works. If they have the features they expect in the places where they intuitively expect them. And if these features have been delivered to them when they need them. I would say that’s what customers will experience if I did a good job in describing the product to Development.

No room for interpretation

You are part of a big chain, with a lot of people involved? It must be difficult to determine who gets the praise or the criticism.
I work closely with the product owner, architect, front-end developers, and back-end developers. I get feedback from all of them and also from the consultants who work with the product at the customer. Sometimes it’s a short cycle, for instance when we are just adding a small feature. Other times it’s more complex with more moving parts. I like to have that mix of short projects and longer ones. For me, it’s important to know how all the people work. I try to get a good knowledge of all the technologies they work with. I stay up to date by talking to them and learning from them. Whenever I see there is something new, I ask how it works.

What is your deliverable for the architects and developers?
Peter: I focus on the functional description of what the product or feature needs to do. So my output is mainly text. If something is more complex, then I add sequence diagrams or class diagrams, sometimes wireframes to describe what the user should see. What I tell them, has to be very precise and not leave too much room for interpretation. But I don’t do too much of a technical description, that’s something I leave to the architect or the developers. Usually, there are different ways how things can be done. That’s a decision they need to take. I am always happy to cooperate on that, but ultimately the technical team obviously has much more knowledge of the technologies, so they are the best ones to ultimately decide on how to implement the feature. But in the end, good communication is crucial.

Do you get a lot of feedback from development?
Peter: They usually ask a lot of questions, and that’s good. I worry when they don’t ask questions. I want them to understand exactly what I have written down, with no room for interpretation. If they don’t ask questions, that may lead to misunderstandings that are only discovered in the testing phase. And it is always better and cheaper to discover and solve potential problems sooner than later.

Can you decide what are your priorities?
Peter: First, the product owner and I discuss the deployment plan. Next, I talk to the architect and developers about the development plan. We look at the best order to develop and deploy things to get a functional product as soon as possible while respecting the functional and technical dependencies. Sometimes we need to shuffle things around, for instance when priorities change, before we can move on again.

Active listening and communication

What are the most important qualities of an analyst?
Peter: Active listening, asking questions, thinking with and on behalf of others. Openness and communication to all sides. It also helps to know something about technology. Technology is probably less important as that is something you can and have to learn over time. I would say that listening and genuine interest in the subject is the most important quality.

You have wide interests. I see that you studied economic journalism and business and law. Does that help you in your job?
Peter: It does. Having studied journalism helps me clearly formulate my ideas. I like writing. And law is useful too. There are regulations like GDRP, so it’s important to understand that when you think about a product. Having this broad basis helps me understand people when I talk to them. Knowing their field allows me to understand their language. I have also worked in different environments: in banking, in telecommunication… It helps me understand that things are done differently in different environments and different markets.

What attracted you to the security industry and to TrustBuilder?
Peter: Security is everywhere, and I have always been interested in security. Even though I have never been a security officer, security was always a part of what I did in other jobs. So it wasn’t too difficult to work in a specialized environment like TrustBuilder. The thing I like in security is that there is always a high degree of logic in it. And that there is always more to learn no matter how much you know.

On Belgian and corporate culture

You moved to Belgium from Prague?
Peter: Yes, I moved here when my girlfriend had to move for her job. Moving here was a no-brainer for me. I could work from anywhere, I could even have continued working remotely in my previous job. That’s the advantage of working in IT, the technology is the same everywhere, and the language of IT is English. So that’s not so hard.

What do you miss most, having left the Czech Republic?
Peter: There are a lot of similarities between living in Prague or living here. The biggest difference is the countryside. If I went outside of Prague there were forests and hills and rivers. There is hardly any space here for nature. In Czechia, you can go to a forest and wander around all day. In Belgium, you can’t do that. If you walk for an hour, you have seen the entire forest. But on the upside: there are no beaches in Prague…

What advice would you give to people moving to Belgium?
Peter: Even if most people speak English here, I would advise them to learn the local language. I am working on that as well. It is definitely useful to be able to read that letter you got in your mailbox with a government or police logo on it.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
Peter: “If somebody is wrong, don’t be angry. No one is wrong on purpose.” That is very useful advice if you don’t agree with somebody. It helps you stay calm in many situations. That makes it easier to talk to people and come to a reasonable outcome. Also, you can never be sure that you are not the one being wrong in the first place.

What book influenced you most?
Peter: I like the books by Leonard Mlodinow. They contain many nice insights and he uses a pleasant, intelligent, and a bit humorous style. His thesis in The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives is that our intuition is often wrong about the world and that statistics and large-scale studies are usually better to understand things than anecdotal evidence. Sometimes people draw conclusions based on just one thing that happened. If you do that, you may be biased and come to the wrong conclusion. Looking at statistics can make you overcome that bias. I actually think this helps me in doing a good job, always looking at the bigger picture.

Would you recommend working at TrustBuilder to friends and family?
Yes, certainly. I like the culture. People are very respectful and very collaborative. I felt welcome immediately, even if I started in a Corona lockdown period. It took some time before I met everyone in person. But even then, everyone made me feel welcome. I like it that the company focuses on the overall well-being of everyone who works here.