Over the last 18 months, we have all experienced an unpredictable and turbulent time in our lives, and also our careers. Some industries such as travel, hospitality, and the arts, have suffered dearly, and others such as the high street, may never return to what it once was. Many have been facing the prospect of a complete career overhaul in order to carve out a new space for themselves in tomorrow’s world. If you are one of those people: this article is for you.
Below are four people who began their careers in totally different sectors before finally finding their groove in the diverse and ever-changing world of fintech here at Neonomics.
Taka – From a Pilot to Developer and Team Lead
Taka, currently a developer and Team Lead at Neonomics, started his education as a pilot. Despite retaining a strong passion for aviation, a shift into tech was motivated by a desire to experience a more varied day-to-day working life. He discovered that being a software engineer earned him the flexibility to delve into a variety of projects, mostly within fintech. Largely self-taught, he began his tech career through freelance work: “my main fascination towards software engineering was the ability to make such a major impact with a generally low barrier to entry.” Another benefit he saw was that for those curious individuals, software engineering gives you a lot of opportunities to move laterally into different industries. Taka still has a strong passion for aviation, but being a software engineer has given him the opportunity to dive into a variety of projects, mostly within fintech. Initially, Taka was not actively seeking work in the fintech space, however, being based in NYC he found there was an abundance of fintech projects making it hard to avoid.
Taka is clear that flexibility and growth were huge factors in his motivation to dedicate himself to this field: “Software engineering principles are pretty transferable from industry to industry. The main difference when changing industry is the industry domain knowledge.” The fintech space is also full of regulations and compliance which differ from country to country.
Taka is keen to emphasize that his initial beginnings in aviation are not without merit in his new career path: “There has been a surprising overlap with some of the skills from both being a pilot and a software engineer, such as being able to interpret documentation and applying regulation to your practice.
It can often be about drawing from what you already know, and applying it to a new space – that’s what makes it exciting!
Kalli-Anne – From Classical Civilizations and Egyptology to Fashion to Fintech
A leap into the world of fintech was definitely not one Kalli Anne anticipated she would make. Having initially gained a degree in Classical Civilizations and Egyptology, her goal was to become a lecturer in these studies: “I have always enjoyed working with people and teaching, it seemed a natural path for me to become a teacher of some kind – though as life often does, coincidences sent me down a different path.”
She took a part-time job as a beauty consultant whilst studying: “I was the worst salesperson there; I was shy to approach people, but eager to learn. Somehow my boss saw potential in me and that made me willing to work as hard as I could to prove her belief in me wasn’t in vain.” It was here that Kalli Anne felt she learned the true value of a “mentor”; she endeavored to become a top-selling member of her team, eventually winning district and national sales challenges, in no small thanks to the woman who mentored her: “I learned how to sell, but even more importantly, I realised then that I wanted to become a person who taught and helped others to achieve their goals – as my boss did for me.”
After a few further sales-related jobs and a move to Oslo later, Kalli Anne found herself heading her own team for luxury fashion brand Michael Kors, and subsequently being enlisted as the trainer for all new employees in the Nordics. “It was one of my best times: flying from country to country, meeting new employees and teams and getting them excited about starting their new retail journey.” However, although enjoyable, retail wasn’t the career Kalli Anne had planned for herself, and she was keen to explore other avenues. “I had always been on a buzzing shop floor; I like to push myself and was keen to explore what it might be like to change paths completely.”
After seeing a listing for “HR Manager” for Fintech Innovation (Neonomics’ parent company), Kalli Anne decided to apply: “I didn’t have all the criteria they needed, so ultimately I didn’t get the job, however they offered me an alternative as “Executive Assistant”, and I was excited to learn something new – I decided to go for it.”
She had never even heard the term “fintech”, yet suddenly found herself organizing Neonomics’ journey to one of the biggest banking events of the year, Money 2020. “I was totally lost at sea in the beginning; the start-up environment at Neonomics was entirely different from the long-established brands I’d worked for previously. She spent much of her early time at Neonomics asking questions, reading articles and blogs, and watching YouTube videos and webinars. “People in the company were extremely willing to help, but this was literally a foreign world to me: I don’t even want to say how many days it was before I finally understood what an API was!” Initially, she admits she found the transition challenging: “Fashion to fintech, B2C versus B2B…everything was new, it was a steep learning curve, but one I’m glad I took. I went from knowing everything I needed to know in retail and sales, to knowing nothing and starting from scratch – I definitely doubted myself in the beginning, but this is what has made the experience the most valuable. They say ‘the comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.’ That was true for me.” She credits the support of her team with her ability to finally succeed in the role: “Once again, I found people at Neonomics were believing in me and supporting me, despite my lack of experience in this sector: it was vital to me not to let them down.” Eventually she found a home for herself within marketing: writing press releases and blog posts, liaising with clients and other team members towards a common goal. “When I joined Neonomics I didn’t understand what they were working towards, but I really liked the vibe I got during my interview and felt strongly it was a place I wanted to be a part of. Now I can talk – and write! – about Open Banking and what we do with ease, and if you look at it this way: it is still a version of teaching! It’s a total transformation for me and most importantly it has shown me that – although all change is initially uncomfortable – with perseverance and support from the people around you, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.
They say ‘the comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.’ That was true for me.
Madeleine – From Hairdressing to Customer Onboarding & Success
Far away from the world of fintech, Madeleine was working as a hairdresser, doing on-stage work, courses for other hairdressers, alongside working at the salon.
Although enjoying her career in hairdressing, Madeleine craved something deeper “I had a hunger for more knowledge. I was really inspired by the big entrepreneurs of our time; the founder of the Nikita group Inger Ellen Nicolaissen, and Steve Jobs.” She enthuses: “Back in those days, I was really eager to start my own salon or a haircare brand. However, after I started my studies, I quickly realized that I could work with more than just haircare and I had the ability to work with whatever I would like, as long as I was determined.” Madeleine continued to study and gained a Master of Science in Strategic Marketing Management, alongside several part-time jobs as a content marketer. Madeleine then worked in innovation and concept development through an internship, and later full-time roles in card issuing at a fintech company called EVRY (now TietoEVRY). When asked about how her skills were transferred, she deems organisational and interpersonal skills to be key factors throughout her career change. In addition, the ability to visualize something from a client conversation and to put it into practice (implementation).
Madeleine strongly believes that different perspectives and diversity across companies is vital, adding “I daresay it is always good to bring people from other industries into an organization, as they have the ability to see things from a different perspective and it provides some diversity into a new industry. However, you will need to have a desire to learn new things, and also adapt to new ways of working.”
Fintech is a very exciting industry to work in because it has so much potential for making innovative ideas happen – I feel we are just in the starting phase of what is possible.
Marvin – From Marine Engineering to Product Owner
For Marvin Bense, a Berlin native, the switch to working in Oslo was a big enough surprise, let alone making a career change to the fintech sector: Marvin had no prior experience in fintech, nor had he heard about open-banking and PSD2. Nonetheless, on learning about Neonomics’ mission within open-banking, Marvin became very intrigued. Coincidentally, he was working on a small side project at the time to organize his own finances and transaction history into a dashboard.
Marvin began his working career in Marine Engineering in Berlin and Trondheim with a focus on offshore wind, which involved collaborating with companies to simplify the installation process of offshore wind turbines – for example through self-installing foundations or by pre-assembling turbines onshore.
“My task was to run and evaluate numerical analyses of the dynamic response of these structures during transport and installation – essentially a lot of number crunching!” Coding became essential to getting the job done and to extract more information, so he taught himself the trade, eventually moving from a “developer” role to more “product owner” related tasks: “Working in this sector was eye-opening: I found so many new processes, roles and tools that I had never heard about and that I now can’t imagine working without today. It brought me to the realization that good software, which solves complex interdisciplinary issues, is built on airtight requirements, thorough discussions and in-depth analyses of the issues.”
On crossing over to a different professional sector, in his case, Marvin would say it happened quite organically: “All in all, switching industries has not been as scary as you might imagine. All I had learned in my position as a Product Owner up until starting at Neonomics has luckily been transferable; software development in different industries is in most cases very similar, be it fintech or offshore engineering.”
However, Marvin is keen to note that readiness to learn new things and a welcoming team environment are both equally important factors when starting a new career path: “The atmosphere here at Neonomics is very friendly, everyone takes the time to help get you started – questions are always welcome. Being eager to learn new skills and about new topics was very important for me in this transition.”
“My role requires me to have a vision for our product, follow the market trends, be enthusiastic about planning, organising, and solving problems for the development team as well as being able to convey a clear message between the stakeholders and the development team. After two months, I already feel a lot more knowledgeable in the field and have become a fully integrated member of the team and the company.”
One of our values at Neonomics is open-mindedness. We endeavour to remain consistently open-minded towards people, technology, and ideas. We pride ourselves on our diversity, and also know that it is a key driver to our strength. In our team of nearly 100 people, we have over 25 nationalities representing us, from countless different backgrounds.
If you’d be interested in joining the fintech industry, in particular Neonomics, check out our careers page.