“Expertise” and Startups

You don’t have to be an industry expert to be a great asset

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I graduated from college with degrees in Biology and English Literary and Cultural studies. Today, I work in Strategy, HR and Communications at one of India’s leading Fintech Startups. How on earth did that happen?

Throughout my college experience I was a little shaky on what exactly I was going to do post-graduation. I moved from medicine to a Biology PhD track to a gray area of confusion over the course of my first three years, and then finally had the epiphany I had been waiting for: I need to go into business.

I had always been very involved in extracurriculars, and by parceling out the skills that I had learned and developed during my college career, I was able to put together a resume that sort of painted me as someone ready for the world of business.

I applied for a marketing role at a straight out of college and was fortunate enough to have been invited for an interview. I was asked questions about my very limited knowledge of the role at hand, in addition to questions that tested the way I thought, my ability to think on my feet, and my EQ. I did my best, and I was hired.

I used my first few weeks to take on any project I could think of. The company was fairly young at the time, and I took advantage of every opportunity I could to show that I was trying to learn about the work we were doing and coming up with ways to present it clearly and consistently.

Soon after joining, I was accepted as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Thailand and had to leave my marketing job. While I was at Niyo, however, I had made it a point to meet with my boss and other members of senior leadership as often as possible. With that, I was able to leave Niyo on good terms, and was delighted to be invited back once I had completed my Fulbright tenure.

Along with my roles in strategy and HR, I founded Niyo’s content writing team. I’ve since hired many non-Fintech individuals to join the content team at Niyo both as interns and full-time employees, and have watched them grow into some excellent technical and creative writers.

People in and outside of our company are always a little surprised by my background and how I’ve developed a repository of knowledge about the Fintech industry, and honestly, at times, I am too. That being said, after over a year with Niyo, I’ve realized a few very important things about being an industry “outsider”, and how one can leverage those strengths to be a formidable force in a company.

  1. Your perspectives are valuable
    If you are working in a company that has ANY customer-facing content, you can rest assured that the way you perceive a product is important. Why? You embody the characteristics of a certain type of customer, and can provide insights and feedback on how someone with your background may understand something. This is a great way to help communications, product and marketing teams rework content to make it more accessible and clear, and less jargon-heavy.
  2. Your background is more than the subjects/industries you were exposed to
    Needless to say, I do not have a background in Fintech, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the skillset needed to be a good part of the Fintech industry. There are heaps of concrete skills that you pick up during the course of your educational journey and early career that you have leverage elsewhere.
    For example, as a Biology major, I have a certain knack for writing reports, conducting and presenting research, and decoding complicated processes. As an English major, I have the stamina to read and interpret long documents, unpack dense language, and edit content for grammar and clarity. What are your strengths?
  3. You can learn ANYTHING
    Everyone went through a process to get where they are today. In the case of Fintech, some are career bankers who are now getting the opportunity to build products from the ground up. Others have tech backgrounds and are encountering terms like “SIP” and “dedupe” for the first time. If you are willing to dive in, do the research and make a few mistakes, you will pick up what you need to. Plus, being able to pick things up quickly makes you a great candidate for companies in other companies incase you’re thinking about changing things up in the future!
  4. It’s important to interview beyond the industry
    Depending on the position at hand and the stakes of said position, sometimes you can make do with someone with a strong technical foundation who is willing to learn about the industry. This is especially helpful for entry-level positions and in departments where clear communication is vital to a product’s positive reception. Assess for your must-have skills thoroughly during interviews AND build learning opportunities into employee/intern training! You’ll find minds that you didn’t even think are out there.

To summarize: do a little research, present yourself well, and give it a shot! Tell them what you bring to the table and what you’re ready to learn. I’m sure they’d be lucky to have you.

Godspeed.

To learn more about Niyo, check us out at www.goniyo.com!

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Apeksha Atal

Apeksha Atal

Trying to make sense of the world, one word at a time

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