Think & Grow Co-Founder, Anthony Sochan and Joseph Vartuli, CTO at CreditorWatch discuss current market trends, the future of work and key skills for start-up Engineering roles and advice for Engineers who are early in their careers.
What are some of the key trends you have seen in the Australian market over the last 12 months?
There are probably two angles for this, the market has gone from growth at any cost with the availability of cheap money. If you could build a product at 100k, at a 10X or 15X multiplier, it didn’t matter if the product only brought in 10 or 15k revenue because it still grew the company’s worth. Almost overnight, investors are looking at earnings per share and cash flow. We are now looking at projects and products in terms of productivity and efficiency. This has changed the game for Founders, for the way businesses are run and also for hiring. I am having to think critically about what are the most important hires for me today.
From a technology perspective between Azure, GCP and AWS the barrier to entry of AI and Machine Learning to the average developer is extremely low and we will see it being used far more often to help make data-driven decisions. We will start to see some massive changes in the market. People will think about BPO models and whether you can replace these with tech-driven services, we will see smaller tech companies without a Data Science team starting to build algorithms and models to help assist other departments such as churn and growth prediction for customer success and finance departments respectively.
For current Data Scientists, their role will change the same way we have seen the transition from sys admins to devops. Sys admins went from switching out hardware to automation and are now actively working on the shoulders of giants. This will mean Data Scientist will in the future be less used for basic reporting or modeling and looking at more complex problems.
How do you expect the next 12 months for the future of work?
At least for CreditorWatch in the finance industry there are 2 key areas that will change how we operate. DEFI (decentralised finance) and then the CDR component (open banking). With customers understanding the value of their data and data privacy concerns, customers are starting to care about where their data is kept and what it is worth.
In relation to DEFI, CreditorWatch is looking at how lenders will start changing practices and using blockchain technology for lending and credit. The UK market has started using blockchain in the banking sector to perform lending and inter-bank transfers. Australia will start to see companies become far more innovative on how loans are assessed and provided to customers. This will all be driven by newer and transparent technologies such as blockchain.
In relation to CDR, data is now open to be shared between banks, brokers and other accredited providers. Energy data exchange is now being implemented with telecommunications next. Businesses will be looking at how the accessibility of this data will be used and how to make better decisions about their customers. Fraud and Identity checks to help identify individuals, verification of home addresses, positive payment history, will all begin to be available for more companies to understand their customers during the onboarding process. These are long-term objectives but we will start to see more of this over the next 12 months.
What advice do you have for engineers early in their career navigating the current market (and progressing into the future)?
If anything in this market, it has been shown companies will ultimately look out for themselves. Make sure you are in a company where you are happy to get up and go to work every day. Be part of a company that allows you to experiment and gives you autonomy. True innovation doesn't come top down or from silos, it comes from departments working together with engineering and other functions. The right company culture is critical if you want to see the best work being produced.
Another factor is the equity conversation. In Australia it’s becoming more prevalent in remuneration packages to see this as a component however, take the time to understand what it actually means. Go into a job offer understanding exactly what is on offer.
If you reflect back on your last few years in Australia versus some of the trends you are seeing globally, what are some of the key differences?
I think Australia has always seen founding a company and failing as a blackspot on a founder's career. In America, failure is embraced and often seen as a positive. I think we are starting to turn this around in Australia, people are starting to think about it in the right way.
Don’t be scared to pivot, don’t be scared to fail. I think this creates better leaders. This is not to say you should be reckless. But a founder that has gone through it, built the business and then failed for legitimate reasons, are people that have learned from that experience and we should appreciate the value of this experience.
Companies are also starting to think about technical debt in a broader sense. Executives are thinking about it in terms of “business debt” and are finally understanding that shortcuts must be taken to deliver value. This happens in all departments with inefficiencies being taken on and we are addressing them at the right time of a company’s journey.
If there was a particular skill you would suggest Engineers could improve on, what would it be and why?
Go back to core foundations, I think engineers need to remember that it is still a science degree so make informed decisions. I still see too much guesswork which is ok when you have zero information but in many cases that is not the case. Indecision is terrible however guessing is just as bad.
How important is equity in the decision-making process of job seekers in Australia? Do you feel it is over/undervalued?
In the last two years, things have changed dramatically, Equity has become extremely important to jobseekers. However, I think people have placed so much importance on this but now that markets have “corrected” it is a healthy reminder that equity is a risk that people take. I think it is a great incentive but it does need to be balanced with other parts of the package base etc.
It places some onus on companies if you are giving equity, what is the pathway for employees to realise some value.
Are there any global trends that you would like to see “take off” in Australia?
Australia is extremely rich in regards to renewable resources. There is so much opportunity here I would love to see a huge focus on building capability in this area more. Hopefully this happens and I think the type of engineers we need will need to shift as a result.
Thank you to Joseph Vartuli, CTO at CreditorWatch and Anthony Sochan, Co-Founder of Think & Grow.