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Michael Koziarski of Vend: Economist turned tech executive

Divina Paredes | July 13, 2016
How ‘Koz’ went from crawling under computers to heading technology architecture for a growing company, one fun, gruelling step at a time.

"From there, I drastically up-skilled, jumping from client to client, learning new and more painful experiences."

"You know, the lessons you learned with a small company are massively different from a big company, and from lessons you learned from a fast growing startup.

"Being able to bounce around all those options is something I would definitely recommend to people in the early stage of their career. Eventually you will figure out what it is that you like."

For Koziarski, this was realising he was not "a big company kind of person".

"Some people prefer the more structured environment and it is important to figure that out [yourself]," he says.

That said, Koziarski's degree has proved extremely useful in his current role.

"One of the nice things about having an economics and finance education is that I am quite comfortable working with financial models, and understanding actual business impacts of a lot of decisions."

"Some technologists have a real challenge with that," he says.

They may, for instance, have a good understanding of how to make ICT systems go faster, but this will not matter if it does not help the organisation sell more products or reduce expenses.

"Sometimes those performance optimisations make a material difference, but being able to understand how the business flows and works is quite useful," says Koziarski.

"It will not take a substantial amount of effort to figure those things out, but it would put you in a much better position for a successful technology career."

There is plenty of good online material on the topic, he says, citing the blogs of venture capitalists like Paul Graham, co-founder of tech accelerator Y Combinator.

"You can possibly do some part-time MBA papers if you want to," he adds.

The STEM question 

Vend, like other tech-sector companies, does have difficulty hiring engineers, Koziarski says, when asked about ongoing campaigns to encourage young people to undertake STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.

"But then, I look at a lot of our engineers and some of the people doing amazing work either do not have a formal education in ICT, or were trained for a completely different field," he says.

"People think it is an easy answer to say if we have 2000 more computer science graduates every year, it would be better. It probably would, but it is not only the pipeline for new talent."

"If I were advising a high school student, and you have an interest and an aptitude in engineering, software, hardware or electrical, whatever it is, you would be mad not to try it as a career. There is a substantial amount of growth in our industries.


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