The Agent

At Entelect, Agents are our Business Analysts. They are the ones who keep the whole project moving in the right direction. Letitia Etsebeth describes the role of an Agent based out of the Entelect office in Cape Town.
Tell us about one of the projects you’re currently working on?

The whole of last year I was busy with a project for Stellenbosch university where we designed a new system for curricular management within the health faculty. We designed the whole system from scratch; the finances, the business case, testing, and rolled it out to ensure adoption.

Then in January this year, I joined ABSA team. Which is very different.

"What I love about being an Agent is that every client, customer, or corporate, has a very different way of doing things, which dramatically impacts what I do and how I do it."

For instance, in my current role I am officially the Product Owner so I shield the tech team from a lot of fluctuations in the business world. I have to be the ‘voice of reason’ and consolidate the information into one coherent voice that will help the tech team on a day-to-day basis do what is right, and what is necessary, in the most efficient way.

It’s about taking all the different views, and the way people think, and channelling it into the Dev space so that your team can utilize it in a quick easy way.

As an Agent you have to operate out of your comfort zone, as your client will rely on you for many different things. In fact, I often describe myself as a ‘filler’! That means, whatever needs are unmet within a team, it becomes my job to help bridge that gap. So there is no way you can get into a comfort zone.

Equally, there is no silver bullet for any of the other functional roles of an Agent such as document development or, stakeholder management, because it is so closely dependent on the client you’re working with at that time.

What excites you the most about your day?

There are two sides to that: On the one side I absolutely love efficiency! Whether I can improve a process, or talk to the right people, or motivate the team in the right way, anything to just make things easier; that is a great experience for me. I love that!

Then there is the personal side. When a team member or a client compliments me on the efficiencies I’ve created and the positive impact I have had. On one in particular occasion, a client told me she wished her colleagues worked as efficiently as me, which - in my world -  was a huge compliment!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the role of an Agent?

People think we are scribes. That we are just documenters or project administrators!  But in many respects this job is like a Scrum master; when you’re doing the job really well, no one will know that you’re there. And in fact, when an Agent does his/her job so well, then anyone can document it, so it’s definitely not the role of an Agent to be a scribe!

Is there one kind of day that sticks in your mind as a really good day?

There was a project I worked on with an NGO for the development of a matriculate learning system. I was brought in to help them identify what their product vision, and then help them understand what kind of system could work. The day I shared the proposal with the client, to see the look of appreciation on his face and his understanding of our world, was very cool. The client came from the townships and is a teacher by day, so he comes from  a very different world. But to be able to use my skills to make a difference in his world was really, really cool. And because I am personally very passionate about kids and education, it was one of those really divine moments where everything comes together.

What do you enjoy most about the Tech community?

I absolutely love the Agile meetup groups. Mainly because the type of people who care about ‘Agile’ also generally care about processes, and other people, so it suits me and my preferences.

Sometimes you have that moment when you realise this is exactly where you want to be. For me, that moment was when I was walking into a Scrum gathering. As I walked in there was a bunch of Legos all over the table and, at that moment, I knew this is exactly where I belong!

Tell us about your career path? Where did you start out?

In many ways, the transition from university to the working world is much more difficult for a Business Analyst. When I came out of university I was full of confidence that I knew what Agile was, I knew UML, I knew how to apply use case diagrams, et cetera.

But, the first time I presented a UML activity diagram to stakeholders, they locked into an argument with me on the diagram notation, and I just kept referring to the text book! I’d completely missed that the focus of the session should have been about the process we were trying to get to. That was a big learning curve for me - that the greater objective has to be about getting to the end goal successfully. When you get into the working world and realise that 95% of what you do is about effective communication.

For a Business Analyst, it’s always about adaptability. We need to have the flexibility to understand the nuances and the detail, but always understand the value behind the end goal you’re trying to get to. You have to be very responsible and careful about the kind of advice you give your clients because you’re a trusted advisor and you need to lead them down a path that is exactly right for their needs. These are all things that are very specific to the stakeholder’s personality that you are working with and that’s why there is never a silver bullet.

This approach speaks to the team too. Although the team is easier, because you work with them on a day-to-day basis. But there is no silver bullet, every team dynamic is different. Although once you get to know your team it becomes relatively easy.

Over the years, I’ve realised why this role fits me so well; it’s because of the variety of exposure. In the last four years I’ve been at Entelect I’ve been exposed to seven different industries: banking, insurance, credit industry, wellness, education, and the health faculty with Stellenbosch university. This is important as a Business Analyst because you have to be constantly adapting to your clients organisational environment and you can only do that if your environment changes as well.

What’s the best thing about your team?

The best thing about my team is the relationships. In fact, I can say that about all of my teams, at all of the clients I’ve worked at. And building relationships within a team when there is so much diversity is what I love most about my team, even now.  The things that make the individuals and that those characteristics come out on a day-to-day basis. The relationships are lasting, beyond Entelect and beyond the client, the relationships I’ve developed are genuine and valuable.

Tell us about something that has happened at Entelect that could only happen at Entelect?

 When I started at Entelect, I suddenly became aware that Beer o-‘clock is an actual thing! I remember sitting at my desk at 4pm, having beer at my desk and thinking, this wasn’t how I envisioned this working world thing going! But I’ll go with it!!

So that was something that was surprising to start with, but now it’s just an expectation: Every single social event we have, every year-end, every gathering of every type, “is there food and beer?”