What is it like to be a social science major in the technology sector? - Netokracija CEE

What is it like to be a social science major in the technology sector?

Economist Tanja Matošević paved her career path in the IT industry, in the Croatian agritech company AGRIVI, so she shared with us her experiences of how she managed leading technology projects for global clients.

Advising big clients on digital transformation is quite an experience for a person without prior technical education. The whole story becomes even more interesting when those clients come from the agricultural industry.

Tanja Matošević, Project Manager from the agritech company AGRIVI told us her story. In the 5 years she’s been working there, she’s gone from knowing next to nothing about agriculture or agritech to being someone who can easily navigate big clients through the best technical solutions for their needs and their mutual integration.

Industry at a turning point

The best technical solutions, she explains, are challenging to arrange precisely because digitalization in agriculture has only just begun, so there aren’t many best practices, seasoned players or unique standards to look up to.

There are more and more tech solutions, and new ones are constantly emerging – weather stations, drones, various sensors, mechanization and the like. However, each of those is seen as an isolated solution, each supplier has its own cloud and there are no unified standards. Here’s where AGRIVI comes into play with its comprehensive farm management software that acts as a “system of all systems” which all others are integrated into, but also as a partner to the clients who advises them on processes and technology so that, in the end, the client can make good use of them.

One of the first and key steps during the client needs identification phase is to establish what the current modus operandi is and what its ‘ailments’ are.

Clients do not usually strive to significantly change their current processes, but rather to adapt and simplify them with digital tools. That is why it’s crucial to listen to what ails their current workflow and processes and figure out how to overcome this with AGRIVI solutions.

It is necessary to first put yourself in the user’s shoes and then go back to your own perspective and see how to alleviate these ailments and save the client time.

Tanja admits that in agriculture, such a specific niche industry for digitalization, the introduction of new technologies is approached with a lot of caution:

It should be borne in mind that the digital transformation of business affects not only the current mode of operation of one individual but the entire team or organization. It is extremely important that the technology is accepted by those who use it. At the end of the day, the value a customer gets from software depends on how actively and correctly they use it.

Constant changes mean fast learning on the go

Tanja finds the greatest satisfaction and motivation in her work in the fact that she works with a product that directly affects food production, and thus improves the quality of life. When she talks about her career, current job and what it is like to be a part of a challenging and dynamic agritech and startup world, there’s always one common denominator – constant changes that mean fast learning on the go.

When I came to AGRIVI in 2016, I knew nothing about the agritech industry, I learned along the way, through work and the various situations we encountered as a team. I knew the basics about the farming industry, I didn’t have any advanced farming knowledge and I learned everything when I started working on projects hands-on.

Her first AGRIVI job was in the Online Sales and Customer Success department. In the meantime, she changed several departments in sales, but also in the post-sales segment and product implementation, and now she is in the position of Project Manager, where she leads complex enterprise projects that include the implementation of their software solution.

Each new department and advancement meant new responsibilities, skill upgrades and different daily dynamics. Since she is a person who loves to learn and wants to advance in her career, this was not difficult for her, and a great collaboration within the team helped:

I often had to work independently on proactively finding solutions to the various challenges I faced, but the team was always there for help and advice.

Today, my position requires connecting the tech and business perspectives to ensure the successful implementation of the AGRIVI software solution by monitoring all segments of business processes on a daily basis, from the client’s idea to finalizing the implementation project.

Advantages of smaller teams: Improvisation and innovation are appreciated

As AGRIVI grew, all teams worked together to build internal processes, work methodologies, improve technology and customer access, and then learn from each other.

Whether people without technical education can competently sell technology products and advise clients in digital transformation is an eternal question in the tech industry.

Tanja is proof that not only they can, but they can be excellent at it and advance, if, like her, they happen to work in a dynamic team where not everyone is expected to know everything and where learning is appreciated. Tanja explains:

The smaller team I worked with forced me from the beginning to constantly learn about technology and the agri-industry, while the customer-oriented mindset from my previous job in tourism allowed me to always think from the user’s perspective and be guided by their wishes when making decisions.

Working in a small team that is developing rapidly has its advantages, and I would especially like to emphasize the rapid acquisition of new knowledge and experience in the industry in which we work. The challenge is that there are no established practices that need to be known and applied over and over again, but it is important, depending on the situation, to recognize the client’s need in a timely manner, adjust your approach and offer the best solution for them.

How to enter the tech world?

Because of all that, to all social science majors and those who are not technically savvy, Tanja advises to get a job in a young technology company. Especially if they are interested in the tech industry but are afraid that they do not know enough to try to get in.

It often happens that people do not know exactly what they want to do and imagine themselves in corporations, publishing houses and other jobs in line with their interests and college degrees. However, in fast-growing companies such as AGRIVI, different ideas and views on product and business are valued, and a multidisciplinary view is especially important to us. For me, for example, psychology and communication skills help in identifying client needs, and storytelling helps present solutions to them.

Also, in fast-growing technology companies that operate globally, the knowledge with which one comes to a position is just as important as the knowledge acquired “on the go,” from colleagues and from experience:

As AGRIVI grows, so do the ambitions of each individual in the team and it is important to know that there is always room for advancement within an existing position or even a career change in a different direction from the current one.

With enough motivation and a proactive mindset, even those knowledge gaps can be filled quite easily through knowledge sharing and collaboration with colleagues who are always available and willing to help.

And the best way to learn is by “throwing yourself in at the deep end”,  Tanja concludes from her own experience.

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